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I am looking for tight growing (less than 2 inch tall) ground cover plants as Lawn substitute. I live in SF Bay Area (USDA zone: 10, Sunset zone: 17). Full sun (after noon sun, 8 hours). I am considering Leptinella squalida (Platt's Black), Dichondra Repens as well as Elfin Thyme.

  • Have you considered crushed gravel (3/8 minus) or crushed granite and compacted? Most of Japan's parks are made with this and I've torn up all kinds of live large space growies to install crushed gravel/granite with an under layment of landscape fabric. 4" thick with 2X4 pt edging. Beautiful. Really shows off the ornamental plant beds and kids, pets love it!! With the fabric (which is what the dang stuff was designed for not weeds) you never have to do another thing, spend another dime. You could make a few small soft areas with stepables, I like woolly thyme and flagstone. Seriously! – stormy Feb 21 '17 at 19:10
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Check out a company called Pro Time Lawn Seed out of Portland, OR. They do all sorts of interesting mixes. Last year I replaced a 500sq ft parking strip up here in Seattle with the Fleur de Lawn. We let it get fairly tall (maybe 8"). It was beautiful, but did better when I kept it shorter. Mowed it to 1" for the winter (probably not the best idea) and it looked a little bare. We're now looking forward to the growing season as the first lawn daisies are blooming. I'm planning on keeping our meadow around 2" this year.

On a side note, part of the reason we switched away from lawn was because of high number of dogs using it as a toilet. Interestingly, the dogs (or perhaps the owners) don't see the meadow as a toilet as long as it's mowed higher than about 1/2".

Another website to check out is Stepables. You can get most of there products at your local garden store often not by the same grower. However, if you have a large area to cover, I believe they sell trays of 2" plugs online during the growing season. You might also investigate getting a wholesale licence if you have a lot of plants to buy.

One last note, you could try starting stuff from seed, but it might be a couple of years before you see good results. If you're going to plant starts pay attention to both your layout (square vs triangular) and your spacing. Check out a plant calculator to play with numbers. Use a 1000 sq ft area as an example - square spacing at 14" needed 735 plants, but square spacing at 7" needed 2939. There are probably labor calculators out there, but I don't know of any off the top of my head. I can look it up if you want when I get to the office.

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