Alternatives to a grass yard; save water and biodiversity
In 2021, most of Utah was experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions. In addition, the current snow-water equivalents for the 2021-2022 winter season are lower than normal throughout much of the state as of mid-December, a worrying sign of what may be in store in 2022.
In a dry state, saving water when able is essential, especially with the growing population and that puts additional strain on our reservoirs. Turfgrass lawns are a huge source of residential water waste in Utah. Are you interested in lowering your water use, protecting biodiversity, and saving money and time? Here are some tips!
- Think of the amount of grass that you truly need (say, for a family pet or for playing outside) and remove the rest. If available, consider using communal spaces like community parks as your playground where the water use is shared.
- A grass yard will not provide much habitat or resources for biodiversity (e.g., mammals, birds, and insects). In areas that do not need to be grass, consider annual flowers, shrubs, or shade trees that can provide food and shelter to our furry, feathery, and many-legged friends.
- When replacing grass with plants, select drought-resistant trees, shrubs, and flowers that are native to Utah. It’s harder to maintain plants that aren’t adapted to thrive here!
- If flowering plants, trees, or shrubs aren’t your cup of tea, consider zero-scaping. Zero-scaping uses gravel and plants that require zero supplemental water use. It’s mostly management-free, and still provides a bit of shelter for some wildlife.
- If the lawn must be retained, water in the cooler parts of the day (i.e., early morning and late evening) to improve the penetration of water into the soil. If you water during the hottest parts of the day, water will quickly be lost to evaporation.
- During drought years, prioritize watering to high-value trees and shrubs instead of grass. The grass will be more resilient than you think! And it’s much easier to replace than a large tree.
We all must do our part to save water where able. If we all practice these strategies now, it will prepare us for a year when there just isn’t enough water for all of us.