Lynne Toby, a retiree who has lived in Los Angeles for 40 years, asserts, “The age of the green grass is ended.”
Ms. Toby’s feelings towards grass lawns have evolved over time. When her kid was younger and involved in sports, she desired a lawn. She let it die once he stopped.
This was partially due to practical considerations, since a grass needs a tremendous lot of upkeep. However, her choice was also influenced by her desire to save water in the midst of the ongoing drought in Los Angeles, California.
Her husband prefers a classic lawn with a picket fence, but Ms. Toby is contemplating removing the grass entirely.
She is surrounded by alternative ideas as a volunteer at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants.
Due of its heat tolerance and butterfly friendliness, milkweed remains a favourite plant among clients, she explains.
Many environmentally conscious homeowners in Los Angeles are in the same boat. More rock gardens, bushes, cactus, wood chips, wildflowers, and other landscaping kinds are developing in front of Southern California houses every year.
For years, water authorities in Southern California have encouraged grass replacements. However, since April, when the Metropolitan Water District announced extraordinary new limitations on outdoor watering, which would be referred to as hosepipe bans in the UK, landscapers and horticultural organizations have noticed an increase in interest.
Millions of households are restricted to one day of outside watering each week under the new laws, which went into effect in June. Outdoor watering is permitted in Los Angeles for two days, but only between the hours of 9.00 and 16.00 and on certain days of the week.
Los Angeles County’s sustainability director, Kristen Torres Pawling, considers this “the birth of a new age.”
Given Southern California’s frequent dry spells and lackluster water conservation record, new measures are desperately required.
Water companies provide incentives to promote grass replacement, but these programs are inconsistent, difficult to administer, and inadequate to pay the whole cost of a lawn makeover.
According to Pamela Berstler, co-founder of the Green Gardens Group, a regenerative land management firm, grass replacement might cost $10-15/square foot (£8-£12).
Meanwhile, subsidies for lawn-to-garden conversion run from $2 to $3 per square foot.
Only 2,411 persons filed for lawn restoration rebates between July 2020 and June 2021, according to the Metropolitan Water District. For a network of water providers serving 19 million people in Southern California, this is a tiny amount.
Lawn renewal is sometimes a matter of affordability: low-income individuals with outside space may not have the time or resources to spend to landscape restoration.
Higher-income individuals may afford to maintain their lush lawns by simply paying any penalties associated with water restrictions.
Ms. Berstler advocates for a more nuanced approach to landscape restoration rather than a blanket condemnation of all lawns. “These organizations and towns have been so focused on eradicating turf that they have overlooked the reality that people genuinely like grass,” says the author.
Some species of groundcover are drought-resistant and provide similar services as lawns. Patented species like Kurapia and natural warm-season grasses are among them.
“The most common form of lawn placed is a cool-season grass,” Ms Berstler notes, which requires twice as much water as warm-season grass. In the winter, she claims, children may play on warm-season grass.
However, adopting this more regionally suited grass would need a mindset shift. Residents would have to be OK with seasonal changes, such as watching their grass turn brown and dormant in the winter.
Ms Berstler says that “we need to transform the aesthetics from monoculture grass to something different.” “On one day [of watering] a week, the monoculture isn’t going to remain green.”
It doesn’t have to be a sad new reality for Southern California’s yards.
Stephanie Pincetl, a sustainability and environmental specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, describes how the landscape may alter if more people adopted the Mediterranean climate.
This would take the place of an artificial, aspirational lushness that can be traced back to white immigrants from earlier ages who came from areas with more water and thirstier vegetation.
More birds and insects would be found in a more regionally suited habitat, according to Dr. Pincetl. There would be more blooming plants, as well. Even the scents would be unique, with “fragrant, pungent, sage-like scents.” “I believe you would have a more diversified and intriguing outside scenery,” says the author.
Even if people aren’t ready for a complete grass replacement, Ms Berstler thinks that even little adjustments may enhance soil health and sponginess, which she calls “the most critical thing you can do for water saving.”
It would be beneficial to mow the grass less often, use less pesticides, and establish a diversity of plants wherever feasible.
To minimize overwatering, soil sensors might be used to determine how much moisture is already in the soil. In a similar vein, the Metropolitan Water District has given a grant to Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI), which has produced tubing with micropores that analyze and react to signals from the root zones of plants.
However, the most advanced technologies may only be available to landscaping specialists.
According to Dr. Pincetl, one problem with the present approach to lawn replacement is that it is extremely customised. According to Dr. Pincetl, there is an element of personal responsibility when it comes to lawns and water consumption, since “the water you use on your lawn is the water I’m not going to drink next week.”
Simultaneously, greater systemic reforms at the community level are required.
“A more robust transformation infrastructure to truly aid folks who want to make that shift but don’t have that type of capability,” Dr. Pincetl says. For example, youth training organizations might collaborate with citizens in their neighborhoods to help them reimagine their lawns.
Given the difficulties, many individuals are opting for artificial grass at the present. Artificial grass has few ecological advantages, which is sensible.
Artificial grass appeals to Ramin Javahery, a businessman who has resided in Los Angeles for over 30 years, since it “looks great” and is “simple to maintain.” He replaced a grass with an artificial version a month ago.
According to David Bernstein, some individuals don’t think the drought exists in Southern California because of the larger issue of politicized mistrust in authority.
Mr Bernstein is the owner of California Nursery Specialties, commonly known as Cactus Ranch, which grows all of its plants in Southern California nurseries.
Clearly, one of the issues surrounding the grass revolution is communication. These obstacles, however, may be surmounted.
“They may have a lovely place to live and they don’t have to waste water,” Mr Bernstein says of individuals who have been clinging to an increasingly outmoded form of lawn.