natives/weeds as lawn alternatives?

Asked October 5, 2016, 12:30 PM EDT

I try to be as "eco" as possible, use no herbicides and hand pull weeds etc. I want to know if clover and/or smartweed or other "weeds" are a good option for lawn replacement? I would like durable groundcover that also benefits pollinators. The yard doesn't get a ton of traffic, but we are out in it every day. Also, I have a slope that needs to more native groundcover to help slow or prevent erosion - any suggestions?

District of Columbia County District of Columbia

1 Response

Here is a helpful list of very good groundcovers, many of which are native: Native ones are marked. Your choices for erosion control will depend upon the sun exposure. All native ferns are great choices for semi-shade or shade. Some are natural creepers and spreaders, such as hay-scented fern, lady fern, and sensitive fern. (Cinnamon fern less so).

(You can always do a search for any topic with our website's own search box.)

The big challenge is to find groundcovers that tolerate foot traffic. That severely limits your options. Clover will definitely tolerate foot traffic. Smartweed will, too, but it will also seed where you don't want it. Moss makes a nice groundcover, but again, doesn't tolerate too much foot traffic. Like all plants, the happier it is, the faster it regenerates and thus tolerates foot traffic.

There are "stepable" groundcover lists online, but beware of invasives on those lists, such as ajuga and creeping Jenny, that are very problematic.

If you are able, you might want to have an extensive system of permanent paths or stepping stones, which would allow you to plant many more groundcovers choices.