It’s no surprise that lawns have been a hot topic in water conservation conversations since grass is the biggest irrigated crop in the USA. As drought-stricken states ban non-functional foliage, there’s a desire and need for more sustainable, less water hungry plants.
As the demand for drought tolerant landscaping continues to increase, Turf Factory Direct is here to help property owners conserve water while also maintaining the aesthetic value of the property. We’ll show you that you don’t need grass to have a green lawn. You don’t even need a green lawn to have a beautiful home! Keep reading to learn more about some of the available drought tolerant lawn alternatives and other landscaping materials.
Drought Tolerant Lawns: 4 Non-Vegetative Grass Lawn Alternatives
Any non-vegatative lawn will be a drought tolerant alternative to grass since they don’t require water.
1. Artificial Turf Lawn
Artificial turf is the ultimate grass replacement for lawns, putting greens, playgrounds, and athletic fields. The 6,000+ synthetic turf fields currently in the USA saves 3 billion gallons of water in a single year. Artificial turf is attractive year-round, low maintenance, and cost effective. By not requiring water and mowing like natural grass, turf saves you time and money to spend elsewhere.
In addition to requiring no water or fertilizer to stay green, turf also helps suppress the growth of weeds without the use of herbicides. This means that pleasant guests like butterflies and hummingbirds won’t be deterred from visiting any nearby flowers by harsh chemicals. Artificial turf makes for a verdant and attractive lawn, so you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, saving water, saving money, and saving the environment all at once.
Additionally, turf is durable and versatile, meaning you can often place it in areas where grass simply can’t go: In shade, on wood decks, by water, on vertical surfaces, even on the roof— the sky’s the limit. Dogs and other pets can play in it without concerns of ingesting it or digging it up, and it’s easy to clean.
The same places where concerns with drought prompt natural grass lawn alternatives like artificial turf are the same places where there are also concerns related to the effects of Heat Islands. One of the downsides of turf is its heat retention. While turf can retain heat, there are simple methods to keep turf cool in extreme heat and there are varieties of turf designed to beat the heat available to address heat retention concerns.
To find the best natural grass lawn alternative, check out our inventory of high quality landscaping turf.
2. Hardscapes & Pavers
Concrete or stone pavers are another landscaping alternative to vegetation, proving landscaping doesn’t have to be growing to be considered beautiful. Concrete is not the traditional choice for residential lawns, but it is a surface that can be for recreation, entertaining, or to achieve a modern, minimal, or industrial curb appeal.
While concrete doesn’t require water, it can retain heat, and it can be expensive and messy to lay down. Concrete and stone surfaces can be paired with other landscaping surfaces like artificial turf for attractive and versatile lawns and gardens.
3. Rocks & Gravel
Rocks, sand, and gravel are a common grass lawn alternative in places that experience drought. This is because they require little to no maintenance. Stones can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, making them attractive and versatile. As such, they also come in a range of prices.
You can combine a number of different sizes, colors, textures, and varieties of rocks, gravels, and sands to create unique designs. Designs and patterns can be rearranged throughout the season or year as you please.
A rock lawn can be cost effective depending on the variety of rock you choose and the size of the area you cover. However, because they’re rocks, they’re not usable surface for certain activities. If you opt for boulders, you’ve created a permanent feature. Using rocks and gravel as landscaping is a choice of form over function, since it is landscaping that can’t be used for recreation or other purposes.
One of the appeals of sand is its sensation underfoot and versatility as a recreational surface. It can come in different colors and granular sizes. Sand is low maintenance, attractive, and cost effective depending on the variety and amount. Although, sand landscaping can become a litterbox for different animals in the neighborhood, and it has a tendency to get everywhere.
4. Mulch & Bark
While bark and mulch are technically vegetation, they’re not really alive in the sense that most people mean when they refer to a lawn. Bark and mulch are common grass lawn alternatives because they require almost no maintenance. It also can act as a blank canvas for plants and other landscaping opportunities.
