Q. I want to replace my lawn to cut down on water use and maintenance. What do you suggest? — Tom, San Luis Obispo
A. Turf is considered the No. 1 irrigated crop in America, so eliminating or reducing the size of your lawn will definitely save water. And, not cranking up the power equipment for grass mowing and trimming will also reduce air pollution.
Removing the lawn will be the first chore, and it must be done thoroughly for best results because perennial grasses like Bermuda can regrow from almost any part of the plant left behind. After digging up all visible grass and roots, it is a good idea to wa ter the plot and wait a week or so to see if anything sprouts.
When you’re modifying a landscape remember: Less is more; plant sparingly. If you have too many plants, you may need to water them as much as you did the lawn. And, an abundance of plants can create more maintenance work such as pruning and fertilizing.
You can fill in the space between plants with walkways, patio areas, found and repurposed objects and garden art.
If you use paving, choose permeable materials such as dry laid bricks, pavers, and stepping stones. These materials will allow water to drain into the soil and stay on your property to recharge your water table. Solid pavement such as concrete and asphalt forces water to drain off your property and into the watershed. Before you plant, consider laying down landscape cloth to slow down weed growth. After cutting pieces to size, overlap the edges and secure with landscape pins. And of course, choose plants that are droughttolerant such as California natives or other Mediterranean climate species. There are many types of shrubs and seasonal flowering plants available with interesting variations of color and shape.
When the plants are in place, cover the area with organic mulch such as wood chips or bark to retain moisture and add to the aesthetic appeal. Water your plants when the soil is dry. Water deeply and thoroughly to encourage strong root development.
For more information on lawn removal and alternatives, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/scmg/Lawn_Replacement/.