Have you ever dreamed of a backyard without grass?  We can all appreciate the look of a well-manicured lawn and who doesn’t love the feel of cool green grass on their feet in the heat of summer.  But achieving and maintaining a beautiful lawn requires a significant amount of effort and expense with weekly mowing, edging, and blowing, plus regular fertilizing, pest control, and weed control.  You may end up spending hours each week on lawn care not to mention the cost of equipment, materials, and irrigation.  If you already have a lawn, you know how much water it takes to keep it green. This can be expensive and is not too environmentally friendly.

Some environmentally conscious homeowners are choosing to forego lawns in some areas of their landscape in favor of a no-mow backyard.  These are low-maintenance backyards that use shrubs, ground covers, vines, stones, gravel, and other materials, but no grass.  Depending on the plants chosen, they can be maintained and kept beautiful with minimal maintenance and much less water than a typical yard with a lawn.  (And, if you live in a master-planned community like Union Park by Hillwood where mowing, edging, and blowing of your front yard is provided by the HOA, you won’t even need lawn-care equipment!)

What are the options if you want to create a backyard without grass?  That depends on your goals and preferences, of course.  Do you like to entertain outdoors? Do you need a place for children to play?  Do you have pets? Consider your answers to these questions now and a few years down the road so you can plan your no-mow backyard to meet your needs both now and in the future.

Ideas for Small Backyards without Grass

Here are some ideas for a beautiful backyard that will require less water and need less maintenance than a standard turfgrass lawn.


Patio Paradise

Cozy little back yard patio with table and chair.

If you love to entertain, turn your backyard into a second or third living space with the addition of a patio or wooden deck.  You can create a patio with pavers, natural stone, brick, stepping stones or crushed stone.  You may even want to create an outdoor kitchen with the addition of a built-in grill, refrigerator, ice maker, and storage, plus entertainment options like an all-weather TV and a fire table.  You can leave your entertainment space uncovered or you can cover all or part of it with a pergola, shade sail, or large umbrellas.

Surround your entertaining space with beds that contain low-maintenance native shrubs, grasses, ground covers, perennials, and river rocks.  Add a shade tree if you don’t already have one, plus some smaller accent trees.  Vines planted at the bases of the pergola columns will augment the shade it provides. Consider a fountain or water feature to complete the relaxing vibe of your low-maintenance backyard oasis.

Raised Beds

Raided beds growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables.

If you love gardening and like the idea of growing your own food, consider making your backyard into your own little farm.  Buy or build raised wood beds to fill with vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers.  This is a great idea for a no-mow backyard that gets lots of sun.

You can order kits to create your own raised beds or buy the materials to build your own at the local home improvement store.  Create paths between the beds with wood chips or crushed stone.

A Yard Made for Play

A modern home putting green on artificial turf with play yard in the back.

If fun and games are your thing, consider creating a backyard that’s made for play.  This might include a climbing structure with swings, a sand box, a trampoline, and/or a deluxe playhouse.  Play structures should be surrounded by a soft surface such as shredded rubber mulch to cushion little ones if they fall.

Bigger kids might prefer different types of play equipment.  Consider creating a putting green complete with a chipping box using artificial turf.  You can even include a little sand trap to work on all facets of your short game. Those who don’t play golf might create a bocce ball court, a cornhole area or even a giant outdoor chess board.  You can find more ideas and inspiration on Pinterest for more game-oriented no grass backyard ideas.


Xeriscaped back yard for water conservation.

Those who are serious about conservation may want to consider a xeriscape for their backyard, which is a landscape that uses drought tolerant plants and requires little to no supplemental watering.  This type of landscape typically is built around plants that are native to the area and are well suited to its weather conditions.  A xeriscape will require more work up front, but will pay off later when it requires less maintenance than a lawn and much less water.  There are seven principles of xeriscape design:

  • Start with a good plan or design
  • Analyze the soil and prepare it properly
  • Limit/eliminate turfgrass
  • Use water-wise plants
  • Use only efficient irrigation
  • Mulch thoroughly
  • Maintain as needed

If you decide to go with a xeriscape, but need more help, check with a specialty nursery near you or your local master gardener program.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you use instead of Grass?

There are many good substitutes for grass, but it depends on what the area will be used for.  If you need a surface for walking, good choices are crushed stone, mulch, wood chips, shredded rubber, or artificial grass.  If you want something that looks attractive, consider ground cover, artificial grass, pea gravel, or river rocks.

What Can I Use Instead of Grass for My Dog?

Dogs can be taught to use the bathroom on pea gravel or other small sand, or artificial turf.

Getting Started with Your No-Grass Backyard Ideas

If you live in a neighborhood or master-planned community with a homeowner’s association, be sure to check HOA rules before removing turfgrass from your yard and moving forward with these ideas for small backyards without grass.  Many communities, including Union Park, have architectural guidelines concerning the construction of backyard structures such as pergolas, decks, patios, outdoor kitchens, and play structures.  Your community may also have rules concerning xeriscaping and a list of recommended plants that can be used in the landscape.  Be sure to consult your HOA guidelines and seek approval, if necessary, before purchasing materials or getting started on your no-mow backyard.

Take a Look at Union Park by Hillwood

If you’re looking for a new place to call home, take a look at the new homes at Union Park by Hillwood in Little Elm, Tx.  Our award-winning master-planned community has unique amenities, great schools, and a lifestyle program where residents can enjoy hundreds of planned events and activities each year that are designed to bring neighbors together.  Take a virtual tour of our community and contact us to learn more!