Lawns! What are the alternatives?

People in the UK are often obsessed with lawns, spending around £54 million per year on lawn fertilisers, between £150 and £225 million on lawn mowers and strimmers! Most people will mow their lawn(s) anywhere from weekly to daily between March and October, in an attempt to keep the grass just millimetres long for that “perfect lawn” look, a look which originates in wealthy aristocrats showing how wealthy they are by having large areas of manicured grass which serves no purpose other than as a demonstration of wealth. But is it worth it and why do we continue to keep these manicured waste spaces around?

Creeping Thyme
Creeping Thyme

So what are the alternatives to a high maintenance, environmentally unsound, modern day lawns? We could plant some hardy areas of creeping thyme, moss or chamomile instead, all of which create a wonderful looking “lawn” which not only looks superb, but is also low maintenance, does not require as much nutrients and is also great for insects/pollinators.

Or we could let the grass grow, instead of a weekly (or more!) mowing. Why not let the grass grow longer while allowing some “weeds” such as plantain, clovers or dandelions, grow alongside your grass (or even sowing them intentionally). Allowing “weeds” in your lawn has many advantages ranging from attracting butterfly’s and predatory insects which will keep pest populations down in your borders! Not only does long grass dotted with wonderful flowers look attractive it is also a great haven for insects.

Thyme lawn, photo credit: "drought-smart-plants"
Photo credit: “drought-smart-plants”

Thyme Lawns

Creeping Thyme makes a  great lawn replacement for areas which receive moderate footfall and has some advantages over regular grass lawns.

  • Requires less water
  • Drought tolerant
  • Useful for insects/pollinators
  • Looks and feels wonderful

Sadly, there is a downside which is the initial financial outlay for creating thyme lawns. In order to get a good coverage in a reasonable time frame you need to plant plugs of thyme plants roughly 6 to 12 inches apart, so this can get expensive for large areas. One solution to this is to start creating your thyme lawn in sections each year or to reduce your bare lawn area by creating more beds, adding a vegetable patch or adding a moss section if you have a nice moderately shaded area.