Save Water by Replacing your Lawn with a Native Garden

Water–It keeps us hydrated, clean, refreshed.  Not only that, it is the reason our planet even has life…

It was a gift from the icy asteroids that collided with Earth 4.6 billion years ago and it is our most precious resource.  Unfortunately, with the combination of population growth and global warming, we are seeing a significant decrease in our water supply all across the world.  As Californians we know this first hand.  We have had 5 long years of drought and even government enforced restrictions. So what are we going to do about it?  What habits are we going to change?  What we have to realize first is that water is a finite resource…We aren’t getting any more of it so we have to protect what we have left, and we have reached the point where it isn’t a choice anymore.

California is actually at risk for desertification.  Which means our delicate ecosystems filled with  wildflowers, hawks, bears, and redwoods could all disappear and our landscape could end up  looking like a vast, open expanse, where almost no plant would grow.

Okay, enough doom and gloom…It hasn’t happened yet and it doesn’t have to end up that way. There are concrete actions you can take to save significant amounts of water and if we all do our part, our combined efforts can add up to stopping the degradation of our beautiful land, saving California’s ecosystems, and keeping our water supply at a safe level for generations to come.

Now we all have to shower, flush the toilet, brush our teeth..let’s not stop doing those things. Besides making sure our indoor water use is efficient, there’s not much we can change about it. So let’s focus our conservation efforts where we can actually make a dent.  Outside.  More than 50% of our residential water use is outdoors and most of that goes to watering lawns.  A small lawn of 1,000 square-feet uses about 50,000 gallons of water per year. But that is only if the lawn isn’t over-irrigated, which, most are and end up using more like 75,000 gallons a year.

Now, I just have to say… another reason to remove your lawn is that…lawns…are boooring! What if we all had little oak woodlands in our front yards, with butterflies and hummingbirds fluttering about?  Take a minute and imagine that neighborhood. Isn’t it so much more beautiful than a bunch of flat square green plots? We can make that happen. By replacing your lawns with California native gardens, we can reconnect with nature and make our state somewhat resemble what it looked like before all of this development.

The reason to choose native plants over just any plant from the nursery with a drought-tolerant label on it is because natives have adapted to our specific climate. Next time you take a walk in nature, look at the leaves of the plants that are around. Most of them are small, hard, and waxy. These are adaptations that prevent water loss by cooling the plant and locking in moisture. You’ll also see a lot of plants with a bluish gray hue, that is an adaptation to reflect sunlight. The most interesting adaptation by far is solar tracking. Manzanitas do this. If you look at a Manzanita’s leaves in the morning, while it’s still cool outside, its leaves will be horizontal to take in the most amount of sun for photosynthesis, but in the middle of the day when it is the hottest, those same leaves will be standing upright to minimize sun exposure.

Isn’t that smart?

If you plant a garden with all natives you will have to water it for the first dry season so that the roots can get established, but after that, you can literally turn your irrigation off and they will grow and thrive and stay beautiful.

Greener Environments just completed a lawn removal for a pretty typically sized lawn, and replaced it with natives. We do a lot of these types of projects, but for this one, we ran the numbers. The annual water savings, I’m talking just one year, added up to a person being able to take a shower every day for 12 years. Think about that for a minute… when this Native garden has been around for 7 years and is  big and lush and beautiful, it has saved enough water for one person to shower for their entire life. And that’s just one lawn! Imagine the savings if we could convert entire neighborhoods, cities, the entire state. Think about where we might be in our water crisis if we could save that much water?

Now, many people don’t remove their lawn simply because they don’t have the budget for it, but California offers rebates of $2 per square foot for removing your lawn. That can pay for a significant portion of your lawn conversion.  Pair that with lower water bills and maintenance costs, and you will end up saving money in the long run.

With lawns using so much water, gorgeous native plants to choose from, and rebates, there is no reason to not remove your lawn. I for one don’t want to let go of a California that is as beautiful as it is now.  And more importantly, I want my son to enjoy it, and for his children, and their children to enjoy nature in this way.  It is an integral part of our make up to be connected to nature so let’s keep our natural ecosystems alive.

Next time your drinking a glass of water take a moment to really appreciate it, it is a miracle that has allowed us to sustain life on our planet. Let’s remember that throughout the day and take special care to conserve this precious resource.