Why always lawn ? Let's change it up a bit ..... my ideas !

Hi and Happy New Year again to you all ! We have been bombarded with calls regarding restoring lawns, and simply putting in new lawns. When I see the space we are talking about it is always a square back yard with a fence around perimeter. And each yard always has a water problem ! So in the end if we install a new lawn, the client will be left with a mess in the house , water puddles, weeds and moss. So why not change it up a bit .. and forget the lawn or simply add a small peice of lawn and add proper drains , and river rock dry streams with wood chips? I am stuck on clover now, I love adding clover, it is simple easy to maintain and you don't have a mess later ( ie lawn with weeds and moss !)

I have also had an emergency call this week , client wanting to rip out lawn completely and lay landscape fabric and gravel .. she is " sick of the mess the dogs are making in the lawn and in the house tracking in mud !"

So here it is friends:

Pros and cons of materials :


  • Water - None

  • Biodiversity - "Same as gravel"

  • Permeable? - No. There are some permeable pavements, but concrete in general is impenetrable.

  • Heating effect - Heating. Some types are worse than others. Darker asphalts are worse than lighter concretes when it comes to heating effect.

  • Cost - $15 per square foot, including labor


  • Water - None

  • Biodiversity - "Depending what is underneath the rocks, and whether it has access to soil, can provide some cover for native wildlife."

  • Permeable? - Yes

  • Heating effect - Heating. The extent depends upon the color of the gravel.

  • Cost - $3.50 per square foot, not including labor.


  • Water need - None. Some water may be used for washing or cooling.

  • Biodiversity - "Terrible for biodiversity (no food value, no access to soil)."

  • Permeable? - Not typically. Some artificial turf is water-permeable, but Lisa Cahill, director of sustainable solutions at TreePeople, said soil compaction that occurs as part of installation limits how far down the water will travel.

  • Heating effect - Heating. Cahill says this is among the worst material when it comes to the heat island effect. She said the heating from artificial turf can be even worse than some concrete, because it is dark colored and retains heat. “People do get burned on it, and it is synthetic. It is a hot piece of plastic wrap that you’re putting into the ecosystem,” Cahill said.

  • Cost - $12-15 per square foot, including labor.


  • Water need - None

  • Biodiversity - "Can be beneficial to biodiversity associated with local forests and riparian areas, where leaves, shed bark, twigs, etc. are normal; depends on what is underneath the mulch." Also, with regards to native bees - "While it is true that a deep layer of mulch might smother bee nests, my experience is that bees are good at finding small open areas around the periphery of a mulched area to burrow in. Mulch is so much better than decomposed granite, artificial turf, pavement, etc. that I wouldn't use this as a reason not to mulch."

  • Permeable? - Yes, though Carol Bornstein said it’s important to note that mulch does soak up water, so if you do have plants within the mulch, it might take more watering for them to get what they need.

  • Heating effect - Neutral. Mulch doesn’t, by itself, provide any cooling through evapotranspiration, but it doesn’t add to heating either.

  • Cost - $2.50 per square foot, not including labor. (The vagaries of a project precluded Kelley Hanna, owner of Plant Goddess Landscaping, from making an estimate of labor costs.)

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