We all understand California needs to conserve water and sacrifices must be made. To do our part, A-G Sod Farms has promoted Warm Season turfgrass varieties in all our marketing efforts since the onset of the drought. Warm Season turf varieties save 25%-50% water compared to the typical California Fescue lawn but most people do not know this.
In comparison, massive marketing and rebate campaigns by Water Districts have pushed Californians toward Xeriscape as the best solution for our urban landscapes. In this process, several facts about Xeriscape have been ignored:
- Research has shown home values increase with a well-manicured lawn including some turf. A friend recently bought a house but the 100% Xeriscape lawn was a “Con” on his Pro-Con list in deciding whether to buy the house.
- Drip irrigation requires constant maintenance due to many emitters which may become plugged or broken. The landscape shown below I can see from where I am typing this in my office. The city paid high dollars for the underground drip but it was not maintained and significant amounts of plant material died.
- Xeriscape does not guarantee water savings. A 2003 California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) study “Urban Landscape Water Use and Efficiency in California on 400+ sites,” showed little correlation between percentage of ETo applied in irrigation and the percentage of Landscape in Turf. “The evidence suggests that the conversion from turf to other irrigated plant materials (e.g. shrubs) does not necessarily convert into lower water use given current (inefficient) water management practices.”
- Xeriscape still requires maintenance. Our neighbor used turf removal rebates to install Xeriscape. This made sense since it was a long, narrow strip of turf with little functionality. However, they regret making the switch due to the high maintenance of the area including difficulty cleaning Magnolia leaves and seed pods from the bark and rock. Another neighbor has an aesthetically-pleasing Xeriscape design but regular, extensive trimming will be required to keep it looking nice.
In closing, the CLCA study mentioned above supports Doug Welsh, Ph. D., past president of the National Xeriscape Council when he stated “The type of plant materials or irrigation system in the landscape has much less effect on water consumption than the human factor of good landscape water management.”