By Drew Knight
For many homeowners, especially those in the western United States, drought problems have left them concerned about water usage and how to sustainably maintain their lawns.
Options like ripping out lawns or installing artificial, plastic grass have been made available to some homeowners, but with the proper maintenance, it’s still possible to keep your lawn thriving.
Below are some tips from Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), about responsible lawn maintenance during a drought:
Tip #1: Plant the Right Plant, Including Grass
Now is a good time to transition to a more drought-friendly grass variety in your yard. Hundreds of varieties of turf grass exist, and some of them are perfect for drought conditions. When established, these grasses require very little water and also will survive foot traffic, children’s play and pets.
Says Kiser: “There are dozens of turf grass species and some of them — like buffalo grass and Bermuda grass — are drought resistant. The key is the right plant for the right place.”
Tip #2: Don’t Over Water
It may be tempting to give your lawn a heavy-duty drink, but stick with what the experts recommend. Make your grass work hard for its water. Grass gets lazy if you water it too much and sends its roots horizontally. With little water, grass will send its roots deeper, vertically, to seek water. Having to work harder makes grass do a better job of sequestering carbon and releasing oxygen.
Tip #3: Let Your Grass Go Brown.
Grass grows in cycles, “turning on and off,” based on the resources it gets. As water becomes less available, grass will slow down, go dormant and turn brown.
“In drought-challenged areas, we have to get out of this mindset that green is what it has to be,” says Kiser. “Plants will brown up in water-challenged areas. Turf grass is incredibly resilient — it will spring back when the rains come.”
Tip #4: Add Biodiversity by Including Flowering Plants
Your lawn is an ecosystem that needs biodiversity. Pollinators such as bees, butterflies and humming birds are a key part of the life cycle and they need flowering plants to survive. Even in the desert, a host of plants flower. Add pollinator plants if you haven’t already.
“If you get rid of your lawn, you are losing the habitat a lawn provides,” Kiser says.
Tip #5: Reduce Heat in Populated Areas With a “Living Landscape”
Living landscapes provide you and your community with a host of benefits. Turfgrasses, like those found in your lawn, dissipate radiant heat through a process called evapotranspiration, helping to cool urban “heat islands.”
“All of those hard surface areas heat up and radiate heat,” Kiser says. “Trees, grass and other plants cool the area around a house. Grass also improves air quality and sequesters carbon, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse gas effect.”
Tip #6: Use Native Plants and Drought-Resistant Adaptive Species in Your Lawn
We no live longer in a native environment. We live in cities and suburbs where we must incorporate both native plants and drought-resistant adaptive plants to offset the concrete, asphalt, people and traffic.
Kiser says there are many options of native and adaptive species that are extremely drought tolerant. In urban areas where you are trying to incorporate plants into an area with a lot of concrete, asphalt, people and traffic, use native plants that can adapt to the setting.
Even in a drought you can have grass and other living plants; you just have to choose the right kind of lawn and care for it properly.
Drew Knight is a Digital Content Associate for New Home Source.