The Quest for a Superlawn

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Why is it that I am not comforted by the LA Times article on the quest for a low-water use lawn, Turf scientists on a quest to engineer superlawn?

My biggest concern derives from knowing how weedy and invasive Bermuda and other grasses have been. Some of these grasses, especially ones that are drought-tolerant, show up everywhere. Bermuda is rampant in the South Pasadena Nature Park that I help maintain with a group of volunteers. When I started reading the article I thought that, since genetic engineering was involved, the grass might be sterile, staying where it is put. On the contrary:

To have a shot at commercial success, the grass also would have to tolerate shade, be resistant to fungi and pests, grow at a relatively slow pace, produce ample seeds and pass down the same characteristics from generation to generation.

So here we go again, creating something that is unnecessary, but has the potential to prolong and further enrich an already very lucrative industry, and this time in the name of sustainability.

Yes, I have gone on record saying that I like having a bit of lawn in my yard, and some might argue that if a turfgrass could be created that used little water, it would benefit the environment. Unfortunately I think this would not be the outcome. Enabling people to continue plastering the earth with green lawns, whether genetically engineered or manufactured from plastic, would override all of the other things that a garden can be. A monoculture of turfgrass provides no habitat for the critters we so enjoy watching – you know the Bambis of the yard like butterflies, hummingbirds, lizards and birds – let alone the real habitat value that diverse gardens with lots of native plants could have.

It makes me mad enough to want to kill every last blade of turfgrass in my yard – and right after I confessed to liking it…

Sorry for the rant. I feel better now – well, a little.

13 thoughts on “The Quest for a Superlawn

  1. I hope everyone gets on this bandwagon soon! I like Town Mouse's latest – entry on this topic, a retrospective on how she lost her lawn. btw I left a comment for you on her post regarding your comment on lizards…

  2. Barbara, I so enjoy sharing conversation. It is an interesting journey, identifying the lesser of evils, choosing battles, etc. Will further post on my blog.<br /><br />Curious how you feel about Buchloe dactyloides?

  3. I'll resist the urge to rant. I'm no fan of lawns either and when asked to put one in – I walk away.

  4. Mary Delle

    Kudos to your lawn rant. It does seem like Bermuda grass will live forever. If I had a front lawn, I&#39;d replant at least most of it. It&#39;s just plain impractical.

  5. Hi All – thanks for the comments. <br /><br />Wiseacre, wish I could always have your outlook, much better than being a ranter. <br /><br />CM – I very much enjoyed TM&#39;s description of how she lost her lawn. You two are very busy mice!<br /><br />Janis, I have never seen Buchloe dactyloides (Buffalo grass) on any invasive list even though it is not native to CA. I&#39;ve read about UC Verde

  6. Anonymous

    Barbara,<br />Wish you had heard (and called into) the bit on Pat Morrison&#39;s &#39;PM&#39; (89.3 FM)wherein she hosted two men promoting this new product. I would like to hear her interview someone well-spoken (like you!) to provide the countervailing alternatives. My husband and I were in the car when we caught the end of the segment and were both shouting at the radio. Our shared

  7. Dear Anonymous – thanks for the encouragement. I will check into the Pat Morrison thing. I used to hear more NPR when I was commuting to Rancho. Less car – less radio, actually a good trade off.

  8. I purchased a house with nearly 2,500 square feet of lawn. After this winter, it will be 10 ft by 15 ft. All the rest is gone. My Saturday&#39;s of mowing will be history. Not to mention, my water bill has been slashed to the point where I don&#39;t surpass the minimum charge. That&#39;s the only reason the little bit is staying.

  9. Barbara, thanks for link to &quot;garden chicks&quot; blog, and info about UC Verde buffalo grass. Being a bit &quot;green&quot; (by the old as well as the new definition) I value sage advice. Have observed several recent installations. Will discuss further on my blog. Happy gardening, yea for the cooling days!

  10. Janis – I had a look at your blog entry. Great info, great ideas. And yes, yea for cooler days!

  11. Barbara, thanks for feedback. I&#39;ll post some thoughts about UC Verde tomorrow.

  12. Hi Turling – sounds like you made the right decision. What do you have instead of lawn?

  13. Turling

    Planting beds, mainly. We laid play bark for the kids to play in, which will be easy to pick up when that phase ends and we may even be able to turn into the soil. We built a small deck on the other side of the little grass remaining.<br /><br />The front was replaced by an olive tree with as many underplantings we could pack in including a couple of dozen lavendar behind it. The other side of

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