Alternatives to Grass in a Courtyard

Q: I live in Baltimore City in a row house. I have a limited area for gardening. I have beds and containers for my plants. After all the planting, I only have a small area of grass. I want to remove/cover the grass with “something”. I was thinking about using recycled tire mulch and maybe some slate for a walkway. Do you have any suggestions? (Area approx. 20’x15′ with approx. 8’x8′ of grass.)

A: Here are a couple ideas for you:

1. Paving – I like to use stone in pattern or flagstone, or brick to create a patio whenever possible. It is expensive when it goes in, but very low maintenance after that. A less expensive option might be gravel. A stunning (and expensive) option is stone mosaic.

2. Groundcover – Consider moss or mondo grass, or ajuga. Obviously these will not work well if you have much foot traffic, although moss is the most forgiving.

3. Faux grass – Here’s a radical idea for you. I’ve never done this – not yet anyway – but I’ve often thought that a small courtyard garden would be the perfect place to use a synthetic grass. Here’s a link to a manufacturer SynLawn I know it might strike you as completely awful and I understand. But if you like the look of the grass you have, but wish you could get the grass looking better, this might be an option. The SynLawn products look quite convincing, and I think it might look great in a small garden.

Hope this helps
-Joe Hertzler

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Had these guys build a surface-grade patio in May 2023. They looked at the project, sent me a proposed scope of work and contract via email, took a deposit of 1/2 the total via bank transfer. They set a date weeks later to start the job. They showed up on time, worked professionally and cleaned up at the end of the day. Whole job took 3 days, and they even replaced all the patio furniture on the last day. The final product was precisely what I asked for, done in a high-quality, workmanlike way.

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