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The ideal home several decades ago had a green lawn and a white picket fence. While many homes still have a broad expanse of lawn in front and in back, yards in which some or all of the grass has been removed are becoming more popular.
Some of the popularity stems from the need to save water. Watering a 1,000 square-foot green lawn requires 30,000 gallons every year. For context, a person standing in a shower all day and all night for eight days would use roughly that amount. Green lawn replacement obviously cuts down on water usage, and that’s an important consideration — especially in drought-stricken areas like California. But it’s also important to homeowners everywhere interested in natural resource conservation.
Other factors driving the popularity of less grass in yards are the time savings and the movement toward native plants and grasses.
Remember, you don’t have to make an either-or decision about whether to remove grass or not. Many homeowners choose to remove just part of their lawn. They fill the remaining space with either hardscape, such as paved paths or gravel, or softscape, such as shrubs and plants.
Should you think about removing grass in your yard? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
A few of the benefits of removing some of your lawn include:
Turf grass, which is the official name for the “green lawn” image that comes to mind, is one of the most water-intensive plantings. Whether you’re in a drought area or not, you are using plenty of water to keep your grass green, and you’re paying for it as well.
One popular solution is to remove part of a turf grass lawn and replant using native plants. Depending on your area, native plants can save up to 75 percent of the water used on a green lawn. You can also save water by hardscaping some of the land. Gravel and concrete do not take water at all!
Reducing Pesticide and Herbicide Use
Another popular reason for removing lawns is that keeping them green and weed-free may require use of both pesticides and herbicides. These have harsh chemicals that are anything but green. They are often made from petroleum products, which is a fossil fuel whose use contributes to global warming. Less lawn equates to less use of pesticides and herbicides.
Be aware, of course, that if your lawn is replaced by plants, trees or shrubs, you may also be using pesticides and herbicides on them. But more environmentally friendly ways to cut down on weeds, such as mulching, do exist. You can also plan your new yard with hardy plants that require little use of pesticides and herbicides.
Being Kind to Pollinators
Many plants need pollinators, like bees, butterflies and birds to propagate. If your yard is entirely turf grass, it’s not a haven for pollinators.
But replacing no more than 50 percent of the lawn area with flowering native plants means you can attract pollinators. You’re being environmentally conscious in two ways if you do. One, you are saving on water, pesticides and herbicides. Two, you are providing a home for pollinators, which are necessary for the continuation of plants.
Less Work to Maintain Your Yard
Removing part of your green lawn means removing the work that goes along with it. No more mowing or edging — at least for the part you have taken out.
If work is a concern, you may choose to replant the area of your yard with low-maintenance shrubs or bushes. You will have to water and prune, but that’s often far less work than turf grass or flowering plants.
Some of the drawbacks to removing part of your lawn are:
Contributing to Environmental Damage
Turf grass has positive environmental qualities. It keeps soil in place, for one. Soil erosion can result if the earth is open and not watered. Soil, like water, is a natural resource. Its conservation with turf grass is a good thing. Turf grass also prevents rain runoff. Especially when rain is heavy, it can run off a hardscape or water-resistant plants. This wastes water.
Keeping up to 50 percent of your turf grass minimizes these possibilities. You can also combat water runoff by keeping rain barrels to catch rain. You then use the rainwater for watering the lawn. It’s free and environmentally conscious.
Reducing the Aesthetics and Utility of Green Lawns
Although more mixed yards are gaining in popularity, many people still love green lawns. They like the look of a sweep of green. They like the way the yard smells after being mowed. They like to play lawn tennis — yes, it’s a thing — or croquet. Babies can walk on lawns — hardscapes, not so much.
Of course, keeping part of the lawn retains those cool qualities. Part of planning can be to keep enough turf grass for tennis and a baby’s first steps.
Increasing Home Sale Time
When people look for a home with a yard, they often expect to see a home with green grass. Having part of your yard with other types of softscapes or hardscapes might not be to some people’s taste.
It’s like having an unusual feature inside your home. Some potential buyers might love it, but it might turn some folks off. The same goes for a home with less of a lawn, and it means it might take longer to sell your home as it will cater to a more specific buyer.
Should you replant part of your lawn? Only you can determine the balance of pros and cons for your lifestyle. Our itemization of benefits and drawbacks should help you decide.
Megan Wild improves homes by focusing on increasing their sustainability and finding new ways to repurpose old materials. When she’s not holding a hammer, you can find her writing up her ideas and thoughts for her blog, Your Wild Home, and read all of Megan's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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