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Here's how to cut lawn water use

As people are forced to cut back their water use, they may look to get rid of their homes' biggest water user. And sorry, lawn, that's you. There are several alternatives to a traditional lawn, alternatives that conserve water and help reduce the pollution from mowing traditional lawns. Here are a couple. McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Artificial grass

Americans' attachment to green grass is the stuff of legend. "People don't want to give up their lawns," says Scott Ose of the Fremont, Calif.-based PolyGrass, the company that installs faux grass.

This is not the familiar electric green AstroTurf. The blades of grass are 1 inch high and look extremely natural. Some models have yellowing and browning strands woven with the green to give it a more realistic appearance.

Ose says the grass is permeable, meaning water can pass through it, and odorless. Dogs and cats can even do what dogs and cats will do on it without creating stains. You just clean up the mess with a paper towel.

"And once you install it, it's virtually maintenance-free," Ose says.

One water bill dropped dramatically after installing the new lawn, going from $600 for three months to $150. Artificial lawn should last 15 to 20 years.

Despite rebates and special offers, installing artificial grass can be prohibitively expensive at $12 to $15 a square foot. The price is high because crews have to first remove your old lawn, prepare a base of rock and rubber to prevent sinkholes, then lay out the plastic grass.

Critics also argue that this alternative is not environmentally friendly because the grass is made from plastic and, when installed, does not add anything to the soil.

Finally, like concrete, artificial grass also gets hot on warm days and homeowners may need to spritz it with water to cool it down.

Strolling garden

When one of Susan Morrison's landscape clients wants to get rid of a lawn, she suggests making the space into a strolling garden.

A strolling garden has paths that meander among raised beds. Gardeners can add flowers or edible plants in the beds and nongardeners can install more durable, low-maintenance plants.

"By doing this, you've created a space that you can walk through and enjoy that is visually more exciting than a lawn," says Morrison, who owns Creative Exteriors Landscape Design. "And if you've got kids, it's a great way to get them interested in gardening."

The first step to creating a strolling garden is to design one on paper, either on your own or with a professional landscape designer. Look around for gardening classes that offer design tips, if you want to do it yourself.

The drawbacks: Depending on the size of the area, creating a strolling garden can be a major investment. Also, select low-water plants to avoid using a significant amount of water anyway.

Here's how to cut lawn water use 03/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 7, 2009 3:30am]
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