Sedge lawns are a smart environmental alternative to traditional lawns. While traditional lawns are resource intensive (i.e. mowing,fertilizing, and watering avoe rainfall levels typically reuired), sedge lawns are often less taxing.
Sedges are close botanical cousins of the conventional grasses that make up traditional lawns. But what we consider traditional lawns in the USA are typically monocultures of turf grasses that have been imported from other parts of the world and are not native. The native sedges tend to require little or no mowing, fertilizing, or chemicals. Some also require less water than many conventional turf grasses or if dealing with a wet area, are more tolerant of moist conditions or shade.
Different sedge varieties thrive in various regions of the US. Growing them can help restore some of the local character that existed with native sods.
If you are interested to learn more, John Greenlee has written a book called Easy Lawns (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide) that talks about sedge lawns. It is a guide to identify the best lawn for your situation and will show you how to successfully convert it from your existing grass.
He has identified five sedges that show promise as substitutes for traditional lawn grasses in a wide range of areas.
The 5 Native Sedges to consider for a sedge lawn conversion are:
- Catlin sedge (Carex texensis)
- Texas Hill Country sedge (Carex perdentata)
- Baltimore sedge (Carex senta)
- Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)
- and California meadow sedge (Carex pansa)
Each of these native sedges have compact growth and good, green color. Hybridization of species being collected from populations in nature is a relatively untapped market and there are many ongoing developments.
Update Feb, 2022: Many of these sedges and even more additional varieties are now commercially available. Often sold as plugs, sedges and native turf options are now easily available through a variety of nurseries nationwide.
Additionally, Garden Designer Benjamin Vogt has been experimenting with re-wilding his suburban plot in Nebraska. He has developed a series of courses that will help any homeowner to ‘Re-think Pretty’ (as is the name of his newest book) and begin to create home gardens that are more eco-conscious, climate and wildlife friendly.
I haven’t planted a sedge lawn yet.
I am intrigued with the more natural look, but while looking for pictures I didn’t see a sedge lawn that completely mimicked the flatness of a traditional lawn that is so cherished. From my reading, it seems that it takes a bit of time for the plugs to grow together. If you have some experience with sedge lawns I would love to hear your successes or advice with planting and maintaining.