water wise - side yard

Water wise AND pretty! Make your yard sustainable without compromising looks

Going water wise doesn’t mean sacrificing the look of your yard.

As the seasons change, we find ourselves eager to step out into the garden. Spring is the perfect time to assess your yard and determine what’s flourishing and what may need a change.

Landscape expert Cynthia Bee introduces the concept of “non-functional turf” and suggests replacing such areas with more enjoyable and sustainable options.


Understanding Non-Functional Turf

Non-functional turf refers to lawn areas that serve no practical purpose. They’re often found in commercial spaces like parking lot islands or narrow strips that aren’t suitable for recreational use. Cynthia encouraged us to identify and eliminate these spaces first. “If it’s too steeply sloped or if it’s really small, like a park strip or a side yard, we want to think about how we’re using our landscape and if that lawn facilitates it or not,” Cynthia said.

Flipping Your Strip: A Homeowner’s First Project

A great starting point for reimagining your landscape is to “flip your strip.” This involves transforming the park strip lawn. “With all the hot surfaces surrounding that lawn in a park strip, it is using more water than your front lawn would,” Cynthia said.

The Pretty Factor: Aesthetic and Sustainable Landscaping

Many Utah homeowners have successfully flipped their park strips, leading to a ripple effect of beautiful and sustainable landscaping in their neighborhoods. The key is to create contrast. “We don’t wanna think all or nothing, it’s not lawn or rocks,” Cynthia advised. “We want to have a mix of things because beauty is created through contrast.”

Cynthia said a good way to look at it is a mix of three different surfaces. “Of course you can have some lawn, but we also want to do planted areas. Then, we want to have hardscape areas within that landscape as well,” she instructed.

Incentives and Resources for Sustainable Landscaping

Utah offers incentives for landscape replacement, with up to $3 per square foot available for projects that include water-efficient plants and hardscapes. For side yards, Cynthia recommended creating paths with permeable materials like chat, which also qualify for rebates.

By reconfiguring our landscapes with a balance of open and filled spaces, you can have a low-maintenance garden that is still pretty! Resources like localscapes.com and local water districts have information if you are rethinking your outdoor spaces.

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