California's history has been punctuated with intense droughts, and their frequency and duration has been increasing in recent years. Even vital activities like agriculture often do not get their required allocation of water. Certainly, the last thing California needs is for you to maintain a patch of thirsty grass just for aesthetics.
But does this mean you have to cover your yard with cactus and gravel? Absolutely not. In recent years, a number of lawn alternatives have become available that will stay lush and green using less than half the water required by a normal lawn. Some of these lawn alternatives don't even require mowing! Whether you need a place for the dog to play, a forgiving surface for your kids to rough-house on, or the simple beauty of an expanse of green grass, there are options that can meet your needs responsibly.
Bolero Plus™ Dwarf
Fescues were originally seen as second-rate alternatives to finer textured bluegrasses, but in recent years, breeders have developed fescue varieties that rival bluegrasses in quality. Bolero Plus Dwarf Fescue has a compact growth habit, fine textured blades and excellent winter color while requiring less water than a bluegrass lawn.
Do drought-resistant lawns need to be covered with cactus and gravel?
Absolutely not. There are many green lawn alternatives.
Living Green Gardens Turf Demonstration area was made possible by David Fujino of UC Davis. We would also like to acknowledge Kurapia®, Takao Nursery and Delta Bluegrass for their contributions to Living Green Gardens.
Native Mow Free™
A versatile grass that can be maintained as a turf lawn or left un-mowed to create a meadow like appearance. If unmowed, it forms flowing drifts flowering in the spring with airy seed heads reaching 18" - 24". California Native Mow Free uses 50% Less Water than conventional turf making it a good candidate for a water wise lawn.
Contains: Western "Mokelumne" fescue: Festuca occidentalis, Idaho fescue: Festuca idahoensis, Molate fescue: Festuca rubra.
UC Verde buffalograss
UC Verde is a buffalograss cultivar, bred specifically for California landscapes. It remains lush and green all summer long, requiring only 75% of the water a tradi- tional fescue lawn requires. The one downside: it's winter-dormant, meaning your lawn will naturally turn brown for several months of the year. Some homeowners find they enjoy the seasonal shift, but those who do not can use an environmentally safe, spray-on turf colorant or can cut their buffalograss to 3/4" and overseed with a cool season grass like annual fescue. Plant UC Verde from plugs during the warm season; it will achieve full coverage after 3-4 months.
A relatively new introduction from Japan, Kurapia is proving to be very resilient. Research at the University of California Riverside found that out of 20 turf species tested, Kurapia retained the best color and coverage when watered with only 40% of normal lawn irrigation. Plant Kurapia from plugs during the warm season; it spreads to full coverage over a period of 4-8 weeks. Kurapia tolerates all soil types and is cold hardy to around 15 ̊F. Because it is a sterile cultivar, Kurapia is non-invasive.