Whether homeowners redo their lawns DIY or hire a company, here are a few options for replacing water-hungry turf grass:
1. Artificial Turf
Made famous on sports fields, synthetic grass, or astroturf, is becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners, from California to Virginia. A lot of research has gone into the material in recent years, to make it softer underfoot and to reduce the temperature it achieves under intense sun. There has also been controversy around potential health risks, especially to children, from the chemicals that make up the material but as we have covered in previous posts the EPA has deemed these chemicals safe for children and animals.
Instead of grass, a wide range of ground covers can be used to keep out weeds and reduce erosion, which would otherwise be a problem if people suddenly ripped out their grass. Alternatives include rocks and mulch, some of which can be locally sourced. Crushed shells are popular for properties near a beach. Sand also is an option, particularly for those going for a Zen garden look.
3. Native Plants
Many traditional nurseries offer plants that are native to a local area. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and require little or no watering to thrive, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Native plants also can provide habitat for local birds, mammals, and insects. They typically earn points for green certification systems like LEED or can help homeowners achieve a “wildlife friendly” designation from their state or a nonprofit.
4. Drought-Tolerant Grasses and Shrubs
In addition to native plants, homeowners also can choose from a wide range of drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs from around the world. Examples include lavender, sage, kangaroo paw, and tea tree.
Drip irrigation systems are typically installed with each project because the new plants should be watered sparingly for six months. Operated by an automatic, solar-powered controller, the system drips a few gallons a month to the plant roots. After six months, the plants don’t need to be watered at all.
In contrast, a traditional sprinkler system uses 40 to 100 gallons of water an hour. And about half of that water is typically wasted due to evaporation, wind, and runoff, reports the EPA.
5. Desert Plants
People can exchange grass for such water-sippers as succulents and cactus. These plants are often widely available at nurseries, and they can be kept in pots and moved indoors during colder months in cooler climates. They can be used in large numbers or as accents.