Here at AlmostGrass, artificial grass is our passion. We love its look, feel, and all the benefits that come with it.
But we get it – It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t fit your yard. Or perhaps you’re looking to try another lawn covering.
The truth is: Artificial grass is a great alternative to natural grass. But it’s not the only option out there.
In this article, our team will give you 5 great alternatives to artificial grass.
We’ve carefully chosen these options so they give you the same convenience and benefits of artificial grass. They are all low maintenance, practical and functional.
So if you want to avoid natural grass for whatever reason, but artificial grass doesn’t fit the bill either, consider one of these 5 alternatives:
1. Organic Mulch
If you want to retain that soft, bouncy feel of artificial grass, organic mulch is a great alternative.
But what is it?
Mulch is simply organic material used to cover the surface of soil. It is typically spread across a surface to form a layer ranging from 4 to 10 inches thick (or 10 to 25 cm).
In landscaping, mulch provides protection and various benefits to your soil, such as reducing soil erosion, and controlling weed growth.
In the summer, it helps by retaining water in the soil and keeping it cool by shielding it form the sun. And in the winter, it insulates the soil and keeps it warm too.
Generally, mulch is made from different types of shredded wood. But you can also use hay as mulch.
Mulch ranks #1 in our list of alternatives to artificial grass simply because it is so easy to use. Simply apply a thick layer onto your soil, and you’re done!
The soft, bouncy nature of mulch makes it ideal for children’s play areas, such as swing sets and slides. In fact, it is sometimes sold as “playground chips”.
As a lawn covering, we recommend avoiding hay as it can cause allergies. Instead, use a thick layer of pine or wood fiber mulch.
You may have to replenish the top layer with fresh mulch every now and then depending on usage and climate. But besides that, it’s completely maintenance free!
Sure, mulch provides that soft feel to your lawn. But if you want to retain that green, natural look, then moss is an ideal alternative.
You might be used to seeing moss as an undesirable mess that you need to get rid of. But believe it or not, it’s a perfectly viable lawn covering too.
Moss is a green, non-flowering plant that grows in clumps or mats on various surfaces. It is commonly found on the ground, rocks, trees and walls when the air is damp.
Some liken it to nature’s carpet. And if it is kept and maintained well, it can bring a stunning and unique look to your lawn.
The color of moss depends on its species. You can find moss with a wide variety of colors including green and black. Some species also turn red or yellow during fall.
We recommend moss if you want a lawn that’s primarily for looks. While it can handle light foot traffic, it’s not ideal for consistent usage.
What’s more, it retains a lot of moisture, making it quite unpleasant to sit on!
Moss does require some shade and moisture to thrive. This means you may have to reconsider if you live in a hot climate and your yard receives a lot of direct sunlight.
Installing moss does take a bit of work, which involves selecting a moss, preparing the soil, monitoring its acidity, and tamping the surface down.
That being said, moss is similar to artificial grass in that both require minimal maintenance. A quick daily watering in the summer months is all that is required. Sit back, and enjoy the view!
3. Decomposed Granite
If you’re looking for a durable, no-nonsense surface, then decomposed granite may be your answer.
Its name might sound complicated at first, but it is nothing more than regular granite that has been ground up into fine particles, no bigger than 3/8ths of an inch (or 9.5mm).
These particles are compacted down into a firm, yet natural looking surface.
We like decomposed granite because it fills in the gap between grass and concrete. It provides a solid, reliable surface, but retains a “organic” look and feel to it too that’s similar to sand.
It is permeable, allowing rainwater to freely flow through, and doesn’t break down easily.
In landscaping, decomposed granite is generally used for walkways and paths. But it could also be great for certain applications and areas on your yard.
For example, it’s great for spaces in between flower beds or bushes. It’s also ideal for firepits and eating areas, providing a surface that’s safe and easy to clean for barbeques and parties.
Decomposed granite does come at a cost. You will have to factor in labor and installation costs on top of the materials, plus any underlying layers such as weed barriers.
You may also have to top dress it after a while, especially if you live in a rainy climate.
We recommend using a decomposed granite that has a stabilizer mixed in. This will hold everything in place and prevent run-off down the road.
4. Creeping Thyme
For the roughest climates and the toughest usage, creeping thyme is a great alternative to natural and alternative grass.
It’s ideal if you’re looking for a living lawn, but your usage or climate just won’t accommodate moss.
One of the biggest advantages of creeping thyme is it can grow anywhere: From the harshest sunlight to completely shaded areas.
It can also handle heavy foot traffic and usage. This makes it a great choice if you intend to walk or play on your lawn a lot, and ideal for households with children and dogs.
Also, creeping thyme is very resistant to pests and bugs. It does well in all sorts of soil conditions, and requires very little monitoring.
In fact, the only thing you do have to watch out for is overgrowth into areas which you don’t want it to grow!
If you choose to plant creeping thyme, take your time to choose the right variety.
For example, coccineus thyme is very short in length and does not flower, giving you a flat lawn with no mowing required.
Other varieties will produce flowers and grow to various lengths, giving your lawn a different look.
Beyond that, keeping a creeping thyme lawn is very similar to artificial grass. Plant it, and forget about it!
5. Pea Gravel
Pea gravel is probably the easiest and quickest alternative on this list.
It differs from decomposed granite in that each particle is much larger in size. This also means the installation process is a lot simpler: There is no need to compact it.
While it does tend to be more expensive than mulch, one of the advantages pea gravel has is that it does not decompose.
On top of this, it also has the benefits of retaining moisture in the soil, insulating it from extreme temperatures and preventing weed growth. This makes it a great companion to plants and bushes.
Pea gravel offers a range of shapes, colors and shades to choose from, giving you the flexibility to find the exact variety to compliment your yard.
That being said, there are a few things to bear in mind when using pea gravel as an alternative to artificial grass:
First, it’s loose nature means it has to be contained with some sort of edging around the perimeter of the laying area.
On top of this, you should also be careful of any heavy lawn furniture that might shift or tilt on the surface.
We highly recommend avoiding cheap pea gravel, as these can contain inconsistent particles with sharp edges. This can pose a threat to children and pets who may play on the gravel.
Many homeowners make the mistake of simply laying the pea gravel over their existing soil. In reality, a proper installation requires first installing a layer of textured base rock.
A weed barrier can be laid on top of this, before finally spreading a 2 – 3 inch (5 – 8 cm) thick layer of pea gravel on top of this.
If you find that your pea gravel shifts around too much, consider mixing in some stone dust to help stabilize the surface.
So there you have it! These are some of the most practical alternatives to artificial grass.
If you need to get rid of natural grass for any reason, and don’t want to install artificial grass, consider any one of these 5 options.
They are all low maintenance, relatively affordable, and best of all, easy! Just make sure you pick the right material for your specific needs.
And remember: If all else fails, you can always come back to artificial grass for unrivaled reliability and quality!