Lawn alternatives

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As pleasant as it is to have your own patch of perfectly cropped green grass, maintaining a lawn is time consuming, expensive and water intensive.

Lawns require constant watering and weeding, mowing every couple of weeks, and are prone to dying off in heat and drought.

If you want the benefits without the cost and hassle, there’s a few options to consider.

Plant ground cover

A garden where woolly thyme is used as a groundcover between pavers.
Image Woolly thyme makes for a great groundcover, and you’ll never have to buy the herb again.(Patrick Standish, CC BY 2.0)

If you’re not planning to do too much walking on it, you can ditch the grass and get a similar effect by planting a creeping ground cover like kidney weed (Dicondra repens) or woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus), landscape designer Ian Barker says.

“Thyme is green, except when it flowers, which is once a year. It’s quite tolerant and can handle full sun.”


  • You’ll never have to mow the lawn ever again
  • Dicondra is native
  • Ground covers are hardier than most grasses


  • Dicondra and thyme won’t work in well-trodden areas
  • No grass for backyard cricket or playing children

Plant a garden or use gravel or pavers

The other option is to dig up your lawn and plant a garden, which is the solution Mr Macinnis recommends.

“There are low plants you can get that will do a lovely job and they’ll look pleasant,” he says.

The trick to gravel, he says, is to get one fine enough so it doesn’t stick in your shoes.



  • You could end up with a lovely new garden!
  • Pavers, bricks and gravel need virtually no maintenance
  • Natives like kangaroo grass don’t require much watering


  • Ripping up the lawn and planting the garden takes work — and money

Go synthetic

A backyard with synthetic grass.
Image Synthetic grass has a high upfront cost, but never needs mowing or water.(Perfect Grass, CC BY 2.0)

You can get rid of the plant life all together by using a synthetic lawn. Instead of grass, you’ll have a series of green, plastic fibres held up by granules of black rubber.

Synthetic lawns are great for areas that will get trampled or are difficult to access, Mr Barker says, but they can get hot.



  • Virtually no maintenance required
  • Synthetic lawns are always green
  • Great for difficult to access areas or spaces where grass struggles to grow


  • Heats up the nearby area
  • Expensive to install
  • Artificial
  • Less environmentally friendly

Use a slow-growing or hardy grass

If you’re absolutely set on having grass in your yard, there are lower maintenance varieties available.

At his own house, Mr Barker uses a premium Zoysia variety, which was originally developed for golf courses.

A man mowing the lawn outside a row of new houses
Image If you really want a grass lawn, make sure to choose the right variety for the conditions.(ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)

While a typical lawn requires mowing every two to three weeks, he expects he’ll only have to get out the mower a few times each year. And, the grass is drought tolerant.

“It’s dark green by nature, and it can handle shade and handle sun. It’s three-and-a-half times more expensive though,” he says.

If you just want a lawn that will stay alive, buffalo grass is hardy in both sun and shade.

Palmetto buffalo has a soft leaf and requires less mowing; Sir Walter is a hardier but faster growing variety.

You’ll end up with a lovely lawn, but don’t say we didn’t warn you about the work involved.



  • It’s still grass, which means it’ll cool your garden area
  • Great for kids/footy/backyard cricket


  • Premium varieties of grass are more expensive
  • Still need to mow from time to time, and will require maintenance, such as weeding
  • Some varieties can be quite invasive, and can spread to areas you want to keep grass-free

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