Case Against Lawns - Waste Water/Kill Bees
Interesting article including tidbits about turf rebate programs. It really is getting to the point where decisions will have to be made on whether we have drinking water or putting greens in our front and backyards.
As a former turfgrass manager I have mixed emotions but do know sprawling lawns make no sense in the context of water rationing or, as is increasingly the case in some parts of the country, water simply not available!
Southwest Texas, for example, is in terrible shape. New Mexico has renamed the river through it the Rio Sand this year. Drought is only part of it. Fracking takes 25 percent of the availed fresh water supply. I live in a State that is draining its aquafores faster than they can replenish. By Supreme Court decision we cannot just take as much of Lake Michigan as we want.
An interesting history of lawns is embedded in a link in the above and published in Scientific American. Here is the direct link.
I do think it is time to rethink how much turf we really need, and ultimately can afford in terms of its extreme resource demands. How about smaller front and backyards in return for more common turf areas.
To brag just a bit, the landscapes I designed during Northern California's first round of water rationing (irony is N California supplies much water to S California but they were never subjected to rationing!) decades ago are still beautiful today. No mow greenery and colorful textures in ground covers and plantings suited to the environment. Watered in gallons per hour via drip irrigation vs gallons per minute as is typical with lawn sprinklers. Nobody hears lawnmowers puffing out hydrocarbons at 8 on Saturday morning and families do not argue about who's turn it is to mow the lawn!
I am 100% in favor of getting rid of my lawn. I do live in an area that really does not have a water problem but I do have about 1/2 acre of yard to go over if I really wanted to get rid of it. How do I cover a 1/2 acre w/o spending a lot of money in the process? Oh how I wish I could just convert it to an artificial turf yard and end all of the misery of mowing/fertilizing./unwanted critters etc.
When I worked with landscape design clients the first step was always to scale the landscape to paper and position the house on it so we could see everything at once so some weekend you might think about that. It will give you hope and something to do in Rochester this winter when you have 12' of snow on the ground.
Then I encouraged clients to be really honest about how much turf they really wanted and were willing to pay for in terms of time spent, and as you say fertilizer, water and critter and bug/disease control. I would hear things like, "We want to have a place for kids to play flag football or volleyball!" and I would suggest growing up my parents had the same logic. Do you know how many times I played football or volleyball at home?
So, I could then take a pencil and sketch some flowing curved lines and show how we might replace lawn with pretty no-mow groundcovers. If you buy from a real nursery in large flats the stuff will not be that expensive and certainly nothing close to maintaining 1/2 acre of turf. There are groundcover societies that will gladly share cuttings. Can you build yourself a coldframe and get some started for free? Ask neighbors with groundcovers you like if you can have some cuttings. Cost you a little in lumber, plastic and potting soil.
Some groundcovers can be grown from seed too and an excellent way to plant them in this manner is with hydroseeding where a slurry of fertilizer, seed and mulch is sprayed on as as crust on prepared soil. It will even stick to slopes and things.
Think about nice flowering shrubs and things. And you know, if it works for you, you would not have to mow a boulder and it can make an interesting grade change and visual element well placed. Dry creek beds with real river washed stones can be beyond pretty and you do not have to mow them either. Friends are in the gallery business so I will plug the idea of buying real outdoor art (not to be confused with tacky lawn ornaments). You should not have to a sculpture either.
I would look into xerescaping or zerescaping (I see both spellings) which is all about using climate adpative plants with elegant landscape design methodology. Your library or extension offices may have pamphlets or book or internet URL lists for your area.
You will need to augment natural rainfall to at least establish things so look online for drip irrigation alternatives. If the basic plumbing connections are beyond you hire a plumber for them but a brain dead chimp can install the rest of drip irrigation components. The Drip Store is a good starting point. Box stores may have some components but usually in kit form and you need only part of the kit. Drip is inexpensive too. In your climate, you just want to make sure you flush the tubing at the end of the season.
You can get drip emitters that mist or even act like little rainbird sprinklers or act like grown up spray sprinklers. They water in gallons per hour not gallons per minute though. I was able to design entire yards with simple emitters between 1-4gph configured as simple drippers or misters but go crazy if you want.
Anyhow measure and scale the yard now. Play with it over the winter, and phase into things starting next spring. You do not have to do it all at once.
I have heard the term xerescaping but I have also seen spellings of xeriscaping and zeroscaping. I have a brother in CO and they have to do minimal lawns there because of water problems. In general they have smaller yards too unless you have a lot of cash.
