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Thread: Alternatives to Lawns

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Alternatives to Lawns

    Designing an end to a toxic American obsession: The Lawn - CNN Style
    Lawns are an American obsession. Since the mass proliferation of suburbs in the 1950s and '60s, these pristine carpets of green turf have been meticulously maintained by suburbanites, with grass length and other aesthetic considerations enforced with bylaws and by homeowner associations.

    But for nature, lawns offer little. Their maintenance produces more greenhouse gases than they absorb, and they are biodiversity deserts that have contributed to vanishing insect populations. Residential lawns cover 2% of US land and require more irrigation than any agricultural crop grown in the country. Across California, more than half of household water is used outside of the house.

    If attitudes toward lawn care are shifted, however, these grassy green patches represent a gigantic opportunity. In 2005, a NASA satellite study found that American residential lawns take up 49,000 square miles (128,000 square km) -- nearly equal in size to the entire country of Greece.
    But the thirstiness of lawns in semiarid and arid parts of the nation has provoked interest in alternatives.
    In western states like California, Colorado and Arizona, droughts have led to restrictions on water usage, forcing many to reconsider their thirsty lawns. Some inventive families and landscape architects have transformed yards, producing oases of life for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, by employing scientific insight, design and imagination.

    ...
    Such policies can lead to big changes. Images of intensely irrigated lawns in Phoenix, ringed by the red sand of the Arizona Desert, were once a disturbing case study of America's lawn addiction. But in recent decades, the state has taken action, charging more for water in the summer and banning lawns on new developments. At the turn of the millennium, 80% of Phoenix had green lawns, now only 14% does.

    ...
    "A lot of homeowners are more environmentally aware," said Seidenwurm over the phone, and she co-presented an ASLA talk last fall on recent residential garden trends with architect Courtney Skybak, whose home city of Portland, Oregon, is another West Coast centre for experiments in environmental garden design. "There's certificates that homeowners can get that certify that a front yard is wildlife friendly, or attracts butterflies, or is certified by master gardeners."

    ...
    "The stuff that people are usually trying to get out of their lawn, we're saying 'No, that's good to have in your lawn!'" said Philips. "So reintroduce native violets -- and even dandelions -- certain clovers, low-growing thyme and things that flower, which provide pollinator benefits and are better for the soil."
    Does anyone here have any experience with alternatives to lawns? Any trouble with local governments or homeowners' associations?

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Besides gardens, another alternative to lawns is fake grass - Astroturf and similar products. It's a carpet with plastic grass on it.

    Xeriscaping is landscaping with dryness-tolerant vegetation to reduce the need for watering. It has become rather popular in the southwestern United States, Australia, and other places that are short on water.

    The Seven Principles of Xeriscape | Habitat Network
    1. Sound landscape planning and design.
    2. Limitation of turf (commonly referred to as lawn) to appropriate, functional areas.
    3. Use of water efficient plants.
    4. Efficient irrigation.
    5. Soil amendments.
    6. Use of mulches.
    7. Appropriate landscape maintenance.

    Many arid communities, from the deserts of the southwest to the chaparrals of California have adopted xeriscape principles. Given the routine dry periods these regions experience, xeriscaping is very logical. As recently as 2006, researchers identified that in the southwest 60-80%open_in_new of water used by individual households was for landscape irrigation (watering a lawn accounts for a majority of it). Installing xeriscape gardens, as a Nevada studyopen_in_new showed, reduced water bills by 50% (with massive 70% average reductions during summer months). Participants also reported reduced labor effort of 26.4%, since their new yards required less maintenance, like lawn mowing and manicuring.

    Xeriscaping doesn’t just have to be for arid climates. These principles can be implemented in all ecoregions and lead to positive outcomes like reduced weeds, the creation of dense native plantings, less yard maintenance, minimized use of pesticides and fertilizers, and reduction of non-native lawns. In an attempt to understand why people choose to engage in xeriscaping, researchers in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada identified two neighborhoods with homeowners that had engaged in xeriscape landscaping.open_in_new Twenty families were interviewed regarding their choices for their yards, their motivations, and the consequences of their gardening choices. They discovered water conservation took a back seat to aesthetics and the joy of gardening as the primary motivations for adopting xeriscaping principles.

