Replace Your Turf: 6 Water-Saving Alternatives
Wide expanses of lush green lawn have been an American landscape staple for decades, and nationwide nearly 47 million acres of land are devoted to turf. Times have changed, however, and factors ranging from drought conditions to stringent water restrictions have many homeowners seeking alternatives to traditional turf.
You can conserve water and reduce landscape maintenance requirements with these replacement options:
- Gravel and rock. Replacing turf with gravel, crushed rock or similar materials will reduce your landscape’s water and maintenance requirements. Install gravel pathways, use crushed rock as durable mulch around foundation plantings, spruce up a wayward side yard, or expand your outdoor living space with a stone and gravel patio.
- Low-growing ground covers. From dense mats of creeping perennials to drought-tolerant sedums, the possibilities are endless. The key is to choose varieties that suit your climate and performance needs. Some species flower, others are evergreen, and still others are fragrant. Some handle foot traffic quite well, while others don’t. For the best results, consider hardy, drought-tolerant varieties native to your climate.
- Mondo grass. Related to the lily family, mondo grass is an evergreen plant not a grass. It thrives in moderate to warm climates and forms dense clumps that help reduce erosion. Most varieties produce small flower spikes in summer, and dwarf versions stay short and compact. Mondo grass has low to moderate water requirements, but it doesn’t tolerate much foot traffic, so use it in lieu of turf along walkways, near fence lines or under trees.
- Mulch. This is one of the quickest ways to reduce overall water demands and maximize moisture retention. To shrink lawn areas and preserve the basic landscape design, simply expand the size of existing mulched beds. Use it to disguise bald patches and eliminate patchy grass under trees, in shady corners or where routine foot traffic has formed a pathway.
- Permeable pavement. Federal and state governments have been experimenting with permeable pavements for some time, and these products have begun finding their way into residential applications in recent years. While the specifics vary, pervious asphalt and cement formulations can be used to replace turf with a paved but water permeable surface.
- Synthetic grass. Artificial grass has come a long way since it was first introduced in the 1960s. Modern versions feature improved construction methods and longer, finer fibers that more closely resemble natural turf. This is a particularly good option for children’s play areas or open spaces used for casual sports practice or neighborhood games.
For every square foot of traditional turf you convert to a low- or no-water alternative, you save about 55 gallons of water a year. Make a few small changes now, and in 12 months you could easily reduce your water consumption by 20,000 gallons or more.