Have you ever wondered why we use grasses to cover the land in front of homes? People use grass because they like having the benefits of a lawn and are soothed by green vegetation. However, turf care can be very costly in terms of both money and time. So these problems have raised the question, ‘Is grass the only type of lawn?’ Nope! More and more people are looking for ways to have cheaper and lower-maintenance lawns without losing their vegetation altogether. On this page, we will explore alternatives to traditional turf grass and the properties of each.

Sedges
According to Dictionary.com, sedge is a rushlike or grasslike plant that usually grows in wet places and persists in cold and temperate regions. Sedges are used to make gardens, yards, walkways, etc. visually pleasing by creating color and variety.
All sedges are perennial, meaning they can persist for more than two years, unlike annual plants that can only survive one growing season. Sedges differ from grass in structure; where sedges have solid triangular stems, grass has flat leaf blades that are hollow. Also, sedges do not have nodes like grass and only produce floral stems.


grassvs.jpg
sedge.jpg
http://www.canadiangardening.com/plants/ornamental-grasses/versatile-sedges/a/1453

The advantages of sedges over regular turf grass include that they can do very well in shaded areas with high levels of moisture while most grasses cannot and can survive in colder temperatures. One disadvantage to using sedges as turf is that it does not form an even or flat surface like most grasses can. Sedges are more for decoration than for function or durability.

Examples of Sedges

Hair Sedges
These kinds of sedges consist of extremely fine leaves that grow in bunches rather than spread like a turf grass. They prefer a very cold living environment and can be cultivated from seeds indoors then transferred to soil outside successfully. On the color spectrum they usually range from oranges to reds.hairsedge.jpg
http://hoffmannursery.com/plants/carex-comans-bronze/

Japanese Sedges
These varieties are not recommended for harsh winters, as by the end of the season the leaves will begin to weaken and die. The leaf widths can vary from narrow to broad and colors run from yellow to green. The hardiest of the Japanese varieties is the Broad-Leafed Sedge and the most popular type is the Evergold.

Others
There are other sedges that thrive in large amounts of moisture, such as the palm and morning star sedges. The morning star gets its name from its oddly shaped seed heads that look a lot like maces by the same name. The blue creeping sedge is good for low-spreading ground cover and has narrow, blue-green leaves.

Herbs
Herbs alone can be used as an alternative turf or they can be combines with grass to provide variety or more coverage. Typically, herbs are not used for an entire lawn, but rather for covering small areas or patches. Like sedges, herbs will not withstand heavy wear and over time will flatten and die.

Grass-Herb Lawns
Lawns that are mixed are well-suited to different environments depending on what grass is involved. Herbs mixed with cool season grasses will do better in cold winters and mild summers while warm season mixes can survive hot summers. However, if mixed with Bermudagrass, herbs will most likely not be able to compete with its vigorous growth.

Herbs can be added to an already existing lawn by clearing away patches of desired size, adding fresh soil, and planting already rooting herbs or vigorous seeds. When properly watered and mowed, the herbs will blend with the lawn. Chamomile, clover, thyme, violet, pearly everlasting, and pennyroyal, to name just a few, are herbs that are commonly integrated with lawns

Wildflowers
flowers.jpgThe most colorful of the alternative turfs is wildflowers. Compared with caring for grasses, wildflowers are low maintenance, cheap, and healthier for the environment. Wildflowers need no fertilizer, little water, and need to be mowed only once a year. Planting is simple and growth is quick. Seeds can germinate in as little as eight days and can get established as soon as four to six weeks. There are even wildflower-herb mats available for planting which can endure varied and extreme climates.

Groundcovers
Groundcovers are low-growing plants that spread and help to block out the growth of weeds, and prevent the erosion of soil. They include shrubs, herbs, woody plants, and many more. Groundcovers are typically more wear and drought resistant than other types of alternative turfs and can function as more than just turf. It can act as a barrier, visual guide, or hedge that can work to soften the look of paths and driveways.

Sedums
Sedum is of the evergreen family and is efficient in its use of water and able to withstand heat. It grows well on slopes, in rock gardens, and some people even use it as an eco-friendly rooftop. They require little maintenance and come in a large number of varieties, from shrubs to low-growing foliage. They come in a wide array of colors and though not meant for heavy traffic, they can grow back quicker than other less durable turfs.

Ivy
Ivy is a woody vine plant that persists well in shaded areas, does not require a lot of care, and can sometimes considered to be invasive because it grows at a very fast rate. If growing close to a tall structure such as a building or a tree, it will undoubtedly climb and if left unattended, could cause damage over time. In order to be sure that it does not push out all other plants, ivy should be trimmed at the beginning of any season to keep it tame.

Juniper
Juniper is a woody evergreen shrub that is good for spreading over a big area. Its leaves are needle thin and blue-green in color, as is characteristic of the evergreen family. It can persist year-round, be planted on slopes, and can be trained to grow densely with proper trimming. Juniper does not do well in very saturated soil, so it must be well-drained and watered little. They are not ideal for an even surface since their leaves overlap and create a unique visual and tactile texture.





Sources
Sedges
http://www.finegardening.com/plants/qa/grasses-rushes-sedges.aspx
http://www.canadiangardening.com/plants/ornamental-grasses/versatile-sedges/a/1453

Herbs
http://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/herbal-lawns.aspx#axzz2l3EiTEyo

Wildflowers
http://www.americanmeadows.com/news-room/replace-lawn-with-wildflowers
http://turf.co.uk/wildflower-turf/what-is-wildflower-turf/wildflower-herb-mat/
Photo: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_23513178/lawn-alternatives-can-save-time-money-and-maybe

Groundcovers
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/groundcovers/about.cfm
http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/low-maintenance-lawn-alternatives-ground-cover/#.
http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-sedum2007aug02,0,6760574.story#axzz2l3LnLI2q
http://www.ask.com/explore/creating-ivy-ground-cover
http://www.wilsonbroslandscape.com/GroundcoverFileJunipers.html

AUTHOR: Priscilla Ruiz