A well-tended lawn is desirable and, for many American homeowners, essential. But recently it’s become a target of sustainability advocates, and for good reason. Not only are fertilizers and pesticides required to maintain that lush green carpet, a lawn also needs water — and lots of it. In fact, turf grass is the largest irrigated crop in the U.S. On a hot summer day a typical 3000-square-foot lawn can gulp as much as 360 gallons. That kind of water use can be costly. One Texas homeowner — whose water rates were nearly three times the national average of $2 per 1000 gallons — calculated that he spends up to $120 a month to irrigate his 22,000-square-foot lawn.
Antilawn advocacy is affecting how we landscape, especially west of the Rockies, where record low precipitation has depleted reservoirs and triggered water-use restrictions. One trend in that part of the country: garden styles, such as xeriscaping, that replace water-hungry plants with drought-resistant ones. Meanwhile, sales of artificial turf have increased by 30 percent per year for the past five years. But your front yard doesn’t have to resemble the Sonoran Desert or a miniature golf course to reduce the work, water, and waste of your lawn. Here are some alternative — and reasonable — solutions.