To maintain a thick, lush green lawn, you must work at it. Grass lawns need attention at least once a week and sometimes more often. Create a low-maintenance alternative to grass for your lawn and you'll save yourself time and money and reduce the amount of fertilizer and supplemental watering necessary on your property.
Perennial Ground Cover
Whether your yard is small or large, a perennial ground cover can work as a stand-in to grass for a lawn. For a large yard, plant several different varieties to create outdoor "rooms" in your yard. Choose varieties compatible with both your climate and the conditions of the intended site. Perennial ground covers are low- or no-maintenance alternatives to grass, especially if you choose varieties that do not require supplemental irrigating and fertilizing.
If you leave near a lake, river, the coast or an area with high annual rainfall, try a water garden. Water gardens can either be an actual artificially created "pond" or a terra firma water garden, which is a specially dug and prepared garden bed. For a pond version, plant specimens that grow in standing water after preparing the artificial pond. For a terra firma water garden, prepare the bed by digging a 4- to 5-foot hole and installing a 2-foot layer of gravel. Fill in with a sandy soil mixture. Plant the bed with plants that thrive in moist or wet sites. The water garden catches rainfall runoff and the sandy soil helps it drain down into the gravel area, which acts as a holding tank until the water can slowly seep back into the ground and the watershed.
Create a formal garden with a symmetrical layout, including formal pathways, fountains, statuary and garden beds with clearly delineated borders. A formal garden planted with even the most demanding of plant material---such as roses---will still use far less water and fertilizer than is required to maintain a lawn planted to grass. Use boxwood or another hedging material for the borders of the beds, or plant with a single type of flower or herb to clearly define each bed. Although the term "formal garden" conjures up images of vast gardens cared for by a team of gardeners, a formal garden can be created in virtually any size space. Simply lay it out symmetrically with clearly defined, permanent pathways and a variety of small planting beds with plant materials bordering each bed. Plant the interiors of each bed with any type of plants your desire, including fruits and vegetables.