Saving Water with a Drought-Tolerant Lawn

 This xeric lawn is a year old and receives infrequent supplemental irrigation.

This xeric lawn is a year old and receives infrequent supplemental irrigation.

Lawns are ingrained in American culture as the foundation of any landscape, but the climate in most of the country is not actually well-suited to the commonly used turf grasses. In the dry Inland Northwest, traditional lawns require a large amount of water—often the majority of a household’s water usage in arid regions like ours—to keep them alive, in addition to frequent mowing and regular fertilization. Lawns aren’t useless, however. They offer outdoor space for kids to play and develop important motor skills. Their smooth uniformity visually grounds a landscape design. And while they require frequent maintenance, keeping them healthy doesn’t require any specialized knowledge, making them a low-effort landscape element.

At Pacific Garden Design, we wanted to offer our clients a better alternative to thirsty turf grasses, while maintaining the functionality of a traditional lawn. We chose to develop our own low-water lawn grass seed mix to achieve that. We turned our attention away from conventional species like Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass and focused on drought-tolerant grasses native to the West. We wanted our grass mix to spread and form a uniform ground cover when mowed, but also be able to be used as a reclamation mix in native areas without growing large enough to restrict movement.

 The same grass mix was used for reclamation on this slope.

The same grass mix was used for reclamation on this slope.

Our final xeric lawn mix includes blue grama grass, Bouteloua gracilis; Idaho fescue, Festuca idahoensis; and prairie Junegrass, Koeleria macrantha; as well as a few other native grass species. In the wild, these species can survive on as little as 6 inches of water a year, and they are extremely drought-tolerant in the landscape. With no supplemental irrigation, the grasses may go dormant in the heat of summer, but they green up again with fall rain. Regular irrigation will keep them verdant throughout the growing season.

A drought-tolerant lawn can dramatically reduce your water bills. If you’re interested in saving water in your landscape by replacing your lawn, contact us at Pacific Garden Design to talk about your project.