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Pass On Grass

In the 70s, a bunch of hippies in the mile-high city of Denver came up with a great idea. Tasked by the water department to find a way to conserve the city’s liquid resources, they coined the term “xeriscape” (from the Greek xeros, meaning “dry”) and began a movement toward embracing the wild beauty of plants that thrive naturally in the area and moving away from planting thirsty, non-native grass.  For poetry’s sake, we’ll say passing on grass is also a groovin’ way to stick it to the Man, add some magical mystery to your house, and save on bread.  Dig?

Now just because you may not live in a dry area doesn’t mean xeriscaping isn’t for you.  Like we said, going grassless also sets you apart from the endless rows of cookie-cutter lawns in your ‘hood, gives you a garden to get lost in (all the best stories have gardens), and saves you cash.  Here’s how it works.

Xeriscaping 101 teaches a few basic things: landscape with plants native to your area, decorate with pretty stones and pavers to cut down on grassy square footage, mulch like crazy, and arrange your garden strategically.  For example, use low-water plants on the west and south walls of your abode and plants that need more water on the north and east walls.  Simple, right?  The idea is to avoid mixing plants that have different watering needs, thereby reducing the overall amount of water that is ultimately wasted.  Get it?

“But isn’t water renewable?” you ask.  Yes, it is, but purifying and distrubuting it uses energy that is not.  And, using low-water, native plants can also reduce the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, and growth-aid chemicals that usually go with getting grass and non-native flowers to grow.  That saves you money and lessens your impact on the environment. When planted correctly, xeriscapes even cut the amount of time you spend hunched over in the sun, coaxing your plants to flourish, or choking on the fumes of your lawnmower.

Of course, the first step in cashing in on the benefits of moving toward a more sustainable lawn is to gather more information.  There are a few cool sites that have simple, practical ideas (like eartheasy.com), but be aware as you search for more information that xeriscaping is currently most popular in the western states, and, while much of the information about specific plants to use cites varieties that are drought-resistant, the key is to find plants native to your own area.

If you’re thinking you could get into this whole no-grass thing but don’t have the time or money for a major landscaping project right now, kudos to you!   There’s no need to shut down your computer and go rip up your lawn today, just test it out in a small area the next time you feel like getting dirty in your yard.  If you don’t have a grassy field in your domain at this point, that’s cool, too.  Sometimes just knowing about alternatives is the right step for now.

Photo credit: wfrc.org

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