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Grass alternative?

Grass alternative?
Posted by Susan from SC on 2001-03-20 12:50:31

I moved to SC a year and a half ago, and
have since purchased a small home. I
have had
increasing problems with allergies
and upper respiratory problems, and
recently found out I am
highly allergic to every type of
grass for which my allergist tested. My
backyard is small - about 165
feet square. I currently have a
chain link fence that I cannot afford to
replace, and would like to grow
something to cover it. Also, since
grass is part of my problem, I would
like to develop a plan for the
yard that does not include grass.
Except for a few trees around the
perimeter, the space is barren -
mostly sand. I have some ideas for some
of the space, such as a small waterfall
under a tree stand, but do not know what
I can use as ground cover that is not
grass. I also have a large dog that
likes to run, so I need something
durable. Any suggestions are welcome.
  • Lawn Substitutes
    Posted by Louis from Maryland on 2006-06-12 02:59:00

    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
  • Susan hope this helps
    Posted by green thumb from on 2001-03-25 23:12:43

    Quoting Susan: ------------
    -I moved to SC a year and a half ago,
    -have since purchased a small home. I
    -have had
    increasing problems with allergies
    -and upper respiratory problems, and
    -recently found out I am
    highly allergic to every type of
    -grass for which my allergist tested.
    -backyard is small - about 165
    feet square. I currently have a
    -chain link fence that I cannot afford
    -replace, and would like to grow
    something to cover it. Also, since
    -grass is part of my problem, I would
    -like to develop a plan for the
    yard that does not include grass.
    -Except for a few trees around the
    -perimeter, the space is barren -
    -mostly sand. I have some ideas for
    -of the space, such as a small
    -under a tree stand, but do not know
    -I can use as ground cover that is not
    -grass. I also have a large dog that
    -likes to run, so I need something
    -durable. Any suggestions are welcome.
    • Susan hope this helps
      Posted by greenthumb from on 2001-03-25 23:23:27

      I have a catalog with differant plants
      and ground covers in it I was acually
      thinking of useing this plang for a
      ground cover in a garden im planning it
      is call ed Irish Moss it is the height
      is 2" to 4" high which is not bad
      spreads quickley to it stays green all
      year round it gets small white blooms
      in spring time takes foot traffic well
      and likes High Humidity areas you can
      goto your local nurseries and ask about
      it.Or go to I have thier
      catalog and thats where I got the info
      from.Hope this helps you it really
      looks like grass I hope it dose'nt have
      the same efect on your allergies as
  • Some ideas
    Posted by Jerry from 5b on 2001-03-20 12:54:08


    Sorry to hear about your allergy. I'm
    afraid I have more bad news, too - you
    might be out of luck with groundcover in
    your backyard. Dogs - esp BIG dogs and
    groundcovers don't mix.

    An area that small - 165 sqft - leaves
    little room for a running dog. The
    plants would be trampled and diluting
    the urine (hosing it down) would keep
    you busy. In fact, that area could be
    called a spacious pen for a big dog as
    well as a small bkyd. (did the
    multi-listing say that??)

    Anything in that area that includes
    low-growing plants is going to be
    difficult to maintain with him/her
    as part of it. I do, however, like the
    idea of a water garden with a perimeter
    plants. If you leave a path for the Spot
    to run on, there might be room for both.

    You may be able to grow annual or
    perennial flowers. If Ruff damages them,
    they're not as expensive to replace. You
    could hang boxes on the fence and grow
    things there.

    Tall, stiff ornamental grasses (if
    you're not allergic to those, too) -
    miscanthus - and smaller flowering
    shrubs - spirea, pyracantha,
    forsythia - might do well once
    established in spots where he can run
    around them.

    Consider a rock garden.

    Mulch the areas where he's worn it down
    to keep the mud and dust in check.

    Visit the link below for helpful
    publications for landscaping. The PDFs
    are easier to read. If you do decide to
    plant, I suggest you have a soil
    analysis prepared (~$20) at your local
    Extension Service (see the yellow pgs)
    to see what shape your soil is in.
    Adjust per their report.

