New Ideas for a Drought-Resistant Lawn

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

lawn-alternative-rock-gardenA lush, weed-free lawn is a source of pride for homeowners, often turning neighbours “green” with envy. But lately having a healthy, green lawn is attracting a different type of attention. With many western provinces and states along the western seaboard struggling with drought, the green lawn is being viewed as a symbol of waste and selfishness.

According to Environment Canada, more than half of residential water use in the summer goes to lawn watering or “landscape irrigation,” and much of that water gets lost to evaporation or run-off.

Some residents have declared war on lawns. In Vancouver, where extremely low water reservoirs have prompted severe watering restrictions, residents who spot a green lawn have turned to “drought shaming” their neighbours on social media. Municipalities have joined the “turf wars” imposing hefty fines on homeowners who are deemed to be wasteful water users.

California is experiencing its fourth drought in a row, yet the estate lawns of the rich and famous thrive shamelessly amidst acres of brown, dead turf. It’s estimated that one-third of all water usage in the U.S. goes toward landscaping.

So what’s a homeowner to do now that the green lawn has lost its lustre? It’s time to look at alternatives that are low-maintenance, and can thrive on very little water – if any at all.

Artificial Turf

When you hear the phrase “artificial turf” no one can blame you for envisioning the prickly astro turf carpet of the 60s. Fortunately, artificial turf has advanced over the years. It is now softer, and looks just like real grass. But it doesn’t need to be watered, fertilized, weeded or mowed. Ever. You may have to clean away some debris and dirt periodically with a light spray from your hose, a plastic rake, or even your shop vac.

Artificial turf is more expensive to install than the real thing, but over time, the initial cost will take care of itself. In fact, your artificial grass should last 15 years or more.

Lawn paint

While perhaps not a palatable idea for many homeowners, the solution could lie in a simple bottle of paint – lawn green paint, to be exact. The paint is made of a non-toxic, vegetable-based dye that is water-resistant and binds to the grass for 12 weeks or more. Most importantly, the sprays are safe for pets and children, and the spray won't stain your feet. It doesn’t hurt the grass, and can be mowed away once the lawn starts growing again.

You can hire someone to do the lawn spraying for you, or you can buy the paint concentrate, mix it with water and spray your lawn yourself.


If you prefer to stick with more natural, root-based solutions for your lawn, you could consider replacing your lawn with clover. There are several varieties of clover that make excellent lawn alternatives. Clover requires no chemical fertilizers, and only periodic mowing. It stays green even during a very dry summer, and the deep root system helps it to grow with little or no water.


Inexpensive and maintenance-free, gravel offers several options to think creatively when it comes to your outdoor living space. It comes in different colours and styles, and can be used to add texture and colour to your yard. Pea gravel is usually a sandy colour and is easy to walk on even with bare feet. Quartzite is white, and river rock gravel is grey. You can combine them for an interesting landscape.

Rock Garden

Use a combination of large rocks, stone chips, pea gravel, ornamental grasses or succulents to create a unique feature rock garden in your yard. It can be a little labour-intensive as the rocks and gravel need to be hauled in, but a well-designed rock garden requires very little weeding and maintenance.

If you’re living in an area experiencing drought conditions, it may be time to for a new perspective on the residential lawn. Not only will you be doing your part to conserve water, you’ll reduce the need for maintenance and increase the time you and your family get to relax and enjoy your yard this summer.

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