Choose an Alternative to Turf
Traditional turf grass has its place. It is hardy, you can play and lounge on it, and its dense network of shallow roots controls erosion. But it has its drawbacks.
- Healthy turf grass requires frequent mowing, chemicals (that don’t stay where they’re applied) and substantial irrigation to stay green through the summer.
- It also does a poor job of infiltrating water into the ground to be cleaned and cooled naturally—contributing to runoff that pollutes our lakes and rivers.
- Lastly, it offers nothing to the beneficial insects we rely on to pollinate our gardens and control pests.
With so much of our urban and suburban environment covered by impermeable surfaces (roofs, streets, parking lots, etc.), how we choose to plant our remaining green spaces has critical consequences for water and habitat quality. Turf alternatives are low-growing ground covers that can supplement or replace Kentucky blue and other traditional turf grasses and still provide the benefits we look for in a lawn.
Are you looking for something that looks like a “normal” lawn or do you want to include as many native flowers as possible? Do you want to start from scratch or convert your existing lawn gradually? Will there be lots of playing on your lawn, or will you be content mainly to look at it? There are several ways to do this. Below, we have grouped turf alternatives into three categories.