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A viable alternative: Grass-free landscaping

Grass-free alternatives, such as ground cover mixed with patio stones, can be an option for homeowners looking for less upkeep.

Many homeowners equate a beautiful landscape to rolling acres of pristine lawn. But changes in the climate and widespread seasonal restrictions on water use each year could change the way people think about outfitting their yards.

There are many reasons people choose to forgo grass and opt for different ornamental elements in their yards. Cost is one factor. While grass seed is relatively inexpensive, the upkeep, including mowing, fertilizing, re-seeding, and watering, requires a significant investment of both time and money. Many homeowners choose to lay down sod to create a beautiful lawn, an expensive option for homeowners with vast landscapes.

The environment is another reason homeowners look for grass alternatives. Grass requires a lot of upkeep, much of which is not environmentally friendly. For example, maintaining a pristine lawn requires the use of a gas-powered mower and oftentimes the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Seeking alternatives to grass can be friendly on both the wallet and the environment.

For those who are ready to say goodbye to grass, there are many alternatives.

*Ground cover: Homeowners who still desire the look of green can choose among different types of ground cover that will quickly fill in the landscape. Clover, low-growing evergreen plants and ivy are some of the more popular ground cover alternatives.

*Rocks: Decorative rocks intermingled with native plants can add dimension and color to the yard. Once rocks are placed, there is little upkeep except for pulling the errant weeds.

*Mulch: A less expensive alternative to rocks is mulch. Mulch is available in different colors and types and can even be created by a homeowner by chipping trimmed branches from trees in the yard. It helps lock water into landscaping beds, decreasing the need for frequent watering.

*Water features: Think about installing a pond in the yard that can be bordered with stones and mulch. This will take up a good amount of space and can create a natural habitat for wildlife and even some low-maintenance pond fish.

*Concrete or patio stones: Although they're not all-natural materials, patios can take up areas normally consumed by the lawn and create expansive outdoor entertaining areas. It will require an initial investment of the patio material, but once installed, patios don't require significant maintenance. Homeowners can offset the concrete jungle feel by placing plenty of potted plants and container foliage around the perimeter.

*Decking: Another alternative to concrete and stones is a wood or composite material deck. Again, this structure will increase outdoor living space and won't require the level of routine maintenance needed to keep a lush lawn.




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