What to Grow Instead of Grass

You’re tired of maintaining a lawn. All that mowing is causing your back to break, when all you wanted in a yard was to be able to relax. Or maybe your water bill is getting out of hand. You’re beginning to wonder if it’s worth selling the house.

But before you resign yourself to moving into a condo, know that there are many things you can grow other than grass! Things that require less maintenance, consume less water, and are more fruitful – literally – than grass.

Before We Talk Alternatives…

… it’s a good idea to check the rules about grass in your area to avoid receiving a nasty fine from the grass police. For instance, in our neck of the woods, we’re required to keep at least 75 percent of our front lawn as soft landscaping. This can be any vegetative material such as grass, trees, and plants. And this is why we’re able to replace the grass with something else, as long as it’s some form of soft landscaping.

Why Do We Need Grass?

Even if you’re looking for alternatives to growing grass, there are lots of good reasons to keep at least some of your grass. The best ones are reducing soil erosion, trapping stormwater runoff, improving air quality, cultivating biodiversity, keeping the ground cooler than with concrete or asphalt surfaces, and decreasing noise pollution – yes, grass absorbs sound instead of letting it bounce off as would a hard surface.

Still, you can’t eat grass. And given the drought problems we’re seeing – and increasingly going to see – in many parts of the world, it makes us wonder if we should be making better use of our scarce water.

That’s why we’re proposing two alternatives: growing drought-tolerant grass and growing edible plants. You can limit your use of water – and in most cases, do less back-breaking maintenance like mowing – by replacing your lawn with a drought-tolerant variety. And growing your own food is practical, eco-friendly, and requires less water than maintaining a lawn.

Alternative #1: Drought-Tolerant Grass

The most drought-tolerant grasses are warm-season grasses, which is great because most drought-prone states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California grow warm-season grass.

You may be able to overseed your lawn with a drought-tolerant variety, but if you’re not sure how your grass will react to the new seed, we think it’s best to rip up the existing lawn and reseed from the soil. You can also take this opportunity to make any necessary amendments to the soil.

Here are four fantastic drought-tolerant grasses:

  • Buffalograss. Native to North America, buffalograss is by far the most drought-tolerant grass you can find. Despite being a warm-season grass, it can survive cold conditions and can grow in places as north as Canada. We can’t recommend this low-maintenance grass enough, especially if you want to find something that requires little irrigation and fertilizer to grow.
  • Common Bermudagrass. This is another very good drought-tolerant, low-maintenance grass. Common Bermudagrass is great for sport, children, and dogs. It’ll grow in any type of soil as long as there’s full sun.
  • Paspalum. Paspalum is a beautiful, dark green grass that’s not used as much as it should be. It’s both drought- and wear-tolerant, which makes it great for sport, children, and dogs too. In fact, the Houston Astros have been using this grass since 2008 in their ballpark. It too requires little irrigation and fertilizer to grow. The downside, though, is that it requires frequent mowing.
  • Zoysia. And finally zoysia grass. Zoysia has good drought-tolerance and is prized for its soft, beautiful looks. It’s a slow-growing grass that doesn’t require frequent mowing. But it’s not as hard-wearing as the other options we covered. Nevertheless, it could make a stunning addition to your yard, perhaps next to that vegetable garden!

Alternative #2: Edible Plants

Speaking of vegetable garden, we want to give you some ideas on what edible plants to grow and some garden tips too. When growing food crops, put them in different spots every year to prevent diseases and pest problems, and try to grow plants that will help each other out. For instance, plant garlic next to tomatoes to protect them from pests.

  • Fruit and nut trees: apple, apricot, fig, lemon, orange, peach, pecan, pear, walnut.
  • Herbs: mint, oregano, thyme, basil, dill, cilantro, bay, rosemary.
  • Vegetables: carrots, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, onions, peppers, radishes, tomatoes.
  • Vines: beans, grapes, melons, peas, pumpkins, squashes, watermelon, zucchini.

Garden Tips

  • Use Organic Fertilizer. Just like grass, your food crops need nutrients to grow. You can use organic fertilizer such as compost, blood meal, and bone meal. You can also foliar feed your plants, which means to spray liquid fertilizer onto your plants.
    Medina Garrett Juice Plus
    Garrett Juice is a ready-made foliar spray consisting of compost tea, molasses, liquid seaweed, apple cider vinegar, and liquid fish.
    Espoma Blood Meal
    Blood meal not only fertilizes your garden, but keeps the animals away.
    Burpee Bone Meal
    Bone meal is a great fertilizer for onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables.
  • Repel Pests. You’re probably wondering how to stop pests from wreaking havoc on your garden. The answer is to use a garlic spray (mix one-part crushed garlic to five-part water) or soap spray (mix one-part biodegradable soap to four-part water).
  • Repel Animals. Raccoons, and rabbits, and squirrels, oh my! These animals give you another reason to use blood meal fertilizer because they hate the smell. It reminds them of predators so they won’t go near your garden. You can also use chicken wire to protect your crops, but make sure the structure is strong enough to hold out against raccoons!
  • Involve the Kids. We can almost guarantee that your kids will eat the vegetables they grow. Or at least entice them to try some. Plus, kids love playing in the dirt. It’s a great way to get them outside. Here are some things you can try: give them their own garden space, grow unusual varieties like purple carrots, and let ‘em do the fun and easy stuff like watering.

Change is Good!

You can’t go wrong with growing drought-tolerant, low-maintenance grasses and/or edible plants. They’re less work and more rewarding. Think about which combination works best for you, and don’t forget to check the local rules before changing your landscape!

Have Fun Out There!