By: Kimberly Gomes
As California’s drought pushes on through the spring, mid-peninsula homeowners search for water-wise landscaping alternatives. While some watch their once lush lawns fade to brown, others look to turf grass and drought-tolerant plants for a front yard revival.
According to the San Jose Mercury, Bay Area residents average 156 gallons of water daily. Fifty percent of most water bills derive from outdoor irrigation. Hillsborough’s lush landscaping scene ranks the highest in the area, where the average resident consumes 334 gallons per day. Heading further south, San Jose homeowners soak up just 144 gallons daily.
There’s no denying the allure of upkeeping curb appeal, but in light of Governor Brown’s call for a 25% water reduction, it’s due time to survey water-wise landscaping options. We’ve simplified your search with a quick compilation of lawn-free, low water possibilities.
1. Off-Set the Brown with Drought-Tolerant Color
Homeowners can divert attention from front yard eyesores by adding attractive hardscaping and vibrant, low water flowers. Lavender not only attracts butterflies and bees with its purple buds, but also requires little watering. Ideal for low-maintenance gardening, this perennial can tolerate poor soil quality, as it opts for gravel and sandy conditions over mulch. Creeping thyme, a low water, perennial groundcover, serves as an excellent lawn substitute and rarely grows over three inches high. This edible plant is not only fragrant, but also produces clusters of violet flowers. Those looking for a colorful frame for the front yard can also try out Bluebeard shrubs. These blue or pink blooms grow to three to four feet tall, providing a drought-friendly anchor to any landscaped space.
2. Install Low-Maintenance Turf Grass
While a new source of color may appeal to some, many prefer the classic allure that comes with a lush, green lawn. While synthetic grasses are up to par with EPA standards, the debate continues as to whether the chemicals found in artificial lawns pose health risks. Alternatively, they require no mowing, minimal upkeep, and effective drainage. Ultimately, the decision remains with the homeowner. Some locals have already opted for synthetic turf given the state’s dry conditions.
3. Replace Lawns with Native Gardens
Those interested in a front yard makeover can implement native grasses, groundcovers, and succulents. These plants have naturally acclimated to our Mediterranean climate, meaning they require minimal water and make a perfect fit for high sun, low water circumstances. Lewisias, Apricot Mallows, and Wild Lilacs naturally inhabit California climates and need less water and maintenance, yet garner ample wildlife. Western Sword Ferns, Deer Grass, and succulents commonly found in Southern California also make great picks for a water-wise garden.
Given the array of options, there’s no need to settle for dried up eyesores. Contact your local master gardener, or synthetic grass company for more information on the above alternatives.