Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 3
   June 2009
   Alternatives to Grass Lawns

Bugleflower (Ajuga reptans) is a low-growing plant that spreads quickly and makes a soft, thick mat. If left to grow, it can reach heights of 2" to 6" (depending on the variety), and will produce beautiful white, purple or blue flowers. There are several leaf colors available, including purple, pink and variegated varieties. So, if you're in the mood for something really funky, why not plant a purple lawn? Bugleflower will grow in sunny or shady areas and can be mowed just like grass, although you will need to do so less often.
  Bugleflower (Ajuga reptans)
Bugleflower (Ajuga reptans)

White Clover*
The most cost-effective choice is white clover (Trifolium repens), sometimes known as Dutch clover, which creates a thick green carpet-like ground cover. Many people spend a lot of time and resources trying to eradicate clover from their lawns, but it really is a useful plant. It belongs to the legume family and these plants are natural hosts to a kind of bacteria that fixes nitrogen out of the air. Therefore, by over seeding your grass lawn with clover, you get a cost-effective source of fertilizer.

Since clover has a longer root than lawn grass, it's more drought tolerant. In fact, you shouldn't have to water it at all. In times of extreme drought, clover will simply go partially dormant and cease to grow, whereas lawn grass will usually turn brown and crispy.

Clover doesn't need to be mowed as often as grass and if you let it reach its full height, usually around 4" to 6", it will produce attractive and fragrant flowers. It also grows much better than grass does in compacted soil, so you can say goodbye to that aerator rental you've been thinking about. One word of caution though, clover can be quite slippery when damp or wet.

*Editor's Note: Please note, under certain circumstances, white clover can cause problems with toxicity in animals, particularly livestock. (Government of Canada Poisonous Plants Information System: www.cbif.gc.ca/pls/pp/poison)
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