A beautiful yard for less

Alternatives to a Grass Lawn

by Debra Karplus

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There are numerous reasons to abandon the idea of growing grass and choose some lawn alternatives instead. Perhaps it seems like you just mowed your lawn, but within days, it's time to mow again. If you use a gas-powered mower or riding mower, you need to remember to keep gasoline on hand, and, oh, those rising gas prices. Hopefully, your mower blade is sharp enough, the spark plugs are good, and there's ample oil in the machine. Maybe you've "gone green," and instead use an electric re-chargeable mower, or perhaps you enjoy the weekly workout provided by an old fashioned push mower. Good for you.

Besides the cost of the mower, the annual tune-up to keep it functioning at its best, the required fluids, gas and oil, and the time spent to prepare your mower for winter by emptying fluids and cleaning debris off the mower and its underside, have you ever examined how much water you use to keep your lawn looking green and lush? And, if you pride yourself in having that perfect-looking lawn, what do you spend in time and money for weed and disease control each season? Lawn alternatives are a growing option for many homeowners.

Beautify your landscape with lawn alternatives.

A growing number of families are replacing their lawns with affordable lawn alternatives. Planting ground cover is one way that homeowners can eliminate the ongoing costs associated with lawn care. "Ground cover plants, when properly taken care of, provide dense soil cover, retard weed growth, and prevent soil erosion," according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Ground cover adds beauty to your landscape by providing a variety of color, height, and texture.

Determine if your area is sunny or shady and select appropriate plants, ivy, ornamental grasses , perennials and shrubbery from your local garden center or home improvement store that will grow best on your property with minimal maintenance. Take a walk around your neighborhood and view how others have replaced their lawns. If you have a nearby Cooperative Extension office, solicit their advice of what would grow best with your climate, soil, and planting conditions. Look online at websites and images for ideas to use ground cover instead of grass around your home. A site you might want to visit is www.eartheasy.com.

Wood chips used with ground cover or without is a great way to reduce the size of your lawn.

You've probably noticed wood chips on playgrounds, around trees and shrubs, and in ornamental gardens. Wood chips are simply small pieces of ground trees. They are attractive, functional, and are often free. If you only need small quantities of wood chips, you can create your own with the use of a shredder-chipper, if you have enough scrap wood to do this. But the cost of renting a shredder-chipper, safety issues, and the fact that the process is highly labor intensive makes other options for obtaining wood chips much more appealing.

Though you can purchase wood chips and even have them delivered for a fee, quite often they are available for free, and "free" is a four letter word that always gets the attention of dollar stretchers! Most cities have departments, public agencies, and enterprises that periodically trim or cut, often large, trees. Contact your city's public works department and inquire about free wood chips. Or call your local park district . One city's gas and electric company regularly trims trees to expose power lines and will deliver a load of wood chips for no charge, not even a delivery fee. It's definitely worth making a few phone calls. Pay attention as you are out and about running errands and make note when you see tree cutting or trimming.

Wood chips can be quite attractive. But wood chips can also be very practical in their ability to absorb rain water and reduce weed growth. To learn more about their value as mulch, check out www.gardening.cals.cornell.edu or www.puyallup.wsu.edu.

Before you dig up your lawn, as any prudent dollar stretching person would do, research your options thoroughly. Calculate the yearly costs of your current lawn mowing and watering, and determine the cost of planting practical lawn alternatives. Your results should provide you beauty for the years that you live in your home and increase your home's value when you are ready to move on.

Reviewed August 2017

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

Take the Next Step:

  • If your yard is more dirt than grass, use some of these inexpensive landscaping ideas to spruce it up.
  • Don't let a tight budget be an excuse for a lackluster lawn and landscape. The TDS Guide to Beautiful Lawns & Landscaping for Less can help you have both a yard and a budget you can be proud of.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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