Funny thing is that I have talked to a couple vendors here (one at a local nursery) and I got the impression from them that lawns were the easiest/cheapest for maintenance. Perhaps I need other opinions.
I have lawn grade challenges as well, especially the BY. Some pics are in this thread:
I am curious if you can provide a link to images where somebody transformed a big yard to something with less grass. In my back yard, I could put in more shrubs but with the weather here (pretty much same as the chicago area) it makes it rough because of the extremes. Having 12" of snow (and ice) on a shrub does not help with keeping it from not being damaged.
I will see if I can plan for next year.
Any idea of how much artificial turf goes for per sq ft?
Now granted, my clients were golf courses, places that sat people on lawns to watch rock concerts and not the usual homeowner but still. I could have you plant and maintain nice groundcover or even flowering shrubs you would never have to mow for a fraction of what it takes to water, feed and maintain tooth. The only other landscape element I can think of more expensive is a swimming pool. And trust me, one would not work out well in Rochester.
Funny you should ask about artificial turf. I just posted something a day or so on this site for a guy that was renting and deciding whether he should seed or plant a little side yard.
Artificial turf has come a long way to looking more like artificial turf. Just like vinyl siding has come to look like vinyl siding when you come close and laminate flooring looks like laminate flooring.
WalMart sells the cheap stuff as do other box stores. The good stuff is complicated with draining underlay materials and prep required. I don't see it working out well over 1/2 acre like real turf.
Box store stuff is cheaper than sod actually. Let me know what you really think of it when 1/2 acre of color just fades out of it. Or you have to buy 400 hundred of those sweater shaver things that shave pills off $10 polyester sweaters.
Not sure recent winters here have been close to where you are. I grew up in Minnesota where feet of snow was not unusual. We have had no snow much here at all since 2010 when I moved to Chicago again, on purpose, save for one nasty storm that buried us completely a couple years ago.
Snow is actually a good, reflective insulator for the appropriate dormant plants by the way. Igloo concept and all that. Thin ice and frost are a whole other story. They zap moisture right out of plant tissue.
Rather than point you to photos of other yards? Why not scale yours out and lets deal with it together here or via PM if you prefer? I like sharing and think others might gain from the experience. I have nothing much but time.
I could send you pictures of my own personal yard but you would be jealous. Seriously, the Chicago Park District does not irrigate most turf but has seen what drought can do. Last year was brutal. I consult on a limited basis as to how to cut back on maintained park turf. I walk a block and am in Lincoln Park. I do miss my own little piece of the earth to mow, but you know? I get over it quickly. Green areas on attached map are turf.
I have mentioned before that my Mother never had children that lived and that she was an analytical chemist that walked around with a circular slide rule to further show good looking women could have a real role in science.
Anyhow, that slide rule is long gone but I, myself, the math idiot and design/art type of the family, think I have come up with a price for the material to cover 1/2 acre with evil and crappy WalFart artificial turf.
$42,570 to $65,475. You asked so do not blush and back away without comment.
This is based on 1/2 acre still being somewhere around 21,825 square feet and artificial turf of WalFart, or Target that treats employees somewhat more fair and with a materials quality best described as what tired 4 year olds in China standing on stools to monitor and adjust the artificial turf production machines? $2-3sf.
This means you just lay the stuff down without the proper substrates by the way. If you put what should go under artificial turf down? Cost could increase 33 or so percent I should think.
You would never have to mow it. I am sure if a deer with a bleeding colon disease or worms in turds just dumped on it you could just rinse it off.
And I am sorry, but the approach shown in the pic just really bothers me. I guess it makes more sense than spending a fortune on 72 hour old sod.
Scale the yard, commit to paper or something and let me help you. The worst is, part of my past could pull a stunt and maybe get you 1/2 acre of faux turf for free. What would you possibly do with it when it failed though. Isn't easier to just picture the house in the photo without so much lawn in the first place? Or non at all?
Funny thing, I actually grew up around Chicago (Joliet). Used to be that we would get a lot of snow. Not so much anymore. Being here for the last 13 years, we used to get a lot of snow during winter. It would snow a little everyday and then we would get storms more frequently. Last season was three storms and minor snow events on occasion. It definitely is different than before. The weather here is typically not as extreme as in Chicago and is usually 5° cooler in summer/5° warmer in winter.
I am surrounding by idjuts I suppose. Thanks for the images though.
I was pretty sure that I was not going to attempt a full lawn of astroturf. The drainage would be a nightmare and costly. I am sure the town here would like to know about it as well. In all, there are other things to spend money on.
