“Should I Remove My Lawn?”

Updated: 6/24/2016

The California landscape is changing. Lawn removals are the new buzz and the look of the front yard is evolving at a fast pace.

Have you considered tearing up your turf but you are still on the fence about it? If so, you are not alone. People are still in love with their lawns, and that is understandable, but if you read on you might be convinced that removing your lawn will be an improvement in your life.

The Problem With Lawns

Water Loving LawnA 1,000 sq. foot lawn uses 45,000 gallons of water per year, and that’s if it isn’t over irrigated. It is estimated that 60% of people over irrigate their lawn, which, if it is 1,000 sq feet, will use more like 75,000 gallons a year.

Not only do lawns use a ton of water, but they cost money. Most people pay someone to mow it for them which can cost anywhere from $600 to $3,000 per year!

Since most lawns are made up of non-native grass, they require fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides to stay healthy. This contributes to chemical pollution in our groundwater.

Even though we are getting some much needed rain this winter, the fact remains that we live in a dry climate. Hot, long, dry summers are the norm and long multi-year droughts are a common theme here in California. Experts predict that these droughts are only going to become more severe. With California’s precarious and ongoing water issues, we must do every little thing we can to conserve this vital resource.  Many well-meaning Californians out there still have a water loving lawn that is costing them too much time, effort, and money to maintain. Replacing these lawns with drought resistant, water-wise landscapes is a win, win, win for the homeowner, our communities, and future generations of Californians.

So why isn’t everyone rushing out to remove their lawns? I talk to people on a daily basis about lawn removals and these are the typical answers I get:

1. The “status quo” in their neighborhood is still a green lawn and they don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.

2. They don’t like “drought-tolerant” plants.

3. They love their lawn.

4. El Nino weather will make lawns viable again.

5. Their lawn is easy to care for.

6. The cost of removing their lawn and doing an entire landscape overhaul is way too expensive.

Let’s tackle these issues one at a time and see if we can change some minds out there.

“Nobody else in our neighborhood has removed their lawn”

The simple solution to this problem, is to be bold, and become a trendsetter. The front yard lawn in California will soon be a thing of the past. Based on the number of people I speak to who are interested in removing their lawn, I can guarantee you that you aren’t the only one on your block who is thinking of changing their front yard landscape. Once you do it, others will follow. Eventually, your neighborhood will reach a tipping point, where the new normal is a gorgeous California native plant filled front yard.



“I don’t like drought-tolerant plants”

I’ve noticed that when people say these words to me, they are usually mistaken as to what a drought-tolerant landscape looks like. What they usually have in mind is an Arizona cactus farm rock-scape. Sorry Arizona, but I would have to agree that this type of landscape is not very appealing or inviting. We want to be around lush greenery and vibrantly colored flowers, don’t we? Well, the fantastic news is that we live in California where some of the most beautiful plants are from. Plants like California fuchsia, Sticky Monkey Flower, Salvia, Manzanita, and the list goes on and on. We live in an area where there is an abundance of gorgeous native plants to choose from that will thrive without any summer irrigation.

C. praegracilis, mowed and non-mowed (Photo: David Fross)

C. praegracilis, mowed and non-mowed (Photo: David Fross)

“But I love my lawn”

Of course you do. It is really nice to have a big green space to lay down and sun bathe in, have your children run around in, have barbecues, etc. The lawn is an all American ideal, and that is a difficult thing to let go of. But what if I told you that you can have your cake and eat it too? There are lawn-alternatives out there that can give you that open green meadow look that we are hard wired to be attracted to. For example, Carex praegracilis is a sedge that you can plant in a mass to give you a lawn. You can even mow it to keep it short, or let it grow long to give it a fluffy look and feel.

There are many more native grasses to choose from that can be planted to form a water-wise lawn. They are easy to install, use much less water than a traditional lawn, are simple and cheap to maintain, and look great!

 “Isn’t the drought over, we had an El Nino year right?”

We had some much needed rain this past winter and the short term effects are certainly beneficial. However, since we’ve been in a record breaking drought the past four years, it’s going to take more than a few rainy months to make up for it. We are still in a substantial rain deficit. To make matters worse, scientists are predicting a La Nina in the fall and continued long term drought-like conditions in California.

This is why it’s so crucial for all of us to act now to conserve the water that is available. For ourselves and future generations of Californians, it’s our duty to manage our resources responsibly.

“My lawn is easy to maintain and I’m not sure how to care for other plants”

If you thought your lawn was easy to maintain, just wait until you see how carefree a native landscape can be! Lawns not only require constant watering to stay healthy, but they need regular mowing, fertilization, herbicides, aerating, and reseeding of dead spots.

Water-wise landscapes, on the other hand, are amazingly resilient and low-maintenance. Most of the landscapes we install require no ongoing weekly or biweekly maintenance like lawns do. You can get away with a little pruning and raking here and there and your landscaping will look great. We use biodegradable weed barrier with thick mulch to control weeds and native plants don’t need any fertilizer. Different plants flower at different times of year making your yard a dynamic living slice of nature rather than a static expanse of turf.

Making the switch from a lawn will either save you a ton of time by not having to work out in the yard as often, or it will save you a ton of money by not having to pay someone to do all that maintenance.

“It’s too expensive”

This is probably the biggest hindrance for people wanting to remove their lawn. Luckily, there are rebates out there to help out with the cost. Depending on where you live, you can get up to $2,000 back for removing your lawn. Not to mention the thousands you’ll save on your water bill and lowered maintenance costs.

But the really, really good news here, is that we’ve made it our personal goal to help homeowners manage the costs of lawn conversions. We’ve partnered with Ygrene, a financing company that helps homeowners fund energy or water conserving home improvement projects. They offer 100% financing with low interest rates. What’s better is that you can sometimes get tax breaks for using this type of financing, which lowers the cost even more. Also the payments stay with the home, so if you are planning on selling the house later on, you won’t have to carry around that loan.

One of our clients recently funded their project through Ygrene and now pays just $75/month for her new landscaping. That’s less than what she was paying every month for someone to come mow her lawn. Good deal, right?


Garden1If you would like to learn more about how to remove your water-loving lawn, and replace it with beautiful, lush, and colorful native plants, then give us a call at (805)400-4140, and we will get you started.

Hopefully we have successfully tackled these issues and you can see how easy it is to go lawn-less in California. Get off the fence, and onto the grass. And then tear it out!