Lawns seem to have become the eye of a firestorm. As water resources become more and more limited, our lawns are being cast as bad guys that need to be corralled.
But hang onto that lasso, Bubba. Before you tighten that noose and reduce or eliminate the lawn in your life, you may want to consider a few facts.
Oh, sure. We’ve been in a drought, and that brings the temptation to eliminate all plants that require more than a minimum of our valuable water.
The scope of my message here will be to try to get us to landscape (and “lawnscape”) to the mid-point, not to the extremes.
When we experience prolonged wet periods, we don’t rush to convert everything to wetland gardens, and when it’s dry, we shouldn’t try to emulate the look of West Texas, either. This isn’t West Texas, and those plants are not native here for one or more reasons.
So, getting back to the subject of turf grass, many vocal critics hold it accountable for all of our current water shortages. (Although they may be losing sight of the fact that local growth has far outpaced additional sources of water.) You hear figures saying that outdoor watering accounts for two-thirds or three-quarters of all the water consumption in Southern states during the summer.
Those figures are probably correct, but there are remedies available. Before we start ripping out large parts of our lawns, we need to be honest — we waste water. We could reduce water consumption for irrigation by 40 or 50 percent without having any measurable impact on the looks of our landscapes. That’s how badly we overwater our plants.
Smart controllers on sprinkler systems could help us meet that goal. So could smart people in charge of water faucets. If we learn the symptoms of plants that need water, then wait to irrigate until we see those symptoms starting to appear, we could save hundreds of dollars and thousands of gallons.
If we would be willing to make those few significant changes in how we water our lawns, we could still have healthy turf grass and ample water for all of our other needs.
Why lawns are important
Lawns are our friends. They’re worth the effort, and here are a few reasons why.
Water flowing off a grassy hill is usually almost clear (free of sediment), while water coming off bare ground or ground covered with stone may have significant loads of eroding topsoil. And there will be far less water exiting the grassy slope than a hard-surface hill anyway.
The main reason most people want lawns
The prime benefit we get from having attractive, vigorous turf grass, however, is the look it brings to our home and to our neighborhood. It’s where we play. It’s where we have parties. It surrounds our pool and our patio, and it sets the pace for a nice, relaxing time in our own personal meadows.
The takeaway from all of this, then, is that there is ample room for turf grass, decorative stone, handsome and lush shrubs, and even, in proper planting spots, xerophytic plants in every North Texas landscape. Enjoy them all.
Hopefully you won’t take out all of your turf grass. You might be giving up a valuable asset for something that wouldn’t serve you nearly as well.