There is a growing movement to replace traditional, thirsty, fertilizer-hungry lawns with native grasses, groundcovers, and 'meadow' mixes. Here we'll explore several options for replacing your lawn and making your garden more attractive and sustainable.
Note: All zones mentioned refer to Sunset Western Garden zones.
Meadow Mixes/Ecology Lawn
The right mixture of herbs and fine fescue makes a stunning display. The benefits of such a lawn is that it is beautiful, does not require mowing or only requires some mowing (once a month in summer), increases and enhances wildlife, it takes less water, it doesn't require fertilizer, and you and your family can still walk and play on it.
Yarrow (Alchillea millefolium) Lawn (All Zones)
Yarrow forms a beautiful green mat that looks and feels very soft. If you keep it mowed regularly, it won't be able to flower, but it does make a stunning, prairie-like display in the warmer months. It remains green and lush with heavy foot traffic and little watering. It is a tough, versatile plant that keeps out the weeds and endures the heat.
Carex Lawns (zones 4-9, 14-24)
These are drought tolerant grasses that can look splendid all year round. Some of the grasses might go dormant in the summer without some supplemental watering, but the good news is that these mixes take about 70% less water than traditional lawns.
Light Traffic Alternate Groundcovers
Or ditch a uniform cover and opt for a beautiful mix of drought tolerant grasses, shrubs, and trees like The Aldrich Company's design here. Click on the picture for more design ideas!