5 Alternatives to Grass for Backyards

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Have an enjoyable yet low maintenance backyard. We feature five viable alternatives to grass for the backyard and discussed pros and cons for each.

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A backyard garden with bricks and flowers.

Americans have an obsession with perfectly manicured green lawns. A well-maintained green carpet is like a status symbol, an emblem of success or an indication that you’ve achieved the American dream. Everyone knows it’s not easy to keep those grasses regularly trimmed. Not everyone has the time nor the resources and the finances.

That’s why looking for an alternative to grass for the backyard is a viable and more practical solution. You get to cut down on expenses and effort yet still enjoy the outdoors like you’re supposed to.

1. Artificial Grass

A roll of artificial grass looking fresh and realistic. Source: Amazon

Pros

  • After installation, there is relatively no upkeep with this option. This means that you do not have to worry about mowing, spraying, or fertilizing your yard in order to keep it looking its best.
  • Artificial grass is very durable and can withstand foot traffic, even after it has been raining. You do not have to worry about the grass becoming damaged and muddy.
  • Because you are not required to water your yard in order for it to look its best, there are not as many future costs with installing artificial grass as with having natural grass.

Cons

  • The dark colors in artificial grass, combined with the plastic material that it is made of, can result in a very hot surface. This material retains heat incredibly well. This can be a problem in the middle of the summer when your children want to walk barefoot in the yard, as they risk getting burned.
  • There are concerns over toxic chemicals being released into the environment when artificial grass is heated.
  • Because artificial grass is not permeable, water cannot easily flow through it. This causes a lot of runoff. If you live near a stream or other source of water, this water can easily become contaminated by chemicals running off of the artificial grass.
  • Some people who spend time on artificial grass find that it exacerbates their asthma and makes it difficult to breathe. This is probably due to the fact that allergens are not able to be washed through the surface of the artificial grass and into the ground.

2. Patio

A large, covered patio located at the back of a mansion.

Pros

  • A patio provides you and your family a wonderful place to spend time outside together. You can easily include furniture and a grill so that you get the most out of the space.
  • In general, not only will a patio add to the aesthetic appeal of your home, but it will also increase its value. This is very important if you are interested in selling your home anytime in the near future.
  • It is easy to add a sunshade or umbrella to your patio. By doing so, you can remain outside even during the hot hours of the day without risking sun damage.
  • When installed correctly, patios are very durable and will last for years.
  • Patios tend to withstand moss and grass growing on them, so you do not have to worry about using chemicals to kill these weeds.

Cons

  • Regular upkeep is required if you have a wood patio. Whether you decide to stain or paint your patio, you will have to refinish the surface every few years. Otherwise, your patio will not look its best and will not add to the value or the beauty of your home.
  • Concrete patios generally are not permeable and will cause a lot of runoff. If your concrete patio was not installed correctly and is not completely flat, then you will have to deal with standing water on the surface of your patio.
  • Darker concrete patios tend to become very hot and can burn bare feet during the middle of the summer.
  • Old wood patios that have not been taken care of correctly can splinter and injure people. For this reason, it is important to correctly maintain your patio in order to keep everybody safe.
  • Patios are relatively expensive to have installed, and, since you want to make sure that your patio will last for years, it is important to hire a professional.
  • While patio pavers are an affordable option, if the ground is not prepared correctly, then they can settle and become uneven. Additionally, it is much easier for weeds to grow in the cracks between pavers.

3. Garden

A backyard garden with bricks and flowers.

Pros

  • Depending on what you choose to grow, a garden is a great way to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers, during the summer months.
  • Gardening is a wonderful hobby and a great way to relieve the stress of your day. Being able to walk out into your backyard and work in your garden can be a great way to relax.
  • Many homeowners who have a garden find that they are able to save money on their grocery bills by growing some of their own food.
  • It is easy to incorporate annuals and perennials into your flower garden so that once you have your garden established, there is not a lot of expensive upkeep from year to year.
  • As long as you use native plants, you will have an easy time getting them to grow in your garden. Additionally, this will reduce the amount of water that you have to use to keep them looking their best.

Cons

  • Unfortunately, during the resting period of the year, gardens often look dead and not well cared for. This can lower the aesthetic appeal of your home, which is important to consider if you are planning to sell your house.
  • If you do not spend time weeding and working in your garden, then it can be quickly overgrown and become an eyesore.
  • Pesticides and other chemicals that are used to control weeds and pests in your garden tend to be very expensive, and it can be dangerous for animals and children to come in contact with them.
  • It can be expensive to start your garden, especially if you need to hire a tiller to work the ground in order to make it easier to plant your flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees.

4. Gravel

A combination of gravel stones and river pebbles of different sizes and tones. Source: Amazon

Pros

  • Gravel is very attractive and easy to install. Once you have laid gravel in your yard, it does not require much upkeep. Additionally, there are a number of different colors, sizes, and styles of gravel to choose from so that you can customize your look.
  • It is very easy to walk on gravel with your feet, especially when you choose options with rounded edges so you will not hurt your feet.
  • Because water can easily run through gravel, you will not have to worry about standing water in your yard.
  • Gravel does not decompose, which means that you will not have to replace it repeatedly like you would with mulch.
  • Because it helps to retain moisture, any plants that you have planted in the gravel will not have to be watered on a regular basis.
  • Installation is fairly easy and requires the following: working the soil, removing weeds, laying down base rock, and installing the gravel.

Cons

  • Depending on the amount of space in your yard that you want to fill in and what kind of gravel you choose, it can be expensive to use gravel.
  • Because gravel will shift under your feet, it can be very difficult to travel on it with wheels. This means that rolling a suitcase, pushing a stroller, or using a wheelchair on gravel is very difficult.
  • Heavy rains can cause gravel to leave bare spots in the yard that need to be filled back in.
  • Gravel has to be contained with edging. Otherwise, it will tend to travel across your yard, which will make it too spread out to be attractive and useful as a barrier against weeds, and cause you to have to spend more money to replace it.
  • Weeds may try to grow through the gravel, and they will need to either be sprayed or pulled out so that they do not take over your yard.

5. Mulch

A pack of brown mulch for backyards.Source: Home Depot

Pros

  • It is easy to find mulch in a variety of different colors to match the vision that you have for your yard.
  • Mulch provides excellent drainage, so you do not have to worry about water running off of your yard and pooling in other areas.
  • Because you do not have to worry about a lot of weeds growing in your mulch, you will not need to invest in pesticides and other dangerous chemicals to spread in your yard.
  • You will not have to worry about mowing your yard when you put down mulch, and you can easily plant flowers throughout the area so that your space looks its best.
  • You do not have to have any special tools, equipment, or education to put mulch out in your backyard. While it does take effort and a little time to spread it correctly, this can easily be completed over the course of the weekend or a few evenings during the week by the members of your family, using shovels and pitchforks.
  • Unlike other materials that you may consider installing in your yard, you do not have to prepare your ground for mulch installation. You can, of course, install a weed barrier or gravel underneath the mulch to aid in drainage, but this is not necessary. As far as backyard options go, mulch is incredibly easy to install in a short period of time.

Cons

  • Because mulch is biodegradable, you will have to keep replacing it year after year to ensure that your yard looks its best. Failure to do so can result in patchy coverage that allows weeds to grow through.
  • By the square foot, mulch is much more expensive than seeding your yard with grass.
  • It is important to have some sort of barrier if you choose to use mulch for your yard as, otherwise, it can be washed away in a heavy storm.
  • Many people do not like the way that fresh mulch smells, and hard rain can cause the mulch to smell like it is rotting.





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