Tag Archives: water conservation

Water Conservation …. Lawns

As a landscape architect, I see potential everywhere!  Many times that comes from identifying the problem first. We are experiencing a major drought in California.  The biggest problem I see are all those unused grassy areas in front of most homes.  I want my first blog to be about those lawns and grassy areas that could still be green, just in a different more sustainable way.

Having a lawn is not bad or improper in and of itself.  But, in an arid climate using a lawn as a default planting for 95% of a front landscape requires a staggering amount of water and weekly maintenance. Another waste is seeing grass in a municipal median that is only walked on as it is mowed.   There is nothing like grass for areas that are to be used by families for outdoor activities since, if healthy, can take heavy use. What I want to address is a grassy lawn that is just a visual.

Here are a few suggestions to make your lawn more sustainable.

  •  If the only people who walk on your lawn are the “gardeners”….. let it go. Place a thick layer of mulch until you figure out how the area is to be used.  Stop watering the area.
  • If you use the lawn occasionally for activities or parties, make sure you have a grass that is appropriate for your climate.  For instance, St. Augustine Turf is a tropical grass.  It requires much more water than a typical fescue.   Overseed your lawn with a mixture of drought tolerant seeds.
  • If you have a grassy area that will be kept, then trim it to the proper height.  Ask your gardener to raise his lawn mower blade to 3″, 4″ is better.   This simple task will help your lawn to retain more water.  The longer blades will provide shade for the roots. It will also look more healthy.  It takes more water to regrow from being scalped than it does to maintain a longer blade.  Of course the big problem with this is most gardeners seem to only speak Spanish.  Here is a printable statement you can simply hand to your gardener.  …..Maybe give him an extra $5 tip.

In English:

To help conserve water, please raise mower blade to 3″.  Thank you!

In Spanish: 

Para ayudar a conservar el agua, por favor, levanten la cuchilla de corte a 3 pulgadas. Gracias!  


  • Water less for longer.  Instead of watering 3 times a week, water every two weeks for 20-30 minutes…. or better yet wait until your grass looks like it needs water.  You will be amazed that having the grass trimmed at a constant 3″ requires less water.  …….Water only when necessary.
  •   If water is running over the sidewalk, there are issues with the water percolating into the ground…. If grass is what you want, this may be the perfect time to aerate or till and add organic material to the soil so it can retain the precious moisture it receives.
  • Make sure the irrigation system is fine-tuned to eliminate over spray.  Water early in the morning (remember water fewer times).
  • Plant a tree or a grove of trees to reduce all that hot sun on your house and as the trees grow seed a shady grass mix.
  • Replace the lawn with a ground cover (lawn substitute).

Next time……lawn substitutes

Stephen Swafford

Landscape Architect, Indah Bulan