Mulch is neutral in appearance and has a relatively low cost. Although, it can be messy, and is not particularly pretty to look at. There is a wide variety of mulches made from different materials. This results in a variety of colors and textures to choose from at a variety of price points.
Drought Tolerant Vegetation to Replace A Grass Lawn
If you still want something growing in your yard that you can care for, there are plenty of drought tolerant vegetative options available to replace your grass lawn. Most of them don’t require a ton of work, are hardy, attractive, pet-friendly, and affordable.
If you do have pets, make sure to check about the toxicity of the vegetation before you install it or start growing it. Here are some of the favorite vegetative alternatives to a grass lawn:
Cacti & Succulent Plants
Succulents and small cacti have grown in popularity in recent years. They grow well in drought areas, and are unique looking with many shapes and colors. Given some of their more prickly qualities, they can also be used as a barrier to help deter burrowing animals, and cats and dogs, from going on your property. However, they can be really expensive, and overwatering can kill them.
Many types of grasses that are not included in green blanket lawn grasses. These are drought tolerant and perfect for a low water garden. There are some beautiful and low ornamental grasses. Examples include little bluestem, fountain grass, blue fescue, pampas grass, agave, juniper, and lavender.
What is the most drought tolerant grass?
Hybrid Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass that can survive well in full sun and high temperatures. Thus, it’s well adapted to the warm regions of California. The grass stands up well to damage and survives winter weather well too. However, Bermuda grass is often vulnerable to weeds, so that’s important to watch out for.
What is drought tolerance?
Drought tolerance is the degree to which a plant is adapted to arid or drought conditions. Therefore, drought resistant landscaping means conserving water as much as possible while maintaining all components – plants, grass, flowers – alive and growing.
What is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes that do not require irrigation. Xeriscaped landscapes need next to no water beyond what the natural climate provides. Currently, it’s seeing wider adoption in the dried areas of the USA. This is especially true in the west where prolonged droughts have made water limited and expensive.
Xeriscaping often means replacing grassy lawns with soil, rocks, mulch, and drought-tolerant native plant species (known as xerophytes). Trees such as myrtles and flowers such as daffodils are examples of drought-tolerant plants.
Water is a limited and precious resource. As such it’s important to be aware of how we use it, and make an effort to conserve it. Here is some data to help put our water use into perspective:
- The USA alone uses 3.9 trillion gallons of water per month, or about 322 billion gallons per day.
- The average American uses between 75 and 100 gallons of water every day, with the average family using 320 gallons per day.
- Globally, human beings consume around 4 trillion cubic meters of freshwater a year. Agriculture alone can consume 75 to 90% of a given region’s available water.
- There are an estimated 40 to 50 million acres of lawn in the United States. While the amount of water a lawn needs will vary depending on the grass, climate, weather, and season, the general rule of thumb is to make sure your lawn receives at least one inch of water per week. To provide your lawn with one inch of water takes a little over half a gallon per square foot, or 0.623 gallons to be exact.
- If one inch of water is equivalent to 623 gallons per 1,000 square feet, and the average residential lawn in the USA is 10,000 square feet (roughly a quarter of an acre), that means the average USA lawn uses 6,230 gallons of water per week.
- Considering the number of lawns in the USA, about 200 gallons of water per person (331.4 million of them), per day would be needed to maintain our nation’s lawn surfaces for a year.
Food for thought the next time you’re watering your lawn!
Conserve Water with Turf Factory Direct
As a synthetic alternative to natural grass lawns, turf provides all of the benefits of natural grass like vegetative grass lawn alternatives, without any of the drawbacks like the non-vegetative grass lawn alternatives.
If you want to make the switch from an ornamental lawn, to a functional recreational yard, you can ditch the traditional lawn completely and install a recreational turf surface like a putting green, batting cage, or soccer field!