As little as two decades ago, it would have been seen as very un American not to display a beautifully manicured, well clipped lawn in front of your home. According to Diana Balmori, a landscape architect and author of “Redesigning the American Lawn”, Americans are ultra lawn people. The lawn has always also been associated with children frolicking and having fun. It is a soft surface and one of the few plants that can take traffic on it so very appealing to young families.
Our drought ridden times however require a change of attitude. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, one of the leading players in the grass industry, is working hard to develop varieties of grass that require minimal watering but are still durable and soft to the touch, but they are not there yet.
What environmentally responsible alternatives are possible?
CHOOSE A MORE DROUGHT RESISTANT GRASS
95% of American lawns consist of thirsty bluegrass, which is not even native to the US and needs lots of water. If you really want to keep your lawn, do some research on which is the best and most drought tolerant grass for your particular location. Zoysia loves both sun and shade and tolerates traffic. Buffalo grass needs full sun. Check with your local nursery.
Check out your local city and water district to see if they offer any incentives or subsidies to remove the lawn completely and change over to drought resistant native planting. LA County has been encouraging and paying for this since 2009 but there are quotas.
MAKE IT SMALLER
If you can make your lawn smaller, and your flower beds larger this is an easy place to start. I did this with my garden in Vancouver, Canada as the plants needed far less care and looked beautiful. Select drought tolerant plants and ground covers that are more forgiving.
If you can’t live without the look of a lawn, consider installing artificial turf. No need to feel guilty about a green lawn then! You could make it a putting green!
WATER WISE LANDSCAPING
Removing the lawn and replacing it with drought tolerant succulents, grasses and rockery plants is a great way to still have an attractive yard without stressing the water supply. Xeriscaping is a method of adding plants that are drought-tolerant as well as grouping plants by similar water needs. Some districts offer classes to inform the public on all aspects of water wise landscaping such as : which are the right plants for which location, how to improve the soil, how to use rainwater as a resource and how to manage your irrigation properly. Use different sized stones, rocks, gravel and mulch to add interest and to also divert the heat from the sun. Succulents are excellent at absorbing solar glare.
Replace your lawn with a vegetable and herb garden. Raised beds look attractive and are easier to look after. Just think of all those delicious salads you could be preparing.
The drought we are experiencing is not a one off situation. Water conditions are not likely to get any better so it is worth making plans to change that green bit of luxury to a “greener” alternative.