Easy + Awesome Alternatives to Lawns (Advice)

My garden is a combination of all the themes I’ll be covering (and then some). I mostly cater to bees with herbs and hotels. I also grow some food, have a succulent rock garden, tend to the baby trees, and added more native plants to the yard. It may seem like a lot of work, but a beautiful yard really doesn’t have to be!

I truly love having so many different kinds of plants to hang out with and care for, but a lot of people don’t want/have the time to spend, or just want to set it and forget it.

If that’s how you feel, you can still have something more environmentally beneficial and beautiful than a lawn or a patch of soil. Without all the extensive planning and labor!

The following is a super-easy how-to. It’s the very bare minimum of almost no work, because there are plants who don’t need help in your climate. You just need to know which ones!

As long as you follow the quick and easy section on Choosing the Right Flowers, this short, simplified version of gardening will turn your yard into a pollenator (, native plant, succulent or food) heaven!

How I Approached This

Sometimes gardeners work backwards. We pick what we like and only change that if we absolutely cannot accommodate what a plant needs. Maybe we pick a certain theme, like xeriscaping, but there’s still a ton of research and fine tuning involved. I realized the complexity is just a side effect of sorting through so many species (which I love to do), and going to great lengths to ammend conditions to suit them.

If we just choose a site, and pick from a list of what plants would already work there with NO maintenance (or only very short term watering), the entire planning process is unnecessary. So I made just such lists for people!

Then, when I started to make the lists, it had a bunch of beautiful plants on it, that will add interest and suit many tastes, fitting into several categories. So it might be best to deliver in segments…

Jump To

Coming Soon (links later):
  • Zero-Maintenance Native Plant Landscapes
  • Easy Bee-Friendly Flowers
  • Easy Food Gardens
  • Super-Easy, Zero-Maintenance, Pollenator Succulent Rock Gardens

A Note On No-Mow Grasses

You can make your lawn smaller by combining it with these options, and only keep minimal grass where you walk or play frequently.  To stay eco-friendly, only keep No-Mow grasses, or only allow grass to grow where it won’t need mowing because of such frequent use! 

Here is a list of grasses that require no or low mowing, and most will behave even without frequent walking/playing. 

No-Mows are a drastic improvement. Manual mowers go for $75+, but there’s no guarantee the next resident will use one.

Some low-mows look better with a mow 1x per year, but will lay flat and comfy without it, keeping ticks at bay and disincentivize them from hanging out there. No-mows also eliminate the chance of small animals dying by mower!

There are also mixes and species that require none at all!

As great as they are, cutting out SO much potential ecological damage compared to conventional lawns, no-mow grasses don’t improve pollenator populations or enhance biodiversity of other plant families. For best results, if you’re willing, combine no-mows with other plants too!

General Notes:

  • I suggest “Native Plants” for extreme conditions, like deserts south of Colorado or for very wet areas. (So I’ll cover that in the next installment). But, of the plants below, at least one in each list will be native to any US zone, whatever map you use.
    • There are natives for most areas, or close to it. However, worrying whether it’s native or not is a lesser factor for the environment at this CuRRent juncture, compared to increasing pollenators, and reducing mowing and water! So don’t feel like you have to do it 110% “perfect” to help at all!
  • I’ve compiled all lists below to include two types of water needs. For each category there are:
    • Plants that don’t need any watering at all in those places! (One plant for the desert on each list, too.)
    • Plants that can get watered, but need it way less than lawns, and only need water the first year to get established. Assuming your new garden can get water like a lawn did, but you want to cut down on watering. (So if you live in drier temperate places water 1/3 as often, if it’s boggy don’t water at all, for the first year. Then no watering after that.)
  • For all choices: To stay eco-friendly, only use organic seeds! (I’m not hating. GMO makes sense in theory, but what seed companies have achieved with GM, so far, has been unfriendly to the environment. Because those specific genetic changes aren’t viable long-term and cause damage in agricultural practices. That’s not to say eco-friendly self-propagating GM food won’t exist, it just isn’t currently available, to my knowledge, at the time of this post.) That way, you know your perennials and rampant seeders will be around to help next year, and the next residents if you ever move out…