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19 Edible Lawn Alternatives: Boost Your Garden’s Potential

Edible lawn alternatives

What if you could transform your lawn into a delicious, diverse, and sustainable garden?

In this guide, I’m going to reveal 19 edible lawn alternatives that will revolutionize the way you see your outdoor space.

Many of these edible alternatives flourish in my own garden, regularly providing me with fresh, nutritious greens with little to no maintenance.

So if you want to

  • enjoy an open green space
  • expand your homegrown food options
  • create a sustainable and delicious garden

you’ll love the selection in today’s guide!

From common weeds that you may already find in your garden, like dandelion and clover, to fruit-bearing plants and popular herbs, these alternatives can be easily incorporated into your landscape.

Let’s dive right in.

Common Weeds That Might Already Be in Your Grass

Before you start transforming your grass lawn into a more sustainable and edible landscape, check what’s already there! You might discover you’re already growing some edible ground cover plants.

In this section, we’ll discuss seven common weeds commonly found in grass lawns, that are not only edible but often very nutritious.

1. Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)

One of the most ubiquitous weeds in lawns across the UK, the humble Dandelion offers more than just a splash of bright yellow colour.

Its leaves, flowers, and even roots are all edible. Dandelions are a nutritional powerhouse: they are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like iron and potassium.

Young leaves can be tossed into salads or cooked like spinach while the flowers can be used to make dandelion honey. The roots can be roasted and ground for a coffee substitute.

My favourite way to eat dandelion? I love to munch on the flowers straight from the garden!

2. White Clover (Trifolium Repens)

White Clover is commonly found in lawns and meadows, and it can make an excellent ground cover plant.

But did you know that both its leaves and flowers are edible?

The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and are best harvested before flowering. White clover flowers make a tasty addition to salads, or they can be dried for teas.

3. Wood Violets (Viola Odorata)

These delicate purple flowers are often found in cool and moist spots on the lawn.

Wood Violets are not only beautiful but their leaves and flowers are edible as well.

The leaves can be used in salads or cooked like spinach, and the flowers work nicely as a garnish or in desserts.

What’s more, wood violets flower early in spring and are a great ground cover plant to help attract pollinators to your garden.

4. Daisy (Bellis Perennis)

The charming Daisy, a common sight in many lawns, is actually a wonderful edible ground cover.

They’re not fussy about where they grow, thriving in almost any well-drained soil and happy in both full sunlight and partial shade.

Traditionally, the English daisy (Bellis perennis) may have been the bane of neat lawns, but it’s now gaining popularity as an eco-friendly lawn alternative.

These charming flowers are more than just a pretty face in your garden; they’re also a treat for your taste buds. Both the flowers and young leaves can be nibbled on, adding a slightly bitter, yet subtle flavour to your salads.

Plus, growing daisies can enhance your garden’s biodiversity, inviting a variety of beneficial insects. They’re a staple in many flowering lawn seed mixes, and it’s easy to see why.

Let’s embrace the daisy, a symbol of simplicity and a hidden culinary treasure in our gardens!

5. Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Often dismissed as a pesky weed, Chickweed is actually a delightful addition to your edible ground cover.

With tender, oval-shaped leaves and delicate white star-like flowers, this unassuming herb is a nutritional powerhouse.

Chickweed boasts a mild, slightly sweet flavour packed with vitamins, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, making it an ideal addition to your salads.

This resilient weed thrives in various conditions, making it readily available and nutritious.

6. Ground Elder

Do you have ground elder in your garden? I totally get it if you find it a bit of a bother – that’s putting it lightly!

Left to its own device, my garden would quickly become like a sea of ground elder. I used to try keeping it under control, but then I learned something cool.

The leaves of this plant? They’re edible! They have a mild taste, somewhere between parsley and celery. They’re at their best in early spring, when they just emerge.

It’s also a super easy ground cover that’s great for wildlife gardens. It grows like a charm, even in shade, with no help from us.

7. Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel, Jekka’s

Wood sorrel is a real gem often overlooked in the world of edible plants.

It’s an early bloomer, making it a superhero for wild bees in need of early spring nectar. What’s cool is it stays green all winter, thriving even in the shadiest nooks of your garden. It keeps a low profile, literally, as it grows into a charming, low-lying carpet.

And talk about being a good neighbour – it self-sows without hogging all the space, meaning it won’t bully your other plants.

Wood sorrel, native to Europe, is often seen as just a weed, but it’s so much more. Its heart-shaped leaves and flowers are not only cute but also edible, with a zesty, lemony flavour.

It loves a moist, partly shady spot – perfect for that damp corner you weren’t sure what to do with.

And if you ever feel it’s spreading too much? No worries, it’s super easy to pull up, and it doesn’t get all invasive on you.

Think of it as a low-maintenance, colourful option for an alternative to your traditional lawn.

Herbs as an Edible Lawn Alternative

This section will discuss five excellent herbs as edible lawn alternatives: Mint, Oregano, Creeping Thyme and Chamomille.

8. Mint (Mentha Spp.)

Mint is, in my opinion, one of the best herbs to grow in your garden.

Imagine walking in your garden and with every step, there’s this fresh, minty aroma. That’s what happens when you swap out regular grass for mint. It’s not just green and pretty; it smells amazing too.

One of the best things about mint as an edible lawn alternative? It’s super easy to grow. It’s not picky about soil and can handle both sunny and shady spots. Plus, it spreads quickly, giving you that green look without much effort.

Corsican mint, or Mentha requienii, is the best variety to use as ground cover. It is low-growing and will quickly form a lush green carpet.

Mint isn’t just about good looks and great smells. You can literally pick leaves right from your ‘lawn’ for your tea or cooking. Fresh mint, right from your garden? Yes, please!

9. Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)

Consider incorporating Oregano into your edible lawn.

Oregano thrives in well-draining soil and full sunlight.

Oregano can create an excellent ground cover. It can bear light foot traffic which makes it perfect for small paths or under fruit trees, that you only need to access occasionally. It’s also fantastic as a living mulch around perennial plants.

The following creeping varieties are low-growing, making them an excellent choice as a groundcover.

  • Creeping oregano (Origanum vulgare humile): a brilliant green;
  • Creeping Golden Marjoram (Origanum vulgare aureum): a golden green in spring and fall and dark green in summer; and
  • Mounding marjoram (Origanum marjorana).

10. Creeping Thyme (Thymus Spp.)

Creeping Thyme is an ideal choice for an edible lawn alternative as it forms a resilient, dense and low-growing mat of fragrant leaves.

Ideal for filling in spaces between stepping stones or bordering garden pathways, Creeping Thyme is hardy and requires minimal maintenance. It thrives in sunny spots and tolerates dry conditions well.

The beautiful tiny purple flowers will also attract pollinators to your garden.

11. Chamomile (Chamaemelum Nobile)

Lastly, Chamomile, is not only lovely to look at, but also prized for its edible and medicinal properties.

Chamomile is not just pretty; it’s tough as nails. It can handle less water and still look gorgeous. Additionally, chamomile lawns release a delightful, calming aroma when walked upon.

Once established, it can handle some foot traffic, although it is best to only occasionally walk on it.

Chamomille produces small, daisy-like flowers all summer, which I love to use to make a deliciously soothing herbal tea.

The non-flowering cultivar ‘Treneague’ is perhaps better suited for a lawn substitute as it is very low-growing and requires very little maintenance.

Edible Ground Covers

Imagine having a carpet of fresh salad leaves right on your doorstep!

From the spicy kick of rocket to the succulent crunch of purslane, the following plants are not only beautiful but offer also a delicious and nutritious harvest.

12. Rocket

Rocket, also known as arugula, is a fantastic edible ground cover.

