Replace lawn with "something else"

In our back yard we have a very small lawn about (10ft by 20ft) that needs mowing weekly and sometimes twice weekly in summer.
Now I'm looking for lower maintenance so everything can be left unattended for weeks at a time if were out of town. I have a neighbor that "may" mow the rear lawn for us if he has time and remembers and I don't want to hire a service for that small area. Our HOA takes care of the front lawn and plants. I could simply expand our back patio and cover the current lawn area with concrete, but since we already have automatic sprinklers set up, I'm considering replacing the lawn with low-maintenance groundcover than can be walked on and that we could ocassionally place outdoor furniture on for an evening without killing it. We want to be able to simply set our automatic sprinklers on a timer and not have to attend to it more than a few times a year with fertilizer and trimming. Recommedations for ground cover and how to get rid of the grass so it does not interfere with the new ground cover?
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You didn't mention where you live, so this response is maybe 50% wrong, but: Don't water the lawn beginning in late spring. Then, it may behave like grass in the wild, stop growing, turn brown, and wait for cooler weather. That works here in Rochester NY. Or, I should say "it happens in some years". If the grass was mowed correctly throughout spring, it comes back nicely in the fall. By correctly, I mean with the mower at it's highest setting.
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I am in an area with hot, sunny and dry summers and mild wet winters with occasional overnight frost during winter that melts in daylight.

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Kevin wrote:

To get rid of the grass, use an herbicide that is specific to grass. I use Sethoxidem. The Poast brand is now only available bulk quantities for agricultural use. But I found the same herbicide in Grass Getter. This works only if you keep the grass growing; water it but don't feed it.
I am planting pink clover (Persicaria capitata) in the main part of my front lawn. This will thrive despite significant shade over much of the area, but it also grows quite well in full sun. This is a nice ground cover for looking, but it doesn't take much walking. It will eventually grow about 3-4 inches thick. Pink clover is hardy to about 13F. Its name comes from the flower heads (year round in my garden) that are pale pink and look like the blossoms of white clover.
I am planting cinquefoil (Potentilla neumanniana) in the parkway, between the sidewalk and the street. This requires more sun than the pink clover but does okay with part shade. It will survive with light foot traffic. This stays quite low, about 1-2 inches thick. Cinquefoil is hardy to 0F. These have small yellow blossoms, mostly from the late spring to mid-autumn.
Both the pink clover and cinquefoil remain undamaged if you have to use more Sethoxidem to control grass. After they are established, they generally choke out weeds; but some hand weeding may still be necessary. Also, they require frequent trimming at the edges (about once every 4-6 weeks during the growing season); otherwise, they can become invasive.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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Kevin Wrote:

Hi Kevin,
Instead of using chemicals to kill the grass, the roots of which you'l have to dig out anyway, use a flat shovel to scrape off the grass o rent a sod stripper/cutter. For such a small area you don't need power one. http://www.quail-mfg.com/sodcutter.htm
Add some compost you can get in bags at a home improvement center o nursery. A 2" to 3" cover will do and mix it in with a shovel an smooth with a garden rake. http://tinyurl.com/cqg55
Calculate how much compost you'll need here. http://tinyurl.com/8cjpx
Since you don't say where you live or the sun conditions it would b difficult to say what to plant. Take a look here for ideas o stepables. For a sunny area I like creeping thyme if it's hardy i your zone. You might want to consider something that is evergreen. http://stepables.com / http://classygroundcovers.com /
You can find your hardiness zone here. http://www.garden.org/zipzone /
If you do mailorder you can check references here. You can also searc for nurseries by state. http://davesgarden.com/gwd /
New
-- Newt
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I was hoping to give you some ideas for a low maintenance garden, but I'm not long home from work and have just seen the state of the front garden - all the grass has been taken away and my husband has replaced it with pebbles and scattered plant pots - I don't like it yet so I'll be heading off to the garden centre this afternoon for groundcover plants. My selection is quite limited as we live in a fairly cold climate and the westerly winds are salt-laiden (fine for the golfers but not for residential gardens. If you get any ideas for the garden I'd appreciate any help. Is this what is known as "a senior moment"?
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maureen Wrote:

Maureen, oh my! These two sites will be helpful for ideas. You ca select by zone and sun conditions since you didn't mention them. http://stepables.com / http://classygroundcovers.com /
Good luck, New
-- Newt
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Newt
Living on the West Coast of Scotland we can have the four seasons in one day, but I'll have a look at the websites you suggested.
On saying that yesterday was a fantastic day here (17degrees)and it looks as though the sun is here to stay for the next few days, so it will be happy planting
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we had same problem. small backyard, weeds and disinterested mower. so rather than concrete or (horrors) lava rock that would be hell to remove by somebody else we "skinned" off the weeds, put down light landscape fabric and used medium small pea gravel with a few pavers for a "pattern" http://weloveteaching.com/landscape/gravel/gravel.htm the minute we started getting the gravel down we knew we were going to love it. still love the hassle free aspect and look and how it sets off the planting beds (which have seriously grown up since the pictures were taken) INgrid

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