Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Urban Garden V5: Does Your Lawn Drink Responsibly?



Drinking responsibly is a term we often hear associated with our favorite Cosmo or Lite Beer, but not often associated with our lawns. 96% of Southern California lawns are using grasses that originated in wetter climates.  The average lawn of 650 square feet will cost you about $60.00 per month on your water bill and uses 316 gallons of water.  They are truly clunkers and “gas guzzlers”.  Like many of our new hybrid cars, there are lawn alternatives that can lower your bill by costing only $10.00 per month and use about 52 gallons of water.

Let’s look at these alternatives:


Buffalograss (Buchloe Dactyloides) My first choice as a lawn substitute, is the only turf grass that is native to the United States. UC Verde is the only buffalograss cultivar developed in California for our state's climates. Developed from a turf grass improvement program at the University of California Davis and Riverside campuses, a truly remarkable alternative lawn was born. The vegitatively propagated, seedless, warm-season grass called UC Verde is the only buffalo grass developed in southwest for the vast majority of our climates.
In trials UC Verde has done well along the California coast and claims to tolerate the intense heat in the lower valley of Arizona and California low desert. With a deep root system of 6-8 feet, it uses only 1/4 inch of water per week.
Known for its high turf density and soft bright green very fine leaf blades it has the best visual rating among the warm season grass group. With a slow vertical growth habit, peaking at 4" to 6" tall, UC Verde requires no set cutting schedule. For a manicured lawn, once a month is sufficient.

Carex praegracilis (California Field Sedge) - A short, rich green sedge selected by John Greenlee as an alternative to turf grass. Growing to 6-8 inches tall and spreading by rhizomes to form a carpet that tolerates moderate foot traffic. A good plant as a solid ground cover, between and around stepping stones or mixed with other bulbs, perennials and grasses to create a natural meadow look. It tolerates full sun to partial shade but has a period of summer dormancy in warmer, drier climates. Moderate water requirements make this plant not quite drought tolerant but certainly lower than most lawn grasses.

Carex pansa (California Dune Sedge) - pansa and praegracillis are often confused by horiculturalists and nurseries alike.  The confusion lays on how praegracillis was developed from pansa and then introduced as pansa.  The key difference is that pansa prefers sandier soils, while praegracillis is more adaptive to many soils.





Dymondia margaretae (Silver Carpet) - This is a slowly spreading, very flat (just a few inches tall at best) ground cover with 1-2 inch long narrow leaves that are green on top and white tomentosa beneath. Though flat to the ground the white undersides are exposed to view as the leaf margins edges roll up and inward, particularly when grown dry, giving the plant an appearance of being variegated. Small yellow daisy flowers bloom amongst the foliage in summer. Dymondia prefers full sun with some shade break and seems to tolerate very light traffic.  I have mostly used this plant between stepping stones, pavers or flagstones. Lately, I have spec.-ed it out for a full lawn replacement and looks best with boarder planting bed.

It is my hope through this series of articles that you will be inspired to look for new directions in sustainable gardening and landscaping practices. The face of San Diego is changing as water diminishes and urban sprawl continues to grow. Be inspired and make a change!