Rocket is incredibly easy to grow, thriving in both sun and partial shade, and it’s quite forgiving if you forget to water it now and then. This peppery green is perfect for filling in gaps in your garden, and it’s a joy to simply pluck fresh leaves whenever you want to spice up your meal!

It can be easily grown from seeds sown directly into the soil. You’ve got two great options:

  1. Wild Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia): This one’s a tough cookie, a perennial plant that sticks around for years. It’s not fussy about soil and grows these long, intricate leaves packed with a bold peppery taste. The cool thing? It grows slowly but gives you a steady harvest, even in winter if you give it a little cover.
  2. Salad Rocket or Cultivated Rocket (Eruca sativa): This is the annual type, perfect if you’re looking for a quick garden win. Its leaves are softer, larger, and have a gentler flavour. It will flower in early summer but will easily self-seed. The flowers are also edible!

13. Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)

Considered a weed by some, Purslane is one of my favourite salad leaves! It has quite a unique taste and texture: slightly lemony with a good bite to its leaves.

Purslane is known for its high omega-3 fatty acids content, which is unusual for a plant source.

I sowed it once as a salad leaf in my veg patch, and I now find it growing all over the place. It forms pretty yellow flowers in late summer and self-seeds readily.

It can create a low-growing mat of succulent leaves, making it a great edible alternative to traditional lawns.

It prefers full sun but can grow in various soil conditions.

Purslane is tolerant of light foot traffic, and its succulent leaves can be eaten raw or added to salads and sandwiches. They’re rich in nutrients and provide a slightly tangy flavour.

14. Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia Perfoliata)

Have you heard of Miner’s lettuce, also known as claytonia? It’s my absolute favourite when it comes to winter salads!

Sow it in September, and watch it grow slowly through the chilly months. As spring arrives, it rewards you with a bounty of leaves, and later, with gorgeous, delicate flowers in early summer.

And guess what?

It’s a breeze to grow since it self-sows super easily. I just love seeing it pop up spontaneously in the garden.

Claytonia thrives in partial shade, forming a beautiful, low-growing cluster that’s perfect as an edible ground cover.

It’s not just pretty; its leaves have a mild, spinach-like flavour that’s simply delicious raw. Packed with vitamins and minerals, it’s a nutritious addition to any garden, especially if you’re into the idea of an edible lawn.

15. French Sorrel (Rumex Scutatus)

French Sorrel, Jekka’s

French sorrel is an often overlooked edible ground cover plant that spreads rapidly in the right conditions, forming a low-growing mat of lush green leaves. It can tolerate light foot traffic.

It’s a hardy perennial, with distinctive shield-like leaves, perfect for filling in those bare spots in your garden.

And talk about easy! It’s low maintenance and can be divided and replanted if you need to.

The leaves have a tart, lemony flavour that can add a zesty twist to your meals.

Best of all, it stays vibrantly green all year round.

16. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum Spp.)

You’re probably familiar with Nasturtiums as a flower, but did you know they can make a vibrant, edible ground cover? The climbing varieties can sprawl across the ground while being tough enough to handle a bit of foot traffic.

Why settle for plain grass when you can have a carpet of colour that you don’t even need to mow?

These trailing beauties spread with ease, creating a vibrant blanket over your garden. And they’re not just pretty – they’re useful, too! By attracting aphids and cabbage moths, they act as a sacrificial crop, keeping those pests away from your precious vegetables.

As self-seeding annuals, they grow quickly, and their flowers are a magnet for pollinators.

What’s more, nasturtiums keep on producing flowers for months – in my garden, they’re still blooming well into autumn. Just remember, they love the sun, needing it for at least half the day to flourish.

But here’s the best part: every bit of the nasturtium is edible. The leaves, flowers, and seeds all have a delightful peppery taste, perfect for jazzing up salads or adding a splash of colour to your dishes.

Fruits as Edible Ground Cover

How about adding tasty fruits to your ground cover? Strawberries and lingonberries are two examples of low-growing, low-maintenance fruiting plants that you could incorporate into your garden foodscape.

17. Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria Vesca)

Alpine strawberries are my absolute favourite when it comes to ground covers in a forest garden.

These tiny treasures might be small, but don’t let their size fool you – they pack a punch with their incredibly sweet and fragrant fruits.

They’re the ideal choice for an edible ground cover: tough enough to handle different soil conditions, yet wonderfully non-invasive. Their low-growth habit is perfect for underplanting, and they have this neat trick of holding their fruits up high, above the leaves, making them easy to spot and pick.

Here’s a little tip: go for the yellow variety. Not only are they just as delicious, but they also tend to fool the birds, meaning more sweet treats for you!

These low-maintenance plants thrive in shady areas away from direct sunlight and produce delightful little fruits. Since they’re easy to propagate from seed, you’ll soon have a lush carpet of green leaves and white flowers that turn into flavourful red berries by early summer.

You can enjoy these berries as a tasty snack or use their leaves in a soothing tea.

Keep in mind that while alpine strawberries can tolerate some shade, they do produce more fruit when they get a bit more sun.

18. Pumpkin and Winter Squash

Pumpkin and winter squash can create a fantastic ground cover for your garden, as they do in the three sisters’ polyculture with corn and beans.

They thrive in rich soil and full sun, where their thick vines can quickly transform a patch of land.

They do like to sprawl, so I would only recommend them for a large open space, and they’re not quite the type for foot traffic.

Their vines and leaves will die after the first frost, leaving you with delicious fruits to eat through the winter.

If you’re working with a smaller space, consider cucumbers. Usually grown as climbers, cucumbers can also spread their smaller leaves and fruits across the ground, creating a less dense but equally vigorous green cover.

19. Lingonberries (Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea)

Another excellent fruit to consider for your edible lawn are Lingonberries. Have you heard of them?

These hardy evergreen shrubs grow well in cooler climates (they are widely used in Scandinavia) and thrive in acidic, well-drained soil. They generally don’t require much maintenance, and their glossy green leaves provide visual interest throughout the year. In early spring, the lingonberry plants will be adorned with small bell-shaped flowers, which then give way to bright red berries later in the season.

Lingonberries are packed with antioxidants and nutrients, making them perfect for jams, sauces, and other culinary delights.

Unleash the Potential of Your Garden

So, there you have it – 19 incredible, edible alternatives to the traditional lawn.

It’s time to reimagine your outdoor space as not just a green expanse but a vibrant, sustainable, and deliciously diverse garden. From the humble dandelion to the sprawling pumpkin, each plant we’ve explored offers a world of possibilities for your garden.

These plants are not just easy to grow; they’re a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle, right in your backyard. Let’s turn your garden into a flourishing, edible paradise.

Now it’s your turn.

Are you going to look at your lawn differently today?

Frequently Asked Questions

What edible plants can replace a traditional lawn?

You can consider swapping out grass for edible lawn alternatives, such as wood violets (Viola odorata). These beautiful plants have heart-shaped leaves that are packed with vitamins C and A and can be eaten raw or cooked. The delicate flowers are also edible and can be enjoyed in various ways.

Which ground-cover herbs thrive in full sun?

If your garden has a lot of sunlight, herbs like thyme, oregano, and creeping rosemary can make excellent ground cover alternatives to traditional grass. They are low-maintenance, aromatic, and of course, provide you with fresh herbs to use in your cooking.

What edible options are suitable for a shady lawn?

For lawns with abundant shade, consider Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), Sorrel (Rumex Scutatus) and Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia Perfoliata).

Can creeping herbs also be an edible alternative?

Yes, creeping herbs can serve as an edible, low-maintenance lawn alternative. For instance, Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) is a creeping herb with a pleasant scent that tolerates foot traffic well.

What are the best low-maintenance edible lawns?

Some of the best low-maintenance edible lawns include plants like white clover, and chamomile, and ground-cover herbs such as thyme and oregano. These plants require minimal care, making them perfect if you want to save time while still maintaining a beautiful garden space.