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    Ohio here. I drive past a house with an average size front yard covered entirely in some kind of creeping ivy. It has a large oak tree in the center giving shade to the ivy, a standard sidewalk up to the porch and a path of large flat stones around the side of the house. It looks good (I think.) Also some landscaping rocks, a standing bird bath. Have no idea if the neighbors with conventional lawn grass like it. It's not in my town -- it's where I grew up, so I've seen it many times over the years. Don't know how involved the maintenance is; for instance, do they use leaf blowers in the fall to remove the fallen leaves, etc. It has a lush look. I'm a dog person, so I've enjoyed having a lawn for my dog(s) to romp on. The homeowner probably has a ten minute mow to get his tree lawn and small back yard mown -- that part is enviable.

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    That was the great thing when I lived in Albuquerque. Gravel, river rocks, or crushed rocks were acceptable front lawns. Add a few cactus or native plants and you have ecologically sound and minimal effort landscaping.

    Sent from my SM-T550 using Tapatalk

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    Formerly Joedad
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    Much better than all lawn or no lawn is a small lawn, and not a lawn that uses chemicals and treatments that are poisonous. The rest of things can be properly maintained and landscaped to invite critters, including human critters. It's simple to do and good exercise.

    If you're an urban farmer like me nothing much beats a layer of leaves covered with wood chips to keep the leaves in place for those areas where you have to walk. A couple Adirondack chairs in a cozy location too, and don't forget the bird and hummingbird feeders and wildflowers.

    People around here still broadcast poisons on their pet grass, I don't get it. And I don't get enjoying mowing acres with a riding tractor either. The latest craze seems to be a riding tractor, storage shed and leaf blowers for postage stamp properties that could be cut with an electric string trimmer or a reel mower. Like I said, I don't get it.

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    We don't ever, ever water our lawn or add any chemicals to help it grow. But, if I had the energy and motivation, I'd replace the entire thing with ornamental grasses. I think they are much prettier than traditional lawns, and most of them are drought tolerant. Plus, they never need to be mowed. There are so many bushes and small trees on our property, that it doesn't matter to me if the lawn looks perfect or not. My beautiful white azaleas are blooming right now. They were probably planted in the 1960s, when the house was built. They never need any care, other than trimming once in awhile. They are over 10 ft. tall, and provide a privacy barrier in our front yard. If you live in an area where azaleas do well, you can certainly use them to cover a large part of your property.

    I've only seen one of my neighbors ever water their lawn. Most of the folks on my street don't seem to care if their lawns are far from perfect.

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    My strategy as a homeowner (since '91) has been to create as many border areas as possible -- converting wide strips of lawn adjacent to the house/garage into planted areas with Japanese maple, dogwood, moonflowers, pachysandra, plus bird baths with wide stretches of mulch. Consequence: what took me 29 minutes to mow when I moved in is now a 17 minute mow. Nirvana.

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    Rock here, two trees, one bush. There are also two flowerpots and several pots of vegetables.

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    We have what I consider to be a tiny yard. When we had young ‘in’s running around, it really wasn’t enough space for a game of kickball or soccer but we did have a nice set of swings with fort and slide and sandbox—home made and then given to a good home when the kids were too big to be nostalgic. I grew up in a smaller home but with a bigger yard, which gave us more room to run around in. That was the biggest disappointment when we moved to this town. I had assumed we’d be able to get a nice big yard for the kids to run around in but that wasn’t possible in anything remotely our price point or at any price in the area we wanted to be in.

    Now we have a couple of raised beds and pots to fill with tomatoes and herbs. We have some fruit trees (dwarf) and flowering bushes and some flower beds that are all perineal except for an occasional pot. It’s enough for us without being too much. No chemicals. But still I do wish it were bigger for dogs.

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    Super Moderator Bronzeage's Avatar
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    How much a person spends to maintain a lawn is completely optional. If you want putting green quality(I've seen it done) it's going to cost a good bit. In my neighborhood, lawns need to be mowed about 9 months out of the year. Watering the lawn means it grows fast, which is crazy, but again, I've seen it done. Grass will turn pale green and brown at the worst, but I've never seen grass die due to lack of water.

    One only needs to look at pastures and meadows which are never artificially watered, but haven't turned into desert landscapes.

    We have a lot of tree cover on many residential lots, which is tough on grass. There are a few ground covers which are leafy vines and grow well in full shade, such as Asian Jasmine and others.

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