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The grass-free lawn: management and species choice for optimum ground cover and plant diversity

Smith, L. S. and Fellowes, M. ORCID: (2014) The grass-free lawn: management and species choice for optimum ground cover and plant diversity. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 13 (3). pp. 433-442. ISSN 1618-8667

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2014.04.008


In Britain, managed grass lawns provide the most traditional and widespread of garden and landscape practices in use today. Grass lawns are coming under increasing challenge as they tend to support a low level of biodiversity and can require substantial additional inputs to maintain. Here we apply a novel approach to the traditional monocultural lawnscape by replacing grasses entirely with clonal perennial forbs. We monitored changes in plant coverage and species composition over a two year period and here we report the results of a study comparing plant origin native, non-native and mixed) and mowing regime. This allows us to assess the viability of this construct as an alternative to traditional grass lawns. Grass-free lawns provided a similar level of plant cover to grass lawns. Both the mowing regime and the combination of species used affected this outcome, with native plant species seen to have the highest survival rates, and mowing at 4cm to produce the greatest amount of ground coverage and plant species diversity within grass-free lawns. Grass-free lawns required over 50% less mowing than a traditionally managed grass lawn. Observations suggest that plant forms that exhibited: a) a relatively fast growth rate, b) a relatively large individual leaf area, and c) an average leaf height substantially above the cut to be applied, were unsuitable for use in grass-free lawns. With an equivalent level of ground coverage to grass lawns, increased plant diversity and a reduced need for mowing, the grass-free lawn can be seen as a species diverse, lower input and potentially highly ornamental alternative to the traditional lawn format.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:36472

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