Alternatives to Lawn or Turf Grass for Knoxville Gardens

 In Garden Tips

We may look at the ubiquitous lawn or turfgrass feature as the golden, or better put, the “green” standard for gardens and many outdoor field settings. But they aren’t perfect or suitable for all gardens. That brings us to our topic of discussion today: traditional alternatives to turf grass in yard design. Alternatives to turf grass come in various shapes, colors, and textures. And more importantly, many choices present unique advantages for your garden’s health. 

If you’re looking for easy landscape design or just alternatives to turf grass in Knoxville, here are a few that are worth a try depending on your lawn care needs. 

Clover: The Winner in Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Grass Alternatives

Whether you see them as a lucky charm or not, clover grass is quite beneficial to your soil and wallet. Clover is a clear winner when looking at new landscaping ideas to consider and a great alternative to a grass lawn.

Clover grass has two standout qualities: 

1) It’s a natural soil fertilizer

2) It’s affordable. 

This texturally unique alternative works as a soil conditioner and works best in yards with below-average or even low soil quality. If the soil or grass in your backyard is unhealthy, clover will be a viable alternative to the boring and labor-intensive monoculture we call lawn. Lucky you, indeed.

Benefits of Clover as a Sustainable Grass Alternative

  • Drought Tolerance – Traditional lawn grasses need a steady supply of water to grow and, of course, survive. Clover, being the hardy species it is, doesn’t require as much water, and they can withstand dry or dryer-than-normal weather conditions. 
  • Nitrogen Fixing – Clover has nitrogen-fixing properties (balancing out the ratio and distribution of nitrogen in your soil). As the nitrogen content of your soil improves, your yard will look healthier and greener.
  • Food for wildlife – I’m a stickler for attracting wildlife to gardens, and if you are too, then using clover as a grass alternative will draw in all sorts of beautiful critters. Here in Tennessee, you can expect to see cute and furry animals such as rabbits and chipmunks in your garden chewing happily on bundles of clover. 
  • Chokes out weed – If you’re tired of pulling out the weed whacker or having to pour harsh weed-killing chemicals on your lawn, sit back and let clover do the job. It is a natural weed-remover, effectively choking out pesky weed species such as crabgrass.  

Moss: A Must-Try in Sustainable Grass Alternatives 

Perhaps, you’re too busy to spend hours maintaining the lawn and need low-maintenance grass species. 

If you have a decent amount of shade and the proper ph, moss may be your answer. 

I recommend moss to busy gardening folk because it’s ridiculously easy to plant and requires no mowing and no watering if you grow in a location that gets less sun. As a plus, moss can be an inviting texture thanks to its velvety appearance.  

Benefits of Moss as a Sustainable Grass Alternative

  • Moisture absorbing power – Moss acts as a sponge and, therefore, absorbs excess moisture. The benefit of this is that it prevents soil erosion, affecting soil quality and hinders plants’ growth. 
  • Enhance plant growth – You’ve probably seen this with your own eyes – a patch of moss growing on arid soil or dry rocks. Well, here’s the exciting thing about that: moss breaks down those rocks, allowing minerals and nutrients to spread into the ground. By doing this, moss fosters an environment for plants to grow. Moss can do the same on your lawn, too.
  • Pollution indicators – Despite having a reputation for being a challenging plant species, moss ironically needs to grow in a cleaner environment. So if moss fails to thrive in your environment, that might be a sign. It could mean there is some toxicity in your soil. The opposite is also true.

Ornamental Grasses

If you want the best bang for your buck, then you should look into ornamental grasses. They reduce the area of your turf lawn, offer a host of practical benefits to your property, and can turn it into a beautiful display – a trifecta that any pro gardener may desire. From a practical standpoint, ornamental grasses are ideal turf grass alternatives because they are drought-resistant and low-maintenance. 

Ornamental grasses are also resistant to pests and diseases. This means you can put the pesticides away when going with this choice.

Benefits of Ornamental Grasses as an Alternative

  • Convenient for gardeners – Ornamental grass doesn’t require mowing because they mature at various heights. Some are clump-forming, and some are spreading. You don’t need to seed them either. Ultimately, ornamental grasses require little work to keep them healthy, which is ideal if you don’t have much time or gardening resources. Be sure to choose varieties that can withstand some wind and won’t bend down with the first light snowfall. One that I use frequently is Karl Foerster feather reed grass. 
  • Visually-pleasing – Going back to ornamental grasses’ shapes, I want to emphasize that they grow into some of the most intricate designs you can imagine. So if you’re going to add some visual flair to your lawn, ornamental grasses might be the choice for you.

Why Bother with Turf Alternatives?

Grass alternatives make it easier for homeowners to practice sustainable gardening. Traditional turf is very labor-intensive and can be expensive, which is the opposite of sustainability. 

By implementing one of these grass turf alternatives, you can reduce the costs, resources and strain of maintaining your home garden. So while we may dream of “golf course” green for our yards, many of us may not have the time to achieve this. Or maybe you want to decline the excessive use of pesticides to achieve this look. The latter of which I’m all for and wholeheartedly encourage.

Think outside the box with your outdoor landscaping. Dare to be different and consider changing your lawn with plants that work beautifully in landscapes like Tennessee. 

Your wallet, the environment and your garden will thank you.

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