10 Reasons to Convert to Xeriscape
Maintaining an attractive and healthy lawn is not easy in our
desert climate. While Bermuda grass, our summer-active turf is
drought and heat tolerant; it still requires a great deal of
time and energy to keep it looking good. If a year-round green
lawn is desired, winter ryegrass needs to be seeded each fall,
creating more work and requiring more resources to maintain it
Understandably, converting from grass to Xeriscape can be a big
decision for homeowners, businesses, and communities. But, don't
be concerned that Xeriscape is just rocks and cactus. There are
hundreds of varieties of low water use plants that bring color,
beauty, and function to the landscape. Xeriscape is common sense
landscaping incorporating principles such as good planning, use
of well-adapted plants, efficient irrigation, use of water
saving mulches and more.
While it does require some 'up front' money to convert grass to
Xeriscape, it will save dollars in the long run. The costs can
vary greatly depending on existing conditions and desired
landscape changes. Estimates for a conversion typically range
from $1.50 - $2.50 per square foot. However, when looking at
extra costs required for turf, such as water, fertilizer, mower
upkeep, overseeding and other maintenance activities, you'll
realize about a 36-cent per square foot savings each year... and
that doesn't include time or labor. With this in mind, you would
have a payback within 4 to 7 years...not bad at all considering
all of the benefits. If you're still looking for more reasons to
convert here are my...
Top Ten Reasons
10. Save time - Grass will need mowing once
every week or two. Fertilizing should be done monthly. Mowers,
weed whackers, and irrigation require maintenance. Dethatching
and aerating are also needed periodically. Overseeding is very
time intensive. Don't forget to add weed, disease and pest
control to your schedule.
9. Save water - Bermuda and ryegrass require
about 60 inches of water each year, but we average only 8 inches
of rainfall each year. Typically, the additional water gets
applied with above ground sprinkler systems that are often
inefficient, prone to vandalism, and mismanaged. Getting
ryegrass seed to germinate requires watering three times a day
or more, and water suppliers always notice spikes in water usage
during the months of October and November when winter rye is
planted. In comparison, a Xeriscape uses one-half to two-thirds
LESS water than a lawn.
8. Preserve water quality & save energy - Less
or even no fertilizers and pesticides are needed with Xeriscape.
Much of our water pollution comes from runoff of these products
from urban landscapes. Xeriscapes also provide great energy
saving benefits. A lawn has been shown to reduce home cooling
requirements as much as 4 percent compared to a home with no
vegetation cover. However, a Xeriscape with good tree, shrub and
vine placement can cut cooling costs up to 46 percent.
7. Save money - Save on the cost of water,
fertilizer, mowing, seed, and labor. Other costs that often
aren't considered include water damage to walls, private
streets, and mower damage to trees or the irrigation system.
Homeowners may see additional savings in their wastewater
charges since those are based on total water usage. Additional
savings can come from the lower energy bills when plants are
placed strategically around buildings.
6. Save landfill space - Grass clippings create
a great deal of waste for the landfills. When ryegrass is
seeded, the summer lawn is scalped creating a large amount of
initial waste, and mower clippings continue through winter and
5. Save the air - Two-cycle engines such as gas
powered mowers, blowers and weed trimmers contribute to our air
pollution problems. Additionally, the scalping process used
during overseeding releases dust and other particles into the
4. Decrease noise pollution - Mowers, weed
whackers, and leaf blowers have become a major source of
background noise in many neighborhoods. The drone of lawn
equipment contributes to an already noisy world.
3. Set an example - One good conversion begets
another... you'll by surprised by the inspiration you can
provide to your neighbors. If you look to the future and respect
our desert environment, this is an opportunity to demonstrate
your commitment to using our natural resources wisely.
2. Save frustration - Common problems include
fertilizer issues, dead spots caused by diseases, and constant
upkeep and maintenance of irrigation, especially when vandalism
or mower damage is common. Plus, you'll be mowing during the
hottest part of summer when Bermuda grows best.
And the number one reason to convert from lawn to Xeriscape ...
1. No more mowing - This is your chance ... how
many parts of the country are there where you can totally get
away with not having a lawn?!
Here's how to convert:
The key to a successful conversion is to thoroughly kill the
grass in the area you want to convert. This helps minimize
maintenance issues in the future. Apply any contact herbicide
with the active ingredient glyphosate directly on the grass.
This may require two or more applications, which should be done
about one to two weeks apart. The best time to kill the grass is
in the late summer, when the grass is actively growing. Watering
the grass to â€œgreen it upâ€ will also increase the herbicide's
effectiveness. Be careful not to spray the plants you've decided
Once your grass is dead, you have three choices. First, you can
scalp the grass close to the ground. The second option is to
rototill the area. Rototill when the soil is slightly damp, so
the machine's teeth dig deep into the soil. You may want to rake
the grass roots from the dirt after rototilling to help prevent
them from rejuvenating. The third option, which is the most
effective, is to remove three or four inches of dead grass with
a tractor or sod cutter. Both pieces of equipment can be rented
or you may want to hire a landscape professional, depending on
the amount of grass you are removing.
While it does take a bit of work to remove your grass, the
water saving benefits can be significant. It requires
35,000 gallons per year to properly water 1,000 sq feet of turf,
while low water use plants use only 15,000 gallons for the same
amount of space. And maintenance will be easier, too.
Take advantage of Mesa's new
Grass-to-Xeriscape Rebate Program that encourages the use of
landscape plants appropriate to our Sonoran Desert climate. The
current owner of a single-family home can apply for a rebate of
$500 for removing at least 500 square feet of grass.