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Original Message Lawn Substitutes
Hi this is Louis from Maryland, in zone 7. I suppose you are in zone 8 which is a bit warmer than here, but almost the same. You forgot to mention if the area is sunny or shady or both which is a most important consideration when choosing plants.
I recommend Ajuga reptans for shady and sunny areas. Most nurseries carry it now. You can buy it in flats of 50 tiny plants to use as ground cover. This one is excellent in both sun and shade, and much better than grass in heavy shade, you don't need to mow it, and you get tiny blue flowers in spring.
Another one is Mazus reptans which is a rapidly spreading ground cover for suny spots only. They have either blue or white flowers in spring, and no mowing.
There are 2 main lines of lawn substitutes now - one called "Stepables" and the other is "Jeepers Creepers". Some nurseries carry them. Call first. These are excellent and are rated acccording to their growing conditions, and how much traffic they can tolerate. One of these can be driven over by a car and still survive. You can go to their websites, just add .com to the name. It is better to see them live as always, so go to a nursery.
Another good one here is creeping phlox, you know the one covered with nice tiny flowers in spring. I have seen it in lawns, mowed, and stepped on and still doing well. These are full sun only. Buy a few of these to test it out in your yard.
Also another to try is creeping thyme, a herb. Buy a variety which grows 4 inches tall or less.
Another one to try is a creeping mint. Just get 1 or a few, not corsican mint as it is too flat, but any one which spreads and is not too tall. When you mow it, it gives a nice fragrance.
Lawn substitutes are different from ground covers as they generally tolerate more traffic than ground covers. Ground covers are for looking at, and not walking on, although some tolerate light traffic. You can put part of the area into ground covers, and part into lawn substitutes.
Your area is close to one acre, and my yard is 1/4 acre so your yard looks big to me.
Go to a nursery and ask for lawn substitutes. If you want less maintenance, then buy the larger plant in the larger container, so you have less watering. Actually with summer coming on, now, I would plant some, but not too much; as you have to water them through the summer. Fall planting is better for lower maintenance, but the nurseries may be sold out by then, so check carefully with the nurseries.
You can also see these in a botanical garden or arboretum.
To save money, put the plants 1 foot apart, or more. Mazus can be put 2 feet apart. Mulch the area about 1 - 2 inches deep if you can.
What you can do is spray a section with roundup herbicde to kill off the existing plants. Then wait 10 - 16 days, and spot spray again if needed. Then mow low over the dead grass and plant directly into this natural mulch. Then you don't have to buy mulch, and the plants will naturally cover it up. This will reduce money, watering, mulch, and erosion.
good luck

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