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I have some lawn in my backyard that I want to replace with something that consumes much less water. I have no problem with mowing or other maintenance but the replacement does have to handle reasonable foot traffic including kids running around dogs doing their thing (we pick up after both the kids and the dogs).

Clover is one option that I've seen suggested - gravel and fake turf have also been mentioned. I would prefer something alive.

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Have you looked into native grasses? They're a popular choice for low maintenance lawns. http://www.nativegrasses.com/ has different blends for different parts of the country (in the USA). You may want to examine the exact varieties in your local blend to see if the characteristics will suit your needs.

Also check out this website. They research low growing groundcover that is tolerant of foot traffic. Use the search function to find plants for your zone and watering needs. http://www.stepables.com/3/Crepping_Perennial_Search.html

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  • I poked around a bit. The native grasses around here thrive during the rain and are dormant the rest of the year. That suggests that irrigation is a must for year round grasses if I go with native. We get months of 80F+ and the local grasses that are exposed to the sun do not survive without significant irrigation. None of the 'natives' I found on that site seemed like they would be happy in 8B without significant irrigation for six months a year. – Ram May 9 '14 at 18:04
  • They'll need some watering in your area but less than a traditional lawn. Found this site that might be useful. Has more choices. stepables.com/3/Crepping_Perennial_Search.html – OrganicLawnDIY May 9 '14 at 19:18
  • Wow that is a superb resource, found a few potential options right away! – Ram May 9 '14 at 20:01
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The group of plants that I would think of first would be Sedums. There are a great variety of them, and some are resistant to some light occasional trampling (nothing is going to be as resilient to trampling as turf, which grows from an underground meristem), and they are soft and not generally toxic (unlike Euphorbias).

You can do lots of other things, if you don't need a filled in look, like Yuccas, Hesperaloes, plenty of wildflowers and sub-shrubs. It kind of depends on what you want to use the area for you don't want it full of cactus if you want kids to be able to play in it.

Also California Poppies are soft, fairly attractive, and pretty resilient once they are established.

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  • The main use is for kids and dogs to run around on so trample-resistance is key. – Ram May 9 '14 at 17:06
  • yeah with that as a consideration, I think you are limited to nonliving (rubber mulch, sand/pea gravel, shavings/bark/mulch ), or resilient grasses.. – Grady Player May 9 '14 at 17:33

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