Gardening with Laurie: Several options available for replacing dead lawns

By Laurie Garretson

When you look outdoors at your landscape, do you see a green lawn? After this past summer, I would think many will answer no. You can see all around town, yard after yard, that has either totally died or has come very close to it. You can certainly tell which home owners kept up a regular watering routine and which ones chose not to.

If you've lost your lawn to the drought of 2011, it's now time to decide what to do about it. All that bare dirt needed was the rain to wake up any tiny seed that may have been lying around. Unfortunately, those seeds will probably produce weeds. Any bare soil is always just an open invitation for weeds to move in. Nature tries to keep soils covered with some type of plants. Without any form of desirable vegetation to compete with the unwanted weeds, the weeds will thrive. Left alone, in a short time, you will have a lush green lawn of healthy weeds. Some people might find that an easy alternative to the bare soil. That could be fine, but probably not the solution for everyone.

If the long term predictions that climatologists are giving us (several more years of drought conditions) hold true, we gardeners are going to have to change our ways. If you choose to continue growing plants and lawn grasses that require frequent watering, and the predictions are correct, you will have to provide all the needed water. Nature probably won't be helping you out with rain.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Water Sense program, we Americans use about 1/3 of all our water usage on our landscapes. That comes out to more than seven billion gallons of water a day used in this country alone just to pour on our landscapes. Many people on the planet don't even have access to clean water to drink.

Maybe it's time to rethink your landscape. Do you really need all that lawn grass? Ground covers could be an alternative. Once established, they would require much less water and care. Maybe you could plant more native plants that are better adapted to this climate and require less water and overall maintenance.

Is there room to plant more trees in the landscape? Planted in the right location, trees can help to cool your home, shade your yard, provide a wind block and add beauty to the landscape.

If St. Augustine grass is the only type of lawn you've ever had, it might be time to consider an alternative type of grass. Bermuda grass can be very drought tolerant and hardy, but does not grow well in shady areas. These areas could be planted with easy to maintain Asiatic jasmine ground cover or made into a patio area using crushed granite as the base.

Rye grass is often grown as a lawn grass during the cooler months. Playmate is a good variety of rye grass that stays shorter than other rye grass varieties. That means less mowing. Having a rye grass lawn can help with weed control, erosion control and provide that green lawn that's so desirable. Rye grass will usually last until about April, then warm temperatures will kill it off.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.