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See and believe: Drought-tolerant landscapes

GRN Reports In Texas, many reservoirs are several feet below their conservation pool level, meaning tight watering restrictions will continue in most cities in the arid parts of the state....

GRN Reports

In Texas, many reservoirs are several feet below their conservation pool level, meaning tight watering restrictions will continue in most cities in the arid parts of the state.

Arizona and Colorado also will be pinching water as experts are scratch their heads for solutions in an area that has so taxed the Colorado River, it slows to a trickle in places. With demand from farms, ranches and residents exceeding the water’s capacity, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to massive municipal users like Phoenix.

Now comes California, facing an historic, disastrous drought this summer of 2014. Farmers are paring back their plantings as state as officials urge residents to take fewer showers, flush the toilet less and convert to no-water landscapes.

Lawn Gone -- Austin Bluebonnets

Bluebonnets are the Texas state flower. They’re a good choice for front yard beds because the plants stay green all season even after spring blooms have gone. (Photo: GRN)

So let’s talk about those landscapes. Homeowners in the Southwest typically expend 30 and up to 70 percent of the water they use on their outdoor environment. Why? Because many defied nature and blanketed their yards down with exotic turf grass, such as Bermuda or St. Augustine, that need big gulps of regular watering as well as fertilizing.

There are two main ways to beat a thirsty lawn into submission, says Bill Neiman, co-owner of Native American Seed: Reduce the amount of turf in the yard and/or convert to native grass mixes that Neiman and others have developed. Native grasses, once established, thrive on the natural rainfall in the Southwest and prairie states.

Here’s the story in pictures, taken mainly in Austin, Texas, where water scarcity long ago dictated that homeowners pay attention. These lawns are purposely not the fanciest you could see, but represent doable, affordable conversions.

Lawn Gone -- crushed Austin chalk with feather grasses

This home, north of the UT campus, has replaced grass with crushed Austin chalk, creating a Hill Country beach with native plants.

LAWN GONE -- rocks under a mighty oak, Austin

Rocks take out turf outside this West Austin cottage as well, but a massive oak for shade mitigates any heat island concerns. Do you agree, this is a beautiful aesthetic?

LAWN GONE -- San Antonio

Skipping down to San Antonio, there are plenty of lawn conversions. This one presents a dab of color and native greenery, with room to expand.

Lawn Gone -- reduced turf with yucca

Reducing turf is another way to go. This homeowner rimmed the lawn with a native bed featuring yuccas and other plants. Now there’s less turf, and more interest.

Lawn Gone, profusion of native flowers and shrubs

Don’t discount that cooling, colorful native and flowering shrubs can replace a lawn on their own. This soft landscape is far removed from the manicured shrubs of traditional lawns, but embraces nature’s profusion of color and shapes.

This stark non-lawn fits with the modern architecture it fronts. Add a couple yucca and its still a no-water wonder.

This stark non-lawn near downtown Austin fits with the modern architecture it fronts. Add a couple yucca and its still a no-water wonder.

LAWN Gone -- To Veggies, Near UT in Austin,

Back by UT, this front yard declares “Go bold or go home.” It will be supplying its residents with a bounty of greens and other veggies throughout the season.

Lawn Gone -- Austin, mixes native flowers and cacti

Native plants don’t just get by on less water, they produce the flowers and berries that native wildlife needs. Here they also spare the homeowner from having to struggle to mow on a slope.

Lawn Gone, salvia, cacti, yucca

A mix of salvia (foreground) yuccas and cacti make this a possible DIY native landscape.

 

 

 




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