Disappearing lawn

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A month ago when we had just returned from India, I was sitting in my office looking out the window at the front lawn. The grass on the east side of the front yard is one of the few remaining patches of green. However, it is clear that that area is not getting enough water. The tricky thing is to adjust the sprinklers so that the water reaches the edge without spraying onto the walk. I’d rather see brown grass ¬†than know that I am watering the concrete so this area will always be a problem.I squint my eyes and imagine the garden that runs along the sidewalk wrapping around the corner. Yup, another opportunity for lawn reduction! And furthermore, my husband is traveling, the perfect time to make the sacrifice.

Burned out lawn

Poorly irrigated lawn
The edge of the lawn is not getting enough water. I did try to adjust the sprinklers just so, but couldn’t get it so that the water stopped exactly at the edge.

I usually dig out the lawn when extending a garden bed. This time, however, I will just plant something in the corner and cover the surrounding grass with mulch, or not. Too hot to do much work.

Moving deergrass

Deergrass under oak
I will remove this deergrass growing beneath a young oak.

Unfortunately, it is summer and not a good time to plant. Nevertheless, we have been away for six months and I have been in garden-withdrawal. I gotta do something! Seeing the garden with fresh eyes has given me quite a few ideas for changes that I’d like to make this year. For example I plan to remove many of the large bunchgrasses that are growing in the parkway garden on the east side of the house. These grasses, deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens)¬†and alkali dropseed (Sporobolis airoides), were among the first plants I used when I began converting the parkway to a wild garden. I planted some way back in 1999.

Although the parkway is six feet wide, these older specimens now need to be pruned to keep them from spilling onto the sidewalk. I am going to dig them out, and divide and transplant them through out the yard. The idea is to simplify both the design and maintenance of the yard by repeating three plants that seem to love it here: coast live oak, toyon and deergrass.As expected the following days were brutally, record-breakingly hot. The grasses look like straw but I think they will make it anyway – we’ll see. These plants, unlike many other California natives, can take summer water without rotting out. I could give them a neat haircut but I think I’ll just let them be because I’m not especially fond of sheared grass.

Deergrass under oak
I can hear the oak saying “thank you for giving me more room to grow.”
Planting deergrass
Dug a couple of holes
Planting deergrass
Divided the huge bunchgrass – no easy task – and planted.
Planting deergrass
Two of the deergrass plants are in the front lawn and another one is in the front parkway.
Planting deergrass
Not bad.
Planting deergrass
When I pointed out my work to my husband, he said, “I was going to ask you what was going on there. What’s the hay all about?”

As expected the following days were brutally, record-creakingly hot. The grass look like straw but I think they will make it anyway – we’ll see. These plants, unlike many other California natives, can take summer water without rotting out. I could give them a neat haircut but I think I’ll just let them be because I am not especially fond of sheared grass.

Bunch grasses at Santa Rosa Plateau

Bunchgrass at Santa Rosa Plateau
Group of deergrass (tufts) at the Santa Rosa Plateau. Hotter, drier spots are home to needle grass (and some weedy grasses).
Santa Rosa Plateau
The words beige, ecru, buff, tan, fawn, taupe, amber ochre, rust and tawny cannot capture the beautiful colors of these grasses in November.
Santa Rosa Plateau
Dark green coast live oaks, dusty green Engelmann oaks, and blue sky remind me why the tawny grasses are so perfect while the emerald green lawns many prefer are so jarring.

One thought on “Disappearing lawn

  1. Good going! <br /><br />I&#39;m feeling pressured into keeping a vestigial lawn in the front but considering a no-mow native one. Sigh. The ideas keep percolating, but there are other higher priorities before replacing the lawn.

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