Sedge lawns to Save the Planet

Sedge lawns are a smart environmental alternative to traditional lawns.  Sedges are close botanical cousins of the conventional grasses that make up traditional lawns but they require little or no mowing, fertilizing, or chemicals.  Some also require less water than many conventional turf grasses or if dealing with a wet area, are more tolerant of moist conditions or shade.  Different varieties thrive in various regions of the US, so they can restore some of the local character that existed with native sods before agriculture and development transformed our landscape.

John Greenlee has written a book called Easy Lawns (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide) that talks about sedge lawns and can help identify the best lawn for your situation. He has identified five sedges that show promise as substitutes for traditional lawn grasses in a wide range of areas.  They are Catlin sedge (Carex texensis), Texas Hill Country sedge (C. perdentata), Baltimore sedge (C. senta), Pennsylvania sedge (C. pensylvanica), and California meadow sedge (C. pansa).  Each of these native sedges have compact growth and good, green color but hybridization of species being collected from populations in nature is a relatively untapped market and there are many ongoing developments.

Sedge Lawns the lawn alternative

1. Three-lobed coneflower (Rudbeckia trilobum) in Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), 2. carex pansa, 3. Sand Sedge (Carex pansa)

I haven’t planted a sedge lawn yet.   Have you?  I am intrigued with the more natural look, but while looking for pictures I didn’t see a sedge lawn that completely mimicked the flatness of a traditional lawn that is so cherished.  From my reading, it seems that it takes a bit of time for the plugs to grow together.  If you have some experience with sedge lawns I would love to hear your successes or advice with planting and maintaining.

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.

3 Comments

  1. Ed on January 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Your suggestions will drive my HOA nuts! I live in Florida and suffer through drought and scorching sun for long periods in the summer and then the daily rains… I’ve thought of using sedge as a lawn but its considered a weed to be destroyed. If I go sedge my neighbors will suffer. St Augustine grass is the preferred lawn but it’s a glutton for water and victimized by pests. I’ve had no success with it. Recent legislation limits HOA’s from interferring.

    On June 30, 2009, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed Senate Bill 2080, which allows HOA members to cover their lawns with native grasses without fear of retribution from HOA boards, which often set restrictions on grass species. The move is designed to help Florida residents conserve water.

    I’m considering xeriscaping and artificial turf among other options. What would you recommend?

    • rochelle on January 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      yeah for Florida (and you, Ed)! — so glad you can start to make some smart decisions, HOA be damned. I am not as familiar with what works in florida as others who are local to you should be (I am in New England) — A couple suggestions though — talk to local nurseries, they should be able to help make great suggestions – also perhaps there are Agricultural extension programs that will help homeowners to make good decisions on water wise groud covers that work locally, and finally – consider calling a local designer. All of these should be able to get you on the path towards alternatives that will work in your neck of the woods. Good luck and please let us know how it goes!

  2. Charlie on May 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

    On my property in New Castle County, Delaware, USA I have a large patch of sedge. It grows lush, green, and thick despite being mowed weekly in the summer. The area where it grows is so extremely wet during the fall and spring that “normal” lawn grasses drown and brown, yet the sedge has no problem dealing with a dry summer.

    The only way to tell it’s a sedge and not a grass is when it is seeding; the blades are so fine that you can’t tell they aren’t grass without comparing them to a grass blade, but the seed heads are distinctively sedge.

    I’m trying to propagate the stuff; it probably requires inundation or at least very wet soil during the spring, but it makes a superb lawn in places where turf grasses drown.

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