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How About a Lawn Without Grass?

We Americans have a love affair with our lawns. Nothing beats sinking your toes into a thick expanse of lush, green grass. But the recent droughts in the southeast are stretching the patience and ability of homeowners to maintain a healthy lawn. For drought-stressed lawns or yard-work weary homeowners, the allure of grass is giving way to other hardier alternatives, namely groundcovers.

The grassless lawn requires less time watering, less work mowing, and less impact on the environment from fertilizers and pesticides. Benign neglect is sometimes the best method for starting a grassless lawn. Simply let the grass die a slow death. Or hasten its demise by covering it with cardboard or mulch. Another method is to start planting sprigs of groundcover into your existing lawn. There's no need to go overboard and carpet your entire yard with massive quantities of plants. Just buy enough to establish a patchwork. As they grow, snip off the runners with roots and replant them in the bare spots. Fast-growing groundcovers will take over and soon, probably in a year's time, dominate the grass and weeds you're trying to eliminate.

Although most ground covers can be planted at any time of the year, spring plantings are most successful, especially for rooted cuttings or bare-root transplants. Fall plantings can be successful if done early and watered regularly but late fall plantings often suffer from frost heaving in the cooler zones. Container plants can be planted at any time during the growing season. Always water the plants thoroughly immediately after planting.

Call your local Cooperative Extension Agent, visit a nursery, or talk to a landscape company for ideas. Explore varieties of ground covers that thrive in your soil type and weather. You may want to take a soil sample to your extension agent for testing the soil's acidity and fertility. Most groundcovers don't' require heavy fertilization, but all plants need some fertility in the soil. Take the cheap, environmentally sound approach by recycling your leaves as mulch. In the spring, spread it around at a 2-inch depth. The mulch will strangle the grass of sunlight and oxygen but your ground cover will grow even better from the damp, cool conditions.

Sources used to create this article include John A. Starnes and the St. Petersburg Times.

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.