    With the potential stress your dog may
    impart on the garden, it'll stand up
    better if it's healthy to begin with.

    Others may have more encouraging ideas.

    • Thanks Jerry
      Posted by Susan from SC on 2001-03-20 12:58:17


      Thanks for the hints. The dog manages to
      get a good run up, despite the small
      yard. It is probably a bit larger than I
      told you, but I am not very good at this
      math thing - sorry! But the whole lot is
      only .97 acre, so it's not too darn big.

      Also have an erosion problem (yard
      slopes, sand/dirt runs toward neighbors
      house in heavy rain). Am needing to put
      something down (even if it has to be
      grass) to keep my yard from slipping
      away. Just took down a nasty old above
      ground pool, which has revealed a great
      spot to place a retaining wall and do
      some planting above it. It is the other
      2/3 of the yard I am worried about!

      If I have to resort to grass in the open
      area where "Bear" will run, then I guess
      something slow growing that I don't have
      to be in contact with too much would be
      best. I really dislike most of the grass
      they grow down here, as it has wide
      blades and is not very attractive. I was
      able to get Bermuda (Sahara) to grow
      (which I do like), but I have to keep it
      watered (which poses a problem during
      water restrictions in the summer). Plus,
      we have had some pretty cold days here
      that may have killed off what little I
      got started last year (it's not supposed
      to get that cold here - brrr!).

      I like the idea of perimeter planting.
      Including the area around the existing
      tree stands, that would take care of
      over a 1/3 of the yard. Just have to
      figure out how to keep the center from
      eroding, and potentially taking out some
      of my perimeter.

      Pictures sure would help, huh?

      Thanks Again!
      • My two cents worth :~)
        Posted by Leah from MO on 2001-03-20 13:01:25

        Hello Susan,
        since I'm in a very different climate
        than yours, I won't recommend many
        specific plants!

        I was an allergy patient for years and
        am thankful to have outgrown much of it
        after years of injections at an
        allergist. I think moving from Kansas
        City to Austin, TX. for several years,
        then back here helped desensitize me!
        Had bad reactions to TX. pollens and
        molds-- my system seems grateful to be
        back where it grew up!

        I now work in a nursery and volunteer
        for both our local botanical gardens and
        Master Gardeners, plus have 2 dogs! Get
        help from local amateurs as well as
        professionals. Talk to your county
        extension office and find Master
        Gardener volunteers who will share
        publications relevant to your region as
        well as refer you to local
        nursery/greenhouse staff they trust to
        advise you. Also,if your budget permits,
        look for a landscape architect with
        above average horticulture knowledge to
        come to your home for an on-site
        evaluation. It will save you money in
        the long run by eliminating bad
        choices and helping deal w/ your erosion
        problems prior to modifying plantings.
        So-called "landscapers" who mostly just
        mow & fertilize turf grass are not who
        you should turn to for specialized
        advice.Look for someone interested in
        xeriscape landscape design (low-water
        use native plants are emphasized, with
        minimal or no conventional grass.) Do
        you also have allergies to evergreens,
        or deciduous trees and shrubs to
        consider? What about pet hair allergies?
        Would the size of your yard permit
        creating a fenced area within your
        existing fence? Since dogs tend to
        patrol/run the perimter of their fenced
        yard, can you create an area
        specifically for them separate
        from a terrace and patio/deck or a
        raised bed planting area that will give
        you some plants to enjoy without
        struggling to keep the dogs from
        damaging them? Perhaps give them a wide
        corridor to run on attractive crushed
        rock or mulch,with a new inner fence
        line protecting the center 1/3 or so of
        the yard for your new planting areas.
        What you can plant will also be dictated
        by the amount of sun vs. shade areas
        receive. Mature trees take up lots of
        water and generally create a dry zone
        where you often most want to put in
        plants. Stick with tough ground covers
        that do well in your area plus
        ornamental tall grasses or shrubs that
        won't have pollens that bother you.
        Good luck!


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