Introduction: Water Wise California - Zero Water Use Lawn Replacement

About: I teach and implement sustainability to the mainstream community through our website, social media and at tradeshows.

Lawns in California are a fading luxury; replacement is inevitable. Here are your options for considerable water reduction along with their cost and benefits:

  1. Artificial turf: pricey and the physical barrier kills natural biology leaving earth partially dead underneath; trees don't like it. Artificial turf or grass also smells like a tire farm, especially when hot.
  2. Low water usage grass: workable but requires considerable watering for one year to establish roots. Also requires occasional mowing and continual weeding.
  3. Low water usage planting: every time I see this beautiful option, either weeding and trim maintenance is regular or, if not, the planting area becomes weed filled and rather distasteful looking.
  4. Wood chip coverage, as above: If you simply turn off your sprinklers and place 6-8 inches of wood chips, water usage drops to zero and minimal weeds can be maintained with a weed-whacker or line trimmer.

A few details about chips.

Big benefit is chips are free and no charge delivery to your home by a local arborist/tree trimmer. Arborists need to pay to dispose, so delivering to your home is win-win; call them and ask. It's important to get oak, pine or a few others. Palm is not workable as its too fibrous and a mix of garden leaves will work well, but won't have the more refined look as in above image.

Place a thick layer of chips as weeds won't emerge if they have no light. Thick becomes thin over the first few weeks after placement, so layer them thickly.

Big, big soil benefits.
Soil health is bolstered, as chips degrade over 2-3 years and the nutrients flow into the soil. Chips also maintain water in the soil, acting as an evaporation barrier like mulch, so surrounding tree areas will maintain moisture. Water slightly more as tree water may have been derived from some of your previous lawn area. Chips provide an ideal bio environment for worms, etc making your plants healthier.

Do let me know of your experience.