Keep Off Grass: Alternatives To Lawns

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Keep Off Grass: Alternatives To Lawns

The green grass of a front lawn framed by a white picket fence is the prototypical image of suburban America. Yet we all seem to complain about caring for it, whether it be mowing, fertilizer or those awful pesticides. Plus, while we may not have a drought here like in California (at least not yet), grass uses a huge amount of water, an unnecessary amount really, and most of that fertilizer just ends up leaching into the ground and finding its way into our lakes, rivers and bays. For aesthetic, environmental or just plain lazy reasons, more and more people are looking for alternatives to grass lawns.

According to Lee Miller of Landscape Design by Lee in Sayville, “The latest trend in garden design is to focus on form and function as well as aesthetics. With busy lives, most of my clients are looking for a retreat they can call their own…a private space for relaxing or socializing with guests.”

Some start small, perhaps by partially replacing portions of lawn with alternatives such as hardscaping or gardens. Others go completely grass free and never use that lawn mower again. Lee added, “The grass lawns of the past are being transformed into a number of functional spaces including patio areas, decks, poolscapes, fire pit areas and outdoor kitchens for the purpose of entertainment and relaxation.”

Whether you’re looking to go big or small, we offer several alternatives to the same old boring grass lawn.

Garden Landscapes

Use different garden designs to make your yard look stunning. Replace traditional grass with a wave of colors from gorgeous plants. Whether you prefer a perennial garden design, a raised cottage garden design, backyard, frontyard or poolside garden, start by carving out your area, choose the right native plants, structures, rocks, decorations, etc., and watch your yard pop.

Trees, & Shrubs

Smart use of trees and shrubs can completely make or break your yard design. Evergreens and shrubs can be used to create privacy or to give a green backdrop to a colorful flower garden. Strategically place trees to create shade. For what amounts to the opposite of a lawn, try going completely wild, even in your front yard, by creating your own mini-wilderness. Choose native trees, some evergreen, some not, some tall, some squat, and plant them randomly around your yard. Add in shrub here or there, maybe between two ferns, then create walking trails by dropping pine needles and going for a walk in the woods right in your front yard.

Ground Covers

There’s no mistaking the allure of an open grass lawn. The fresh, clean, suburban feel that just screams American Dream. One way to get a similar effect without all the hassle of mowing, fertilizing, etc., is to use a ground cover. Whether you want to keep your ground cover tall or short, there are many options to choose from including Winter Keepers and Japanese Blood Grass. Gravel or woodchip ground covers, used sporadically, also help to change things up.

Ponds and Waterfalls

I don’t know about you but I can hear either Sunrise Highway or the Long Island Expressway in the distance from the backyard of basically everyone I know. One way to drown out the highway noise, not to mention those loud kids down the block, is to build a waterfall and pond in your yard. It all starts with digging, stacking some cinderblocks, then more digging, lining the pond with plastic, more digging, hooking up a water pump, etc. Or you could just hire a pro to build you a waterfall that can be incorporated into any design and save yourself all the digging.


If walking barefoot through grass just doesn’t do anything for you, you may be one of the many people who find using masonry as the best way to improve the aesthetics of their yards. Go all out with patios, extended driveways, walkways, retaining walls or poolscapes. Incorporate as little or as much as you want, but remember pavers don’t need to be mowed.

Outdoor Living Spaces

Bringing the inside out is a great way to increase the living space of your house. Exotic front porches are always nice as are outdoor living rooms, kitchens, maybe a fire pit for making s’mores or a poolside patio that looks like something out of a Bahamas resort.

Photo: Courtesy Landscape Design By Lee

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