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When the Best Lawn is No Lawn

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Lawn Alternatives
It's a Lot of Work

Sometimes looking beyond a lawn for all or part of your yard can be a smart and beautiful landscaping design decision. Whether you want to cut down on maintenance, have a hard time growing grass in a particular spot, or simply want to try another look, lawn alternatives can be yard design saviors. Don't overlook them.

My grandpa turned 85 recently, and even though he's still in his woodshop almost every day and still spends time in his vegetable garden, he finally decided he was done mowing his sloping front yard.
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He dug out the grass and put in some beautiful rock - nice red and purple stuff that matches the surrounding hills to a 'T.' His yard is as beautiful as ever. Sometimes, a lawn is exactly what you want in your yard design. Sometimes it's not. If you're considering alternatives, the following tips can help.

Tip #1. Consider Your Environment

Successful landscaping design always takes cues from the surrounding environment, but this is especially important when you're choosing a grass alternative for all or part of your yard, since lawn alternatives can be moderately surprising anyway.

Lava rock and cactus in a yard in Ohio is going to look pretty silly. A low maintenance ground cover that's well suited to your climate can be an attractive, stress-free yard design staple almost anywhere.

Tip #2. Build Over Your Lawn

When you think lawn-alternatives, rock gardens, ground covers, and wildflowers might be the first landscaping design ideas that occur to you. Decks, patios, porches, and even expansions of your home are another option. While planking over your whole back yard is clearly yard design folly, putting in a deck can cut down on your yard maintenance chores while raising the property value of your home.

It's blasphemy to some lawn lovers, but sometimes extra driveway space is a lifesaver too. No one wants a parking lot for a front yard, but if your lawn is too much for you and you're sick of parking your second car on the street, consider it. With some clever landscaping design, you can up the visual interest in another part of your yard and still have something that's visually pleasing overall.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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