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Lawns to Native Landscapes

Converting your water intensive lawn to a drought tolerant landscape is the single most important thing you can do to conserve water outside.  It is estimated that here in Chico, water use goes up 60% in the summer and the main reason is because of lawns.  In California lawns can no longer be the main course of your yard, and need to become the side dish at most.

Lawns are great.... in schools, in beach towel sized rectangles, and in heavily used communal areas.  But to keep them lush often requires a ton of water, pesticides and fertilizers, and air polluting lawn mowers.  So why do we have them?  Well, originally they may have been used for communal grazing of livestock and skipping to now, for looks and recreation.  

* BEC's lawn conversion workshop in 2014.

Things to think about when converting your lawn to a native landscape

  • Replanting with naive plants is recommended because they are adapted to the local environment, use less water, support wildlife, and only require watering during the first few years of establishment.  Plus they demonstrate the uniqueness of the seasons right before our eyes.
  • Plan in spring, kill lawn in summer, and plant natives in fall.
  • The thought of the effort and time required can stop many from removing a lawn; consider gathering a few friends for a work party and move from yard to yard over time.
  • Getting rid of your lawn means reducing water pollution as the use of pesticices and fertilizers stops.
  • Converting overhead sprinklers to drip is an important part of the conversion process.  Check out this YouTube to learn how.
  • Ways to kill your lawn: 
  1. Solarizing works best in summer; cut your lawn very short, water thoroughly, cover with plastic sheeting (weigh down with rocks), wait six weeks.
  2. Cover it up- sheet mulch is cheap and easy; cover lawn with cardboard or newspaper, add 4-6 inches of mulch on top, water and wait two months to dig through and plant.
  3. Dig it up; this is a good technique for small areas and work parties, make sure you get the root system.

*before and after landscape designer John Whittlesey got a hold of this backyard.


*Melinda Teves with information about Audbon's Neighborhood Habitat Program.

Local landscape designers and Nurseries that specialize in creating beautiful drought tolerant landscapes