When most people buy a home, the dominant landscaping element on the property is lawn grass -- in some cases, a huge plot of it. They faithfully mow this expanse of lawn for years, without considering alternatives to lawns.
Yes, there are alternatives. It is becoming acceptable again to have something on the grounds in front of your house other than a lawn -- you won't be looked upon as some kind of a weirdo. Ground covers, wide walkways and flower beds are seen increasingly in front of respectable homes as front-yard landscaping alternatives to the traditional lawn. Even vegetable garden beds are becoming acceptable if designed so as to be attractive. To that end, a growing body of literature is arising detailing how you can have an "edible front yard" without having the neighbors conclude that you're a total degenerate.
Two growing "anti-lawn" movements (which often overlap) espousing alternatives to lawns are:
- The native plant movement: growing only plants native to an area
- The xeriscaping movement