After our hot and dry summer, lawns are either toast-brown, or plush-green with a correspondingly high water bill. Now’s a good time to consider some lawn alternatives for next year that will stay green while saving you time and money over the long term.
Two wildflower-lawn seed mixes created for Willamette Valley yards are Fleur de Lawn, developed and tested by Oregon State University, and Envirolawn by Bailey Seed Company of Salem. Both consist of a mix of low-growing grasses and flowering clover, yarrow, daisy and other perennials.
“They’re not a croquet lawn,” says Jimmy Mack of Portland Nursery, “but they are great for areas with minimal foot traffic.” In a large area, these mixes of low-rise flowers and grasses create “a hills-are-alive type of effect.”
At about four times the cost of grass seed, mixes have a higher initial cost, but that’s offset by their reduced water use over the years: about a third to a fourth the amount of water needed to keep a lawn green in Western Oregon’s annual summer drought. Mowing is reduced too, to about once every three weeks or so in the summer.
Rather not mow? Once fall rains set in, plant a low-growing, never-mow groundcover like kinnikinnick. Its glossy leaves stay green all year, with bright red berries that last into winter. Or consider an herbal lawn of thyme, yarrow or chamomile: plants you can enjoy outside, or inside, in a cup of tea.
Find plant varieties and tips for growing lawn alternatives, plus watering techniques that’ll save you money in every part of your yard and garden.