Turf Wars II: Alternatives to Turf

Smart and sustainable alternatives to turfgrass in the landscape.

landscape, native plants, turf


Ruth Stafford


Mami Hara


Anna Ishii

Many alternatives to turf exist, and each should be assessed for its potential benefits and drawbacks for a particular landscape project. These alternatives, alone or in combination, could easily replace some or all turf in the built landscape. They include:

  • Low-growing groundcover or meadow plants adapted to the site’s microclimate and soil conditions.
  • Other native or adapted vegetation, such as larger shrubs, succulents, and trees, where visibility is not critical.
  • Limiting the amount of turf to that needed for functionality, and using more sustainable turf maintenance practices that reduce pollution.
  • Incorporating synthetic turf, especially in areas expected to receive heavy use, and where there is great need to reduce water use for irrigation.
  • Using the landscape for food production, such as community gardens, vegetables and herbs, fruit trees, and berry patches.
  • Non-plant groundcovers, including mulch, boulders, and decorative pavements.

Knowledgeable and responsible landscape architects and designers can help develop a landscape design that considers reasonable use of turf along with other elements that enhance a landscape’s beauty, functionality and value.