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Choosing the right yard
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3/7/2013 at 5:21:04 AM GMT
Posts: 4
Choosing the right yard
I am interested in finding a way to keep use of my lawn for active use. I don't want Astroturf and would love to get rid of my water thirsty grass. What landscaping options still give me full use of my lawn for running around and playing sports?

3/12/2013 at 12:20:14 AM GMT

Unfortunately, healthy turf for active sports needs lots of water and maintenance. But even with turf it is often possible to reduce water usage by 50% or more. One of the simplest things we can do to conserve water is to install a rain switch or moisture sensor to make sure sprinklers don't run when it's wet out. Drip irrigation is about 20% more efficient than spray, and can be installed beneath turf.

You could also consider replacing your sod with a more water efficient variety, like "Reveille" texas hybrid bluegrass. Some hybrid varieties claim to require 30-50% less water than typical cool season grasses.

Having a lawn for outdoor activity is great, but our yards should be conducive to leisurely activities as well. Consider reducing the turf area to just what you need, and convert other areas to add variety and interest. Water conservation is good for the planet and it lowers the water bill.

Neil McLane

3/13/2013 at 5:11:10 PM GMT
Best turf for active home use

It's true that an actively used sports field needs lots of water and maintenance, but you may not need such a tough lawn.  If you really are using it every day for an hour, then some type of bluegrass may indeed be what you need.  We've had good luck with using a Kentucky x Texas bluegrass hybrid to get the tough aggressive growth of bluegrass with some ability to thrive on less water.  If you are playing on your lawn on weekends, so that holes on not being worn in the sod, then you might consider Turf-type tall fescue.  It has much deeper roots than bluegrass, and in the 2002 drought it stayed green longer with reduced watering.  It won't spread as much as bluegrass, so it won't fill in worn places as well, although you can get 'RTF-rhizomatous tall fescue' which does spread fairly well and is used in athletic fields.  The tall fescue still needs watering twice a week, and probably won't save more than 30% on your water use.  If you have an automatic sprinkler system, simply replacing the controller/timer with at 'ET' controller can save 30-40% on your water use.  ET stands for Evapotranspiration and the timer monitors local weather to modify the watering.

Or you can take the radical step of using a lawn grass which is fundamentally better adapted to our dry climate.  The trade off is that there is no low water use grass which we have found that will stay smooth and green under heavy use.  Blue Grama is a beautiful low prairie grass which can be seeded densely and mowed to get a fine textured low lawn with only 25% of the water a bluegrass lawn would need (or no water if your are willing to let it turn brown when it is really hot and dry), but is fundamentally a bunch grass, meaning that is does not send out the root runners that bluegrass (and other sod forming grasses) send out to grow that smooth dense turf.  You can wear holes in it with heavy use and it will not fill back in.  Buffalo grass is a native prairie sod grass, but it is usually not hot enough here to get a dense sod, and thus it is usually invaded by weeds.  Crested Wheatgrass in a eurasian grass that we've used for low water lawns, but again it is fundamentally a bunch grass and you can easily wear holes in it. 

There are low groundcovers used as lawn substitutes, but none of them come close to any grass in their tolerance of traffic...this is naturally a prairie and grasses grow gloriously here.

Good luck!

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