An overgrown backyard
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Fresh cut grass and well-manicured lawns are often thought to be synonymous with summer. However, homeowners in many regions may find lawn maintenance to be a difficult undertaking. Between fertilization routines and the frequency at which the lawns need to be mowed, the process is not only time consuming but can become quite expensive. In recent years, the rising popularity of lawn alternatives has resulted in people weighing their options in terms of replacing their lawns.

Types of alternative lawns may vary greatly, from mixed native plantings to the use of concrete and gravel. By exploring the pros and cons of developing an alternative lawn, homeowners are better able to make informed decisions regarding the best course of action to take. Here we will provide info on why you should replace your lawn as well as reasons to keep your lawn as is.

Pros - Alternative Lawn Benefits

(Tonya's viewpoint) Reasoning why you should replace your lawn may vary from person to person, specifically depending upon your growing region. Here are my alternative lawn pros:

Drought prone regions can avoid frequent irrigation. While some areas of the country receive more than enough rainfall to sustain a lush lawn, certain regions may experience periods of intense heat and drought. Those living in drought prone regions often begin to explore the concept of alternative lawns as a desire to find an option better suited to their climate. In these cases, alternative lawn pros obviously include the ability to provide increased curb appeal and the ability to thrive without frequent irrigation. Native and xeriscaped garden areas offer a sustainable and efficient option for those wishing to restrict water use.

Native plantings can entice pollinators. In addition to creating waterwise plantings, many lawn alternatives serve as a haven for pollinators. Homeowners who choose to incorporate native flowers and plants within the landscape can help to create biodiversity, as well as create lush green spaces with much needed flowering plants.

Less maintenance is required. Since these plants are native to the growing region, little care is often needed, as native plants prove to be much more tolerant and adaptable to growing conditions. These natural lawn alternatives are not only low maintenance, but also allow for cooler temperatures within the garden due to their natural composition. Hardscape areas offer even less in the way of maintenance.

Provides homeowners with cost effective landscapes. Alternative lawn benefits extend well beyond drought prone regions. For many, the cost and effort required to maintain a beautiful lawn may be an expense in which homeowners simply cannot afford. The allure of these no-mow, cost effective landscapes is undeniable. By planting hardy and reliable plant alternatives, or replacing lawn areas with hardscape features, homeowners are able to create a visually interesting space which is both useful and beneficial.

Cons of Alternative Lawns

(Mary Ellen's viewpoint) Alternative lawns have always been around, but they have never really taken off for several reasons. Who doesn't love a lush, green, grass-filled yard after all? There are many reasons to keep your lawn as it is. Here are just a few of the top ones:

The workload. Just think of all the work you would have to put in to stop grass from growing. Or imagine the cost if you have to pay someone else to rip it out. Taking out grass is a big effort of time and physical endurance if you do it yourself. And, if you replace the lawn with attractive beds and paths, the maintenance requirements will be through the roof.

The expense. Even if you do much of the labor yourself, an alternative lawn will cost money. Native plants, artificial turf, gravel, pavement, and other materials can cost between $3 and $15 per square foot.

Negative environmental effects. Many lawn alternatives, like gravel, artificial grass, and concrete can have a negative impact on the local environment. Many are not water permeable, which means rainwater won't soak back into the ground; instead, it will run into storm drains. This can promote erosion too, whereas grass holds soil in place. Also, these alternative materials tend to produce a heat island effect, raising local temperatures. Hard surfaces and materials, like rock and concrete, will increase noise in your yard.

Ire from neighbors. Your neighbors may not thank you for tearing out your grass, especially during the transition phase when your lawn may look like a construction site. Even when it's done, and it looks nice to you, neighbors may become enemies if they don't appreciate the new alternative.

Homeowner restrictions. In some places, you may not even be allowed to mess with your grass to any large extent. Neighborhood and homeowner associations tend to restrict big changes that make one yard look much different from the others. Break the rules and you could face penalties and fines, not to mention being forced to put grass back in.

Should Disadvantages of Alternative Lawns Sway You?

Regardless of the rationale, choosing to install a lawn alternative is quite an important decision. Some people manage to replace grass with a pretty, environmentally sound alternatives. But those types of alternative lawns take money, a lot of work and time, and long-term maintenance. You can do whatever you like with your own yard, as long as there are no homeowner association requirements, of course. But why would you stray from the tried-and-true grass lawn?

However, with careful planning and consideration, homeowners can make informed choices regarding which course of action may be best for their own growing circumstances. And, if you want to try an alternative, maybe try it in just one small area first and "grow" from there rather than all at once.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.