Tips Before Taking Out Your Greenway Lawn

California residents know that having an environmentally friendly lawn is important during this ongoing drought. However, before you dig up the lawn and make changes, have a plan in place. I did, but I also learned a few lessons along way. Here, I offer some insight that might save you from headaches.

Knowing I could do more to save water beyond our low-flow showerheads and low-water toilets, the L-shaped greenway lawn bordering the street was fair game for saving on weekly waterings.

Deciding to go lawn-less, I had two goals:

1) Save water.

2) Save money by having lower water bills and by reducing gardening expense by selecting every-other-week maintenance for my remaining landscaping.

Before deciding how to go about the task, I did a fair amount of internet research. I looked around my neighborhood, snapped photos and figured out what I wanted to do. I spoke with my gardener and a landscaper, and I checked with the city to learn about suggestions and rebates.

The easiest (though not cheapest) route was to remove the grass and plants completely. (Your city may require a percentage of planting in order to qualify your project for rebates). Just four bubbler sprinklers now support two, native, drought-tolerant trees in wood-chip planter areas. The remaining greenway contains decomposed granite with intermittent three-piece pathways of bouquet canyon stone.

The good news: I am saving water and money (though it will take a while to recoup my investment).

Not-so-good news: I need to tuck away some money to improve my design because it didn’t work out exactly as I envisioned it.

What you can learn from my mistakes:

1)    Think about the daily foot traffic along your greenway. If you have a lot of pedestrians, consider how they might impact your landscaping choices. In my case, once the rains began, the decomposed granite proved to be an irresistible target for footprints and gouges. In all fairness, passengers exiting cars along the no-longer-greenway had no choice but to step onto the wet surface. In retrospect, it’s not the ideal surface to use in this much-traveled space.

Untitled design

2)    Consider how a zero-plant greenway will affect your home’s curb appeal. I have abundant plants surrounding my home; nonetheless my initial reaction to losing the border greenery was “uh oh.” Incorporating even a few drought-tolerant plants along the greenway would introduce some height variation to the border; I’ll plan to purchase a few when the budget allows.

All said, once my new trees mature and I’m able to install enough stone and a few plants to eliminate the foot traffic and curb appeal issues, I’ll feel good about having made changes that are water-wise, functional, and attractive.

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