Tag Archives: landscaping

Could You Switch Your Lawn to Native Plants?

I’m kind of sighing here. Due to the homeowner’s association kicking up a fuss over an imperfect lawn – one spot simply refuses to grow grass, despite reseeding and trying to fix the sprinklers, my landlord is resodding the front lawn. If it were my home, I’d be looking at what else could go in there. I have the back lawn for the kids; I’d frankly rather not have a front lawn at all. Put something else in there!

A well watered lawn is attractive in its way. All nice and green. But it’s not green in the sense of being environmentally friendly, as a general rule. Most lawns get treated with harsh chemicals that then wash into sewers with every rain or runoff from the sprinklers. They take huge amounts of clean water, which is horrible for places where water resources are already strained. Most people trim their lawns with lawn mowers that have highly inefficient engines.

In short, they just aren’t that eco friendly, no matter how green the color.

A lawn is not the only path to an attractive front yard, however. If you want an attractive and eco friendly front yard, read up on xeriscaping and find some native plants.

Advantages of Native Plants

Choosing native plants for your landscaping has many advantages. They need little to no water, as they evolved to grow in the area you’re trying to grow them. That’s a nice savings on your water bill.

They’re also better adapted to the soil. This means you won’t need to spend so much time fertilizing them. If you’re using compost from your own kitchen, fertilizing isn’t so bad a deal, but when people use chemical fertilizers, as is far more common with lawns, it’s bad for the environment and frankly unhealthy for the people and pets who have to live with the chemicals there.

You can also find many beautiful native plants. It make take some searching, but most places have native plants available that you will be happy to have growing in your yard. Also plenty you’d be unhappy with, but of course you won’t be growing those.

You also won’t have to worry so much about spraying for bugs. Native plants are used to the local bugs.

You may also attract more local wildlife. This can be both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on your perspective. It’s great to encourage the local wildlife, but let’s face it – a skunk won’t be as welcome as a songbird most places.

What About the Disadvantages?

Native plants aren’t going to be perfect for everyone or every use. There’s a reason why I only want to have a front yard landscaped with native plants.

Most areas don’t have native plants that are good as a lawn, and that means it’s not so good a place for the children to play. That’s important to me as a way to encourage my kids to get outside regularly.

It can be much harder to find local plants that really suit your idea of an attractive yard, as you will have far fewer plants to choose from. This may not be a major issue in some places, but if you have a definite look you’d like to go for, it may be a real challenge.

What About Plants from Other Areas that Are Adapted to the Climate?

Nonnative plants that grow well in your area may also be tempting. They may well be a better choice than trying to grow a lawn in some ways. But they can also be problematic.

Nonnative species can become invasive, pushing out native plants in areas beyond your yard. Seeds don’t just stay put, after all. They get eaten and excreted by animals and bugs. They may get blown around by the wind. They grow where, if you knew about it, you’d really rather they didn’t.

The decision to use nonnative plants should be made carefully. They can allow you to really cut your water use and still have the yard of your dreams, but they aren’t perfect.

Especially in the Western part of the United States, it’s important to cut back on how much lawn area we grow around our homes. It uses too much water and is bad for the environment. Start taking a look at what you’re growing outside your home and start thinking about the best decisions you could make.

Ending on a Lighter Note

I have to note that the resodding is taking a really long time. We visited family over the Mother’s Day weekend, and on the way back home my oldest daughter commented in a rather disgusted tone, “I hope the sodding guys have finished the lawn.”

All parents know how hard it is to not laugh sometimes.

Is it Reasonable to Expect that Southern Californians Keep a Green Lawn?

In Orange, CA, there’s a couple who has been charged for not having at least 40% of their yard covered by live landscaping. They had taken the lawn out and replaced it with wood chips to save on water. Many would consider this to be a brilliant move in a drought prone area.

Not the city of Orange, however. They’re charging the homeowner with a misdemeanor. City codes require that 40% coverage. Even his attempt at putting in drought tolerant plants after their first complaint hasn’t been enough to satisfy the city.

Frankly, I find this ridiculous. Southern California is highly prone to droughts, and the situation in recent years has been bad enough for many areas to institute rules about when you can and cannot water your yards. Anyone who finds something other than a lawn to put in is exhibiting good sense in such an area.

This is one city that needs to take a good look at what that requirement really means and if it is reasonable in this day and age. California has been suffering from years of drought, and even the occasional wet year isn’t enough to make up for the many dry ones.

Even the Rockies, where California gets much of its water has been having drought problems.

I wonder what Orange would think if instead of wood chips they had put in one of those artificial lawns. Odds are that no one would have noticed. The yard would have looked nice and green.

That doesn’t mean that artificial lawns are better than wood chips. It just point up the ridiculousness of assuming that you can tell right away.

It’s time for Californians in general, and especially southern Californians to recognize that they need to reconsider lawns. Cities need to figure out water saving landscaping guidelines, and scrap old ones that discourage people from putting in wood chips or other drought tolerant landscaping features.

The same goes for homeowner’s associations. Many neighborhoods have homeowner’s associations do much the same thing, where all homes must have a green lawn. It’s a poor requirement in this day and age for the area.

It would be better for cities to give classes on how to beautifully landscape a yard in ways that use less water. Encouraging homeowners to think beyond lawns would help with water shortages and encourage greater variety in how yards are landscaped.

I would love for this case to be the first step in challenging the law in Orange that requires a particular amount of live planting in yards. We Californians really need to think about our water use. It is not a reasonable expectation that we have green lawns here.