Help! I need a lawn alternative!

Greetings from Richmond, Virginia, in USDA Zone 7. I bought a new house in February of this year and have had no success at growing a lawn so I'm looking for other options. I don't care that much about having a perfectly manicured lawn, I just want something that looks green from the street and the house. The yard in question has heavy brown clay soil, gets full sun all day, provides recreational space for two good-sized dogs, and is bordered by two large pin oaks. Due to the size of the yard and the fact that the contractor who built my house last year basically dumped a bunch of crap dirt on the lot during construction, amending the soil to support a lawn would be too expensive and time-consuming to be practical at this point. (And needless to say, sodding is out of the question.) Can anyone give me a recommendation for a dog-friendly ground cover that would grow green under those conditions? I'd prefer something that grows no more than 6" in height. I'm asking a lot, I know, but it's worth the question.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Rhonda Richmond, VA
=======================Basic human psychology is one of my subroutines.
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Natty Dread wrote:

White (Dutch) Clover. http://www.cce.cornell.edu/rensselaer/Horticulture/white_clover_sheet.htm
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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Much thanks to everyone who responded. White clover might be just what I need, based on the article Travis posted.
Rhonda

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Natty Dread wrote:

Here's a blog that talks about their experience with replacing turf grass with white clover in . . . Richmond!
http://www.procurate.com /
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You might look into Prunella vulgaris lanceolata (self-Heal, allheal or Lawn Prunella) or Anthemis nobilis (lawn chamomile) & Koeleria macrantha (June Grass) & Dichondra repens (kidney grass) or Laurentia fluviatili (blue-star creeper) to see if any of those are suited to your area & requirements.
-paghat the ratgirl
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Dandilions are quite nice they will grow in about any soil and just every grow zone (except for the really cold ones) They give a nice yellow flower in the spring and they stay green all summer. The best part is they will hardly need to be mowed. I get several million seeds a year if you want some feel free to ask.
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Pachysandra
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Garden Shade Zone 5 S Jersey USA in a Japanese Jungle Manner.39.6376 -75.0208
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The least expensive thing would be to figure out why your grass didn't grow and correct that. I love ground covers, but unless your have a postage stamp-sized lot, the cost of planting ground cover might be overwhelming. Furthermore, many ground covers are slow to get established, and you would have a transition period of sparse coverage. The bare areas would allow weeds to get established and you could have erosion problems unless your lot is flat. Things like clover and crown vetch make good covers but they also bloom and attract a lot of bees which you could find unacceptable if you plan to walk through the area. The approach I have taken is to minimize the turf area using, it to connect beds. It is a ribbon that unifies the landscape rather than the primary focus. Maintaining a small amount of turf, particularly if you are willing to overlook some weeds, isn't all that difficult.
All the soil in my area is heavy clay and people are able to have reasonably good lawns without exceptional care. I would suggest that you contact your county's cooperative extension agent and get some advice on turf care. He/she can probably help you with a soil analysis and suggest the appropriate type of grass for your situation. I could recommend a number of low ground cover plants that could take some traffic, but none would be inexpensive for a large area. You can get some ideas from these links: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2003-36,GGLD:en&q=ground+cover+zone+7
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My suggestion would be kudzu. It would cover your yard in one season from one plant. (Of course, the following year it would cover your house too, but that's a minor detail).

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wrote:

My local fairgrounds used callendulas for areas where grass could not stand the foot traffic. Mowed and stomped, it didn't bloom, but stayed green.
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Have tried once Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and it gave a ver
staisfying result. The plant has fine texture, and can withstand ligh traffic. The ground cover is hardy to about 0 degrees F
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wrote:

Yo, Rhonda -
You've received some excellent suggestions, all aimed at giving you the desired "dog-friendly ground cover" on inhospitable terrain.
Here's a heretical suggestion, coming from So.Calif. which is basically a desert. (Wouldn't be nuthin' here if water hadn't been brought in from elsewhere; see "Chinatown").
People are now starting to consider xeriscapic (sp?) gardening, , which uses much le$$ water. City Hall pushes the idea with illustrative garden plots.
There's a place in my neighborhood that uses as ground cover the larger size mini-bark, and intersperses it with appropriate plantings. Looks austere, but attractive.
I realize you have plenty of water in Virginia, so this is just a thought; consider a bark-type ground cover that serves your immediate purpose, but at the same time, start modifying the soil underneath (sorry about the contractor's misdeed!). It will indeed take several years, but a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step (old Indian saying). If you keep modifying the soil, eventually you will be able to plant whatever you want.
Good Luck!
Persephone
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