Save water, time and money in your yard

February 15th, 2009


Photo credit: wili hybrid

Fresh green lawns has been the standard for many American homes for decades.  Mowing the lawn every Saturday morning, fertilizing,  and watering (or turning on the sprinklers) is one of those thankless tasks that many have obliged themselves to do.  Having the best looking lawn on the block, complying with  strict HOA (homeowners association) requirements or having a soft place for children to play is one of  many reasons why its done.  Is this just another harmless practice?

The cost

Law Mowers
Since push mowers are not longer in vogue unless you absolutely choose to own one, many people use gas more electric mowers which wastes energy and spews pollution.

To maintain that award winning lawn, fertilizers are used to “feed” the grass.  Unfortunately elements in fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorus can get washed into our surface waters and cause algae blooms and excess plant growth. This can reduce fish population.   These elements are also a health concern when they leach into the ground and drinking water supply.

A 2500 square foot yard generally requires 1558  gallons of water per session (or day).  Multiply that by all of the non rainy or overcast days you may have and that can add up to several hundred thousand gallons of water per year.

Unless you absolutely love to do it and/or have the time, maintaining a lawn can eat up a lot of your time.

Of course, fertilizers, electricity, gas and water costs money!

One of the best ways to save time, money and help preserve the environment is to fill your yards with native plants.  Native plants require very little maintenance because they are able to thrive in their natural environments. They have evolved to grow in local conditions therefore needing very little cutting and trimming.  Watering is also unnecessary in many cases.

Resources and instructions for naturescaping your yards.
Plant Native
Plant Native Blog

If you have yards how are they landscaped (or not) and maintained? We rent so we have very  little say, but our landlord has landscaped (or naturescaped) with drought resistant plants that doesnt require much water which is a must for California at this time.

14 Responses to “Save water, time and money in your yard”

  1. Bellesouth says:

    I live in an apartment so I don’t have any outdoor plants to deal with. I am, however, extremely disturbed by all the chemically-treated lawns in a nearby neighborhood.

    Another thing that helps cut out your water costs is to construct a rain barrel. They’re inexpensive to make – they collect the rain and have a spigot on them that you can connect to a water hose and use to water your lawn. The rain is also better for your plants than utility water since it doesn’t contain all those chemicals used to treat it.

    I have another friend who keeps a bucket in her shower to collect the extra water and then uses it to water her plants.

  2. Wilson Pon says:

    I wish I have a yard as yours, Carla! By the way, I loved your suggestions and it’s really an environmental friendly ideas indeed!

  3. Carla,

    We don’t do a very good job at natural landscaping. We mow and probably too much. We try our best with non-toxic pest control and fertilizers though. I won’t use bleach for any mold or mildew but friends do for their decks. This year I want a rain barrel for a small garden.

  4. We are fortunate that our back yard has a ton of shade (we have very hot summers) and the previous owners took care to landscape in a way that the decorative plants need very little water. Heh, can you tell I’m not a gardener? Our front yard is just a postage stamp and also needs very little watering.

    I’m not a big fan of the huge lawns that seem to serve no purpose except for decoration. Our yard is small by our suburban friend’s standards, but it’s big enough to be useful and if we need more room we walk to the public park!

  5. Mark says:

    Wow! Some great tips….I am printing this one out! Thanks!

  6. Lovelyn says:

    Great tips. I always say that if I actually had a yard I’d do natural landscaping. I think it might be more because of laziness than a desire to be ecologically sound. I hate yard work.

  7. Sara says:

    I really like this site. I am trying to expand my “green” thinking. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to most grasses. I have a woman working with me to try to help make my yard more native to where I live, meaning less grass and more plants that don’t need as much water. It’s an interesting transition.

    This post has some very helpful tips. Thanks!!!

  8. Sagan says:

    I like this; I miss having a garden now that I live in an apartment!

    Also just realized I don’t remember the last time I watered my plant. Oops. Um, excuse me, I better go do that…

  9. Carla says:

    @Wilson – Thanks Wilson!

    @Sommer – I would like to get a rain barrow too. It would really come in handy in our area.

    @Tracy – Our yards are pretty small too. The front yard goes up a incline and its best to not have to do too much there.

    @Mark – Thanks Mark! :)

    @Lovelyn – I’m not a huge fan of yard work either. I would do it for gardening, but thats it.

    @Sara – I hope you’re able to find something that works for you. Let me know when you do and I would love to see pictures when you’re done!

    @Sagan – I hope your plants survived!

  10. Jannie says:

    In our backyard I mow every 2 weeks in summer, takes about 30 minutes to do. I only water once a week but deeply, creating those deep roots is the way to be able to water less. The Bermuda grass is pretty drought-resistant too, thankfully.

    Due to our entire back yard being the septic / leech (leach?) field we cannot plant anything but the front yard is of native plants.

    We do not fertilize. No reason to, the clippings act as a natural fertilizer anyway.

    Super thought-provoking post!!

  11. I grew up with a grass lawn, and always had pictured having one when I buy a home. But if I stay in Arizona, I think the best way to go for the environment is the ever so popular rock lawns that people have out here. At least in the front. Maybe I’ll still have a small, native plant garden in the back.

    ~ Kristi

  12. J. Money says:

    huh, yeah that would be pretty cool having native plants and such not to worry about! if you’re ever in the DC area i’ll be needing your help ;) i’ll just have to hide my electric lawnmower first…yikes.

  13. Great post Carla – I think about this all the time. I don’t have a yard but when I see large grass lawns they seem so sterile. I never see anyone out on them or kids playing. Maybe they are out back so the front lawn is purely decorative. Planting with natural plants is the best way to go.

  14. [...] Since I started this blog, I have written several posts on things you can do to help save energy, water, avoid household chemicals and so on.  I am curious to know what my readers are doing to help save [...]

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