8 Options: Alternatives for Lawns for Sustainable Living

You've heard about Sustainable living

...but exactly what is it and how does it involve my garden?

Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the earth's natural resources and personal resources. People wanting to live a sustainable life often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint.

Now ask yourself the question:

"Am I living sustainably if I have a huge, water thirsty lawn in my garden"?

The answer is simple: ‘NO!’

*Your lawn needs to be cut on a regular basis. *To look good, a lawn needs regular fertilizing. *Lawns have a bad reputation as being a polluter of our streams and rivers. *The Pesticides you spray on your lawn can be harmful to humans and animals. *And the most important fact in our current situation: Many lawn types are water thirsty and need regular watering to look at its best.

Yes, large lush-green lawns are beautiful to look at, but in today’s time of water shortages, the traditional huge lawn is just not practical and logical anymore.

We need to look at alternatives for these water thirsty culprits. You will see that even when you reduce the size of your lawn, you will be able to benefit the environment, while saving yourself time, energy and expense!

Luckily there are quite a few alternatives for lawns:

1. Artificial lawn:

(Photo shared from Petro Landscaping: www.petrolandscaping.co.za)

Made famous on sports fields, synthetic grass (or artificial lawn) is becoming an increasingly popular choice for the water wise gardener. Very little maintenance, an instant lush green look all year round, and absolutely NO WATER required!

2. Ground covers:

Drought tolerant, evergreen ground covers such as Gazania, Aptenia, Delosperma and Plectranthus neochilus, are excellent replacements for water thirsty lawns. Place some steppingstones in between to be able to move through the area without stepping on your plants. Some, like the Dymondia, will even be able to handle light traffic (once established) and don’t need to be cut at all!


3. Pavers (Stepping stones):

Who wouldn’t want to extend your home for extra entertainment space by incorporating a large area of pavers?

Either put stones or a low growing, drought tolerant ground cover in between the pavers, place a table and chairs and get ready to party!

Or create a wide paver pathway directly around your house – not only will it be practical to have a clean and dry area to walk on, but you will also reduce the size of your lawn by doing this.

(Photo shared from Living Gardens Landscaping: www.livinggardenssa.co.za)

4. Stones:

For large areas, consider drainage chips (gravel). For smaller areas (also in between drought tolerant plants) consider river stones

or other more ornamental stones. We recommend placing bidem material on the bare soil first and then putting the stones on top of the material. This will prevent weeds from growing through the stones and will keep maintenance low.

(Photo shared from Jenni Penny Landscaping: jennipenny@kingsley.co.za)

5. Wooden decking:

(Photo shared from Valleyscapes: ValleyScapesSA on Facebook)

What about a beautiful, large deck where you can braai or just unwind? Another way to extend the home for more entertainment or relaxing space and in the process reduce the size of your lawn!

6. Other types of ground coverings:

Peach pips, bark nuggets and even sea shells can all be used to cover bare soil.

7. Indigenous plants:

If you plan to reduce the size of your lawn by creating bigger or more garden beds, strongly consider planting drought tolerant indigenous plants here. These plants are already adapted to our local climate, are not so sensitive to dry conditions, and can also provide habitat for local birds, mammals, and beneficial insects. Consider: Aloes, Fynbos (like Pin cushion and Protea), Pork bush, Coleonema, Buchu, Buddleja, Searsia.

8. Other drought tolerant plants:

Succulents are naturally water wise plants and these days you get beautiful, colourful varieties. Not only do they need minimal water once established, they also provide interest in the garden with the many textures and shapes available. Consider: Euphorbia, Sedum, Crassula, Echeveria.

Plants native to the Mediterranean regions also fare well in South African water wise gardens. Consider: Lavender, Rosemary, Olive trees, Bougainvillea, Westringia.

It’s not rocket science - we need to change our traditional way of thinking when it comes to lawns.

Won’t it be so much more satisfying to know:

*You do your part in conserving water? *You create a natural space for wildlife (using drought tolerant, indigenous plants)? *You can spend more precious time outside with family and friends (in that newly paved or decked entertainment area)?

Now ask yourself the question:

"Is it really worth the effort, money and pressure on the environment to have a lush, green lawn"?

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