Lawns. We like ‘em. We’ve always had them. Now with water shortages comes the strong recommendation that we conserve water by converting to a water-wise landscape to reduce use by as much as 50 percent. Our first thought is we don’t like the idea. Seems austere and not as attractive, boring . It doesn’t have to be those any of these things.
For starters, let’s consider where that “lawn” idea originated. Started in Europe -which made sense because of the moist, mild, climate which supported close-cut grasslands. In the 16th century France and England, lawns were cultivated to demonstrate landowner wealth. It told everybody you had lots of land, lots of land you could afford to lay idle and only the rich could afford to hire the number of workers needed to maintain the grass.
After WWII in the U.S., residential lawns gained popularity as homeowners sought an alternative to the stark nature of the factories in which they worked. With the development and mass-production of lawn mowers, came the development and mass-production of lawns. As suburban housing communities grew, each featured the neatly trimmed green landscape of the yard.
So that’s how it happened. Now we’re trying to trend in a different direction. We’re still looking for beauty in our home landscape, just a little less water intensive to maintain.
First, we’d like to bust some myths as you mull the aesthetics and the investment of the xeriscaped “lawn”:
1. Xeriscaping is just cactus and gravel
Actually too much gravel can increase the temperature around plants, resulting in even more water use. Organic mulches, like bark, are better as they retain water.
Also it doesn’t have to be all cacti and succulents. There are numerous plants, from annuals and perennials to grasses, shrubs and trees that thrive in a xeriscape setting. Some may be native to your area but they don’t have to be. Your local garden shop can help you.
2. Xeriscape gardens are only rock gardens
There are lush tropical xeriscapes, Mediterranean desert xeriscapes, Rocky Mountain xeriscapes, woodland xeriscapes, or formal and informal xeriscapes. Your limit is your creativity.
3. You can’t have a lawn with xeriscaping
In fact, existing lawns may be reduced and new lawns may an alternative turf type to include native grasses, which are less demanding of water. Think less lawn, not lawn-less
4. Xeriscapes are non-water landscapes
Nope. The term ‘xeriscape’ focuses on water conservation through water-efficient landscaping. Appropriate irrigation and water-harvesting techniques are an integral part of this concept. Xeriscaping refers to the design of landscapes and gardens that minimize the requirements for water, not eliminating them.
5.Xeriscaping is expensive and hard to maintain
Not true. Xeriscaping can cost far less both to build and maintain than traditional landscaping. A good water-wise landscape can reduce expensive automatic irrigation as well as weekly mowing maintenance.
So what else do you get with Xeriscape?
Saves Water - Over 50% of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 50 - 75%.
Less Maintenance - Maintenance is minimal. Watering requirements are low, and can be met with simple irrigation systems.
No Fertilizers or Pesticides - Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements.
Improves Property Value - Quality Xeriscape can raise property values which more than offset the cost of installation.
Pollution Free - Fossil fuel consumption from gas mowers is minimized or eliminated with smaller turf areas.
Provides Wildlife Habitat - Use of native plants, shrubs and trees offer a familiar and varied habitat for local wildlife.
So before you completely chuck the Xeriscape idea, re-consider any misconceptions and review the benefits. Give yourself the opportunity for less water, less work and less wallet!
The MuniApp LLC management team has been a trusted outsourcing partner with municipalities since 1996, providing customer service, meter reading and field services. With our proven technology, management and data analysis skills we have delivered significant monetary value for utilities and their customers. Visit us at www.muniapp.net and see the customer engagement application we are deploying in the U.S. and South America.