The American yard has been getting a bad rap recently, especially in California where the drought is serious business. Californians have been told to reduce water consumption by 25 percent and could face fines of up to $10,000 per day for wasting water. The “synthetic” turf industry is booming, and homeowners have been paid to rip out their yards. But is getting rid of the American yard the best strategy?
A yard is not just about aesthetics. It also serves important functions, both for your family’s health and lifestyle and for the environment. Living landscapes – including lawns comprised of turfgrass – offer places for children and pets to play and for the entire family to enjoy the outdoors. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of green space to health, including improved mood, increased fitness levels, stress reduction and more. Additionally, turfgrass addresses a host of environmental issues.
For one, grassy areas mitigate storm water runoff. They slow down and absorb runoff, while also cleansing water of impurities and dust.
Turfgrass dissipates the heat island effect. Remarkably, studies have shown that lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. But without grass and other plantings to reduce the heat island effect, communities will only get hotter. And your home cooling bills? Expect them to go up when green space is reduced!
Additionally, grass is an important carbon sink and oxygen producer. In fact, turfgrass is the largest carbon sink – natural systems that trap the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – in the country. Grasses remove about six tons of carbon dioxide per acre, per year from the atmosphere. Without grass, the carbon sequestration processes won’t occur, and your carbon footprint will grow bigger. Grass also plays a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants that harm people. Without grass, these pollutants will remain in the air we breathe, resulting in more “code red” air quality days.
Furthermore, grasses, trees, shrubs and other plant life provide food and habitat for birds and small mammals. Insects, spiders and worms live among the grass blades and below the surface in the turf. Without a living landscape, food sources for birds and small mammals will quickly vanish. Xeriscaping or hardscaping forces common backyard animals to forage for food elsewhere. If we eliminate turfgrass from urban and suburban life, birds and wildlife will lose critical habitat.
Preventing soil erosion is another important job of turfgrass, which holds soil in place through its natural, dense and fibrous root system. Without grass, more soil washes into the water, reducing the amount of sunlight that can penetrate the water. The nutrients and chemicals carried with the soil can cause large algae blooms, which can steal oxygen from the water and kill fish.
Remember, the outdoors starts at your backdoor. Be a responsible citizen not by ripping out your lawn, but instead by putting the right plants in the right place and using water wisely.
Get more tips and information at www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com
Your yard has been under a lot of stress with the drought, and grasscycling is one way you can help your lawn improve its strength and overall health this fall.
Grasscycling is the practice of leaving grass clippings on your yard to decompose. According to the University of California’s statewide integrated pest management program, grasscycling requires you to mow your yard at the right frequency, cut the proper height for the species of grass you have in your yard, and remove no more than one-third of a leaf blade every time you mow.
Some people use a mulching or recycling mower for grasscycling. These mowers will cut the clippings into tiny pieces and return them to the lawn to decompose.
Why implement grasscycling on your lawn? Your lawn has likely been under a lot of stress with the drought. Grasscycling is an easy way to give your lawn a nutritional boost. The cut grass blades left on the lawn will decompose quickly and return nutrients to the lawn. An added bonus – you save the costs for bagging and lawn removal, and you avoid adding more waste to landfills.
Grasscycling will only be beneficial if you are removing small clippings at a time, so proper mowing and equipment are essential. Grasscycling may slightly increase thatch buildup on your lawn, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in most situations.
If your grass is too wet or has not been mowed regularly and is very tall, grasscycling should not be done, as this could lead to thatch buildup.
For more information about ways to maintain a living landscape, go to www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com
You may not have thought about it before, but did you know that the grass beneath your feet offers amazing benefits for your family and community? The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute shares seven reasons to thank your lucky stars that grass is part of our living landscapes today:
Reason #1: Our yards are incredible oxygen making machines and they cleanse the air too! A grass area measuring fifty by fifty feet will produce enough oxygen to meet the daily needs of a family of four. Research has also shown that turfgrass removes atmospheric pollutants such as carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride, and perosyzacetyle nitrate from the air. Grass also plays a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants that harm people.
Reason #2: Your grass cools down your community and the area around your home. This is especially important in cities, where asphalt, hardscape and the growing use of plastic turf radiate heat. Grass dissipates this radiant heat through a process called evapotranspiration, which combats the heat island effect.
Reason #3: Your lawn combats climate change. Grass is the largest carbon sink in the country, absorbing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that is warming up our planet. An average-sized home lawn has the potential to sequester 20.3 to 163.4 kg C per lawn per year. The dense canopy and fibrous root system in your lawn sequesters carbon so well, that it outweighs the carbon used for maintaining the grass by as much as seven-fold.
Reason #4: Your lawn helps control water runoff and erosion. Grass acts like a sponge and prevents water from “running off” into area sewer drains and carrying anything it collects along the way – like motor oil, dirt, or trash. Grass cleans the water it collects and breaks down harmful microbes and pollutants, keeping them out of groundwater supplies. The natural filtration system in your lawn is so effective that rain water filtered through a healthy lawn is often as much as 10 times less acidic than water running off a hard surface like a sidewalk or hardscape. It also prevents flooding and soil erosion by “hanging on” to soil.
Reason #5: Grass reduces noise. Grass cuts down on excessive sound, a growing problem in urban areas, where hardscape and pavement reverberate noise. Grass slopes alongside lowered expressways reduce noise 8-10 decibels.
Reason #6: Your lawn can make you happier. Research shows that knowing and experiencing nature, including grass, makes us generally happier, healthier people. Studies show that even just looking out a window at green spaces can lower adult stress levels. Walking or running in green spaces, instead of synthetic environments, led to decreased anger, fatigue and feelings of depression, while increasing attention levels
Reason #7: Your children and pets benefit from your lawn. A useable outdoor area provides a safe area for children and pets to play, while providing a spacious living area for the entire family. Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit. Research also shows that children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
There are many reasons to be grateful for your grass. Hundreds of varieties of turfgrass exist, and some of them even work well in drought conditions.
To get more information and tips on maintaining your lawn, visit www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com
Despite the drought in California and other dry climates, there are options for managed landscapes that do not include ripping out your lawn. In fact, deadening landscapes with rocks, mulch, pavement, hardscapes and plastic grass actually creates more environmental problems.
Living landscapes help the drought, while at the same time addressing other environmental issues. Lawns reduce heat, improve air quality, decrease noise pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, generate oxygen, support biodiversity and wildlife, control soil erosion and capture and filter rainfall and runoff.
The key to being a good environmental steward and having a lawn is choosing the right turfgrass. Hundreds of varieties of turfgrass exist, and some of them – such as buffalo and Bermuda grass – are perfect for drought conditions. When established, these grasses require very little water and will also survive foot traffic, children’s play and pets.
But there’s more. We must stop believing the myth that all plants have to stay green all the time. As water becomes less available, the grass will slow down, go dormant and turn brown. But that’s okay, because turfgrass is incredibly resilient. It will green up again when the rain comes back.
Too much water is actually bad for grass. Overwatering causes the grass roots to grow horizontally, rather than vertically. But with less water, the grass has to work harder and will grow its roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. This helps it do a better job of trapping carbon and releasing oxygen.
Remember, grass isn’t the only option for greening your landscape. You should also incorporate native plants and other drought-resistant species that can survive in low-water conditions.
Additionally, add in native pollinator plants that provide food and habitat for local bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other animals and insects. Even the desert has a host of plants that will flower and attract wildlife!
So don’t let “lawn” become four-letter-word in your community. Common sense tells us options are available. Even in a drought you can have a lawn; you just have to choose the right lawn.
Get more tips and information at www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com