I will PM you if I can get some time to draw this up.
It is unfortunate that crabgrass is so derided. I am an expert on growing that stuff. If I could only go back in time and influence others to the benefits of a crabgrass based landscaping...
I biked around Joliet weekends and will never forget one of the most perfect examples of environmental damage allowed. I could describe the giant mollusks that snuck in on foreign boat hulls but until so see millions of the shells, the size of dinner plates almost? I remember the fake water moccasins swimming around the canals too.
Not saying you should grow crabgrass but you rather nailed the concept of xerescaping dead on. Why not incorporate those things that grow without much help in your environment into a nice landscape design? I will walk for some pictures. There is a butt ugly new highrise near me built around the Cabrini shrine. The shrine got all its stained glass restored and I am guessing $xxMillion worth of fitted copper roofing, flashing, gutters, downspouts. The no mow landscape architecture around it all, is stellar.
Not sure what to say about snow here or in Rochester. I grew up in the twin cities of Minnesota where snow to roof line was expected each winter. Damned spoiled kids these days may never see snow storm after snow storm like those that made me a real man. They will never walk five miles barefoot in the snow to school like I did?
Actually, I just loved playing in it, with it or skiing over the top. You would have had to buy snow to pee your name in it or make snowman here the last few years. I still like catching snowflakes with my tongue. Save for the one February storm we got very little. Something is up regardless of political leanings I know.
There's this excellent product called Hydretain I've been using on my trees, going to use it to reseed a lawn. Cuts water usage in half by using organic, food grade, biodegradable, blahblahblah to make the earth hygroscopic. Basically it retains water rather than repelling it, but doesn't stay soggy and saturated so you don't get root rot and fungus. Also, try landscaping with things like blueberry, lavender, etc. I'm a big edible landscaping fan.
I vetted the Hydretain. I'm not a round-up or 2,4-D fan (herbicides) or any sort of pesticide fan (I most prefer pyrethrin, but will avoid pesticides unless necessary); this stuff looks pretty safe. Environmentally harmless and uh... it's not toxic, but it's hygroscopic, so if you drink it be prepared for brown trousers. Don't do that.
Interested in seeing ongoing studies on toxicity, environmental impact, and effectiveness. Effectiveness is the only thing that's well-known right now and it seems to be pretty solid. Toxicity and environmental impact are subtle--things like Round-Up have "no environmental impact" and are considered not toxic, but then you find out that trace amounts linger for years AND they're horribly bad for anything aquatic (so, run-off...) AND the stuff's been building up in our food and has been building up in peoples' blood slowly for 20 years AND it's been having health effects... so you know.
Always interested in new studies on toxicity. Effectiveness is easy: I sprayed this plant and didn't sprayed that plant, this plant survived drought and that plant died, if this happens every friggin' time obviously it works.
But yeah. Plant something other than straight grass. Border with currants, blueberry, miniature pomegranate, lavender, or such. And use something to reduce water usage. It's easy to cultivate a lawn on less.
And to sdester, technically these days you cannot really call Joliet a prison town any longer. The prison downtown on Collins was shutdown several years ago. Also the youth facility on the westside has been shut down as of recent. Even though their is Stateville, that is technically in Crest Hill I believe. But regardless there is less prison stuff these days than before.
And both parents are gone. I really have no direct family back there these days. But it is all good as I do like the weather here a bit better due to not being so extreme.
Some of this
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Just tear out maybe 12, 18, 24 inches of grass next to it, put in some garden soil, manure, compost, whatnot. If you're so inclined, you could put some kind of barrier over that. I'm not.
Use some wood to build up a little border around it.
Plant, mulch, water.
Now you have colorful, awesome-smelling herbs growing around the border. Looks like weeds, kind of.
Recommend Lavendar and Sage for colorful stuff; Spearmint and Chocolate Mint for mints. Be very aware: Mint spreads worse than any weed, you will never rid yourself of it. If you plant it, be ready to control it.
Or not. Do something completely different. But really if you're getting little weeds at the edge, and you plant something else that overshadows and/or chokes them out, problem solved?
Just ideas. Experiment some. This thread looked like it was about how pure, manicured grass lawns were bad. They're certainly boring. But when we're talking about bees, plant more flowers... lavender, foxglove, the like. By the McDonalds here they have a big foxglove, and it always has 4-6 types of bees and butterflies, dozens of insects investigating the flowers. They're decidedly nonthreatening when they're occupied like that--they're not about to come zooming off in your direction, there's ten billion flowers right there!
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