Today I went to my sister, Sara's house for my nephew, Felix's, second birthday party (I know...there must have been a clearer way I could have written that sentence, but anyway). It was an afternoon filled with family, kids and lotsa sugar (not necessarily in that order).
My sister's lawn (above) is nice and green. They has a really large lawn/yard. Sara said that when they came back from holidays their lawn was completely dead, and so they had spent the last week or so watering everyday to 'green it up' for the party. She told me this with a guilty sort of half smile on her face..."the whole time we were watering I said to Mat 'we are soo, soo bad', but we wanted the lawn to be nice for the kids".
On the drive home (they live in Taber) I was thinking about her words and water guilt, because her guilt was probably due to my constant preaching about how unenvironmentlly friendly a lawn is. Yet, I realized the lawn was nice for the kids to play on (there were a tonne of kids there), and I guess I felt bad for making her feel guilty about watering. I often say I do not like grass...I mean I do like it...it looks nice, feels nice on your feet, and makes for a soft landing if ya fall...but I don't like all the fertilizer, water, and mowing it takes to have a nice lawn.
So I got thinking about the alternatives to lawn - something that is good for kids and good for the environment. First of course there are the lawn care initiatives that are more environmentally friendly - watering early morning or at night, not using chemicals on your lawn and using natural fertilizers, and there are alternatives to grass such as clover and thyme lawns - and those are definitely good alternatives, but I got thinking about a lawn that large...and what might be a kid friendly alternative. I found the below articles on two different websites.
Imagine giving your lawn mower most of the summer off. Instead of blasting around the yard behind the mower every Saturday, you could relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.
No-mow lawns are not so low-maintenance that they'll allow you to park the lawn mower permanently, but these special low-growing grass blends take almost all the work out of a lawn. They save time, gas, water and fertilizer.
"We don't even recommend using fertilizer," says Neil Diboll, owner of Prairie Nursery (www.prairienursery.com) in Westfield, Wis. "I never fertilize mine, and I never use herbicides."
The recreational needs of children and pets may be different from what you imagine. Maintaining an expanse of grass for children's play space is a thankless chore, and, unless you have room for a ball field, there's no real added value to a child. Children (and dogs) will run blissfully around trees with an agility that's a marvel to watch. A game of catch, or Frisbee, can take place in a shady avenue as small as, say, thirty feet by fifteen, and the groundskeeper doesn't have to worry about damage to the grass. If you want to provide a soft surface to reduce the risk of injury, a thick blanket of playground mulch will improve your soil and protect your plants against drought, and it requires no maintenance except replacement every few years. In many jurisdictions, mulch is available free for the hauling. Some towns and counties will even deliver it to your dooryard.
If you must have a green, living groundcover, there are several options that are more tolerant to drought and shade than lawn grass. Many are just as tolerant of foot traffic, and they don't require mowing. http://www.nature-by-design.com/philosophy.html