In my first story of the series Something Other Than Grass, I discussed that there are plants that can be used as an alternative to grass. The alternative species
· Ornamental Grasses
· Plants that love the shade
· Plants that love sun
· Low water ground covers
· Acid-Tolerant Plants
I noted that ornamental grasses were different species than turf grass and that many of them did not require mowing. I pointed out that there were types of ornamental grasses that grow into tufts and sprays, stands or flowing and shimmering sweeps.
In Part II of the series, I discussed other alternatives to grass that do well in the shade. This includes moss, Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, gill-on-the-ground, creeping jenny, catsfoot, alehoof and tunhoof.
In Part III I will discuss alternatives to grass that thrive in sunlight.
Thyme is a great substitute if you need something that does well in sunny or partly sunny locations. Thyme forms a dense, ground level mat that feature
tiny-leaved foliage that showcase colors from bright green to bluish, or gray green. When they blossom they appear like a carpet of pink or lavender. Known as “walkable” ground covers, Thyme can resist a low level of traffic and can grow over or around flagstones. The flora spreads easily and requires less water than grass.
Of course, like anything, there are disadvantages to Thyme. Experts suggest that Thyme be planted 6-inches to 12-inches apart. Due to the cost of one Thyme plant, this could end up being a fairly expensive undertaking. To save money, experts suggest that you plant smaller areas if you have a large yard. Some recommend that you plant Thyme in only some areas of the lawn to start. Later, you can expand the Thyme during another season.
Another disadvantage to Thyme is the amount of time and labor to plant it. First, you will have to kill the grass you intend to replace and this can be a slow and difficult endeavor.
There are several ways to get rid of grass. You can use an herbicide like Roundup, but this is not often recommended because the herbicide can cause harm to you, family members including pets, and the environment.
If you’re willing to do some hard, back breaking work, then you can simply dig deep into the ground and remove the grass and its roots. If you select this method of removing grass, then be certain that you get out all of the roots.
Another method to remove grass that is not as labor intensive is to smother it in black plastic. The plastic should have no holes and should extend several inches
beyond the turf. Weigh the plastic down with rocks or mulch. Removing grass with this method can take as long as a full season or three months. Once it’s time to remove the plastic, it is advised that you till the land.
A third method is to cover the grass completely with newspapers and mulch. Water to soak the mulch and press the paper hard against the grass. Ultimately, the grass and then the newspaper will decompose. Till the land, turning the soil over completely and make certain that there is no remaining roots.
Thyme does well in soil that drains well. Experts recommend that you add bone meal or rock phosphate before planting the Thyme. Composting is also a good idea. Till to a depth of about 6-inches. Thyme is a shallow root plant, so there is no need to prepare the soil any deeper.
If weather conditions in your region are dry, then water the Thyme in pots thoroughly before planting it in the ground. Water it again to a depth of at least 4-inches once it is planted. Although Thyme is drought tolerant, it still needs water to get established.
Some people who have substituted Thyme for grass have been known to mow it after it blossoms to keep it neat and encourage it to spread. Others say that mowing isn’t necessary.
There are a number of varieties of Thyme. Some examples include:
· ‘Bressingham’. This is a low growing creeping kind of Thyme that looks wooly with green foliage. It grows about 2-inches to 3-inches tall and about 8-inches to 12-inches wide. It requires direct sunlight and excellent drainage.
· ‘Elfin’. This type of Thyme creates a tight mat of fine foliage. It grows about 1-inch –t 2-inches tall and slowly spreads to a width of 8-inches to 12-inches. When
it blossoms it showcases lilac-purple flowers in early summer.
· English. This is a cooking and thrives in zones 5-9.
· Gold Lemon. This type of Thyme has a citrus flavor and features gilt-edged leaves.
· Lemon. This type of Thyme features rich, dark green leaves that have a lemon fragrance.
· Red Creeping. This features red blossoms in spring. Ideal in zones 4-9.
· Silver. The leaves have a white edge and lacy appearance. Ideal in zones 4-10.
· ‘Spicy Orange’. A low growing plant that resists foot traffic and includes needle-like foliage that offers an orange scent. It features pink blossoms in summer and grows to about 12-inches tall and wide. It thrives in zones 5-9.
· Variegated Lemon. Edible, the plant features lemon-scented flora. It grows up to 16-inches tall and wide and thrives in zones 5-9.
· Woolly. This is a fast spreading groundcover that can quickly blanket an area with fuzzy leaves that resist foot traffic fairly well. It flourishes in zones 4-8.
(Zones refer to United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones.)
(Next time: Low Water Ground Cover and Acid-Tolerant Plants)