It Ain't Easy Being Green
By Patrick John
Q97 SnapshotMay 2015
By Patrick John
I’m stuck between a rock and a green place. We’re in this extended drought and we’re conserving as much as possible, but I still feel guilty for loving my huge, water-sucking lawn. I know water was plentiful when the house was built back in the 1980s, but it’s finally time to think about a new landscape plan. I’ve been checking into xeriscaping, and am headed toward a front yard overhaul.
Never heard of xeriscaping? It’s simply combining a variety of landscape principles to conserve water. It doesn’t mean a whole yard full of cactus and rock, either. You can have lawn, just less of it. You can have colorful plants and trees. Simply using native species and drought-tolerant choices with a thoughtful plan will yield water savings. Those water savings equal dollars in your pocket.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency cites two recent studies for homes that converted lawn to a xeriscaped area. Over five years, the average monthly water savings was 33%. In summertime, that number was 39%, and these studies were done in Las Vegas. Homeowners also saved about one-third on maintenance (think lawnmower gas/oil, weed eater supplies, fertilizer, sprinkler replacement, etc.). Some studies even show homeowners conserving more than 50%!
Some ideas for converting grass into a xeriscaped zone:
• Add hardscape like bricks, pavers, flagstone, larger walkways, walls, terraces, concrete or a patio area. They need no water or mowing, and are easy to clean off with a broom or blower. The only negative here is that hardscapes tend to seriously increase your budget.
• Add or enlarge existing bark/mulched beds. The mulch insulates in winter and keeps in much-needed moisture in summer. Just eliminating some turf by doubling the size of beds you already have will make a huge water-saving impact. Bark and mulch are also relatively inexpensive if you buy from the local materials yard rather than by the bag at a big-box store. I can also tell you from experience that the smaller the bark/mulch size, the more often you will have to add or refresh the bed. This is why some people….
• Create planters or beds of pebbles or rock. As long as you keep other debris likes leaves and sticks out of the bed, the decorative rock will look good for a very long time before you need to replace it or add more. There are many rock sizes and color choices available. You can also strategically place some large boulders to add elements of texture and design.
The other big piece of the xeriscaping puzzle is having the right irrigation plan. Most of your xeriscaping will definitely need to be on a drip system. Drip irrigation is fairly easy to install and maintain once you have the right manifold(s). If you’re a competent do-it-yourselfer, you can totally tackle this chore. If not, call a landscaper or sprinkler repair service for help. For any remaining grass, there are several new choices for super efficient sprinklers (Rain Bird, Toro, Hunter all have eco-friendly pop-up spray and rotor lines).
I hope this gets you thinking about simplifying, beautifying and saving water. Please wish me luck because it’s project time in my front yard...the picture you see above is actually my lawn…this will be my BEFORE photo!