Return to the Texas Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Posted by jardineratx 9tx (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 27, 12 at 10:17

Even though we have had rain here this spring/summer, the overall water situation throughout most of Texas is still pretty bleak. We received a letter from our water municipality stating that our base rate for 1000 gallons will double by 2013. We have 7/8 of an acre and watering is a BIG problem. I realize that watering needs vary from lawn type to lawn type and plant type to plant type, but generally speaking, does your lawn consume more water than your flower beds?
Molly


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

"Does your lawn consume more water than your flower beds?"

I think not. However, we only have a small lawn in back. We graveled the front several years ago. Plus since we plugged in Floratam St. Augustine and fertilize with organics we can get by with watering the grass that we have once a week as the water board dictates.

I have a sprinkler system, but it shoots out too fine a spray which floats up and disappears into the hot air, so I use a kitchen timer and move a hose end sprinkler around. When the timer goes off both the dogs and I jump ... LOL Me because it's time and the dogs because they jump when I jump.

As for the flower beds I hand water at least every other day. I know there's going to be some hard decisions to make if the drought continues, but I'm enjoying the tropical plants while I can. Someday I may have to replace the roses, elephant ears, etc., with agaves, aloes, cacti, and other succulents. Thank goodness I like desert plants.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

We have a 2/3 acre lot and only have one small patch of buffalograss which we do not water.

I have installed many planting beds with mostly drought tolerant plants all over the yard for the last three years and my water usage has seen minimal increase. There was no lawn to water before so the comparison here is from nothing in the yard to flower beds increased the water bill about $2 a month except at the height of last year's drought when we deep watered everything and paid an extra $10 that month. Our total water usage is about 10% of the neighbors, yes 90% less water or about $350 a month. That can pay for some nice plants.

The front yard is mulched with gravel between the plants and the back will eventually have native groundcover between the beds.

My neighbor recently replaced part of his lawn with zoysia and it is nice and green with once a week watering.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Shirley, your low water usage is phenomenal. And you have such a beautiful landscape too. How often do you water your drought tolerant plants before they are established and after they are established?

Here is a link that might be useful: Shirley's blog showing her landscape ...


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

I water to get things germinated, and I have a wild look. The other extreme. I look at parched native grass when it is dry and green waist high native grass when it is wet. Actually, I am mostly in a shortgrass prarie and only the bluestem gets a little high in August. This year I have hoards of a babies breath like plant that is making a haze over all the short grass. It is not really a lawn. What I get is what it is. Not HOA acceptable but I don't mow, and I don't water. My beds are what survive. If it dies, it dies. If it lives, I obtain more. I am thinking of putting in a huge batch of mexican oregano. Beautiful color and long lasting bloom. I understand that this type of expectations is not what most of you want to put on your garden. It looks wild... It is wild with a few inter plants injected into the wildscape. I live in a wild landscape so I can do this. Starting out with a city lot makes this more of a choice than it was for me. One has to create it where I just have to figure out what will live here.

"the lawn" was a concept derived in England in the end of the 19th century and was for the landed aristocracy, so it is a relatively new concept in gardening and its filtration down to the masses is even newer. Most yards were a combination of flowers , herbs, and food bearing plants. Sounds like a cottage garden. I do remember that when I came to Austin in the mid 70's, all the neighborhoods around where I lived had very marginal yards whos health was governed by the rains and summer heat. Lawns have always been an artificial construct that has taken so many chemicals and work to keep perfect.

To me, a watered green lawn looks out of place out here in the arid countryside where very few people water their yards because of marginal water supplies, but in a city, if you are the one with the arid lot stuck in the midsts of blocks of Augustine, you are the sore thumb. When I lived in town I ripped out my grass , little by little and replaced it with drought hardy things.Strange , Here I do the same. I am an inherently lazy gardener. I also lived in an inner city area of old hippies (that became professionals)and no one had St Augustine and everyone let their lawns die in August, and let things get a little long when it rained. AHH the freedom of the PRE HOA neighborhood.

I was reading a autobiographer of a writer who grew up in East Texas and described the lawnless yard as a white trash phenomena. You know, the trodden dirt look. One can tell where I go by the worn paths and the bare dirt around the fire pit. My paths design my wildscape.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

We have pretty strict HOA deed restrictions so a lawn is a must for me, but I have increased the number of drought-tolerant plants and decreased the number of moisture-loving ones. I do have a small area where I grow tropicals, but it is in a shady, cooler spot that is heavily mulched and the garden there is pretty low-maintenance. My intention is to remove more of the lawn by adding hardscape, such as pavers, gravel, etc., in hopes of minimizing water usage. I have also eliminated many annuals since weeding and mulching under shrubs and perennials is so much easier.
Molly


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Only one part of our property in Bayview is regularly irrigated - the grapefruit orchard. The St. Augustine lawn stays mostly green without any extra water. My guess is that the consistent high humidity provides all necessary moisture in the form of dew. The flower beds are fully xeriscaped using native or adapted plants, so only hand watering is needed to get them established.

Ty


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

I was amazed how little rain the area that I lived in in Hawaii got when I looked up annual rainfall totals, and everything grew as if it was in a jungle . They got like 25 " of rain but it came almost daily in tiny amounts with rainbows. No one ever watered. It sure is different around here. Ground evaporation is through the roof.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

When I first plant I water every day unless the plant seems wet. This year was great because we had so much rain when I was planting new plants.

Just this week I have started watering new beds every other day and by next year should be more like once a week. The plants in containers and the brugmansias get daily water. Established xeric plants like salvia greggii, silverado sage, mexican feather grass are watered once a week or less depending on how much time I have.

I use soaker hoses on timers for the straight beds along the house and water the others by hand.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Molly, this year I've watered the lawn one time, in April after I put out fertilizer, and it looks good. The beds get watered twice a week.

Jim


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

A bit OT
About a month ago I was trying to figure why one area of grass had burned/brown stripes. It finally dawned on me that the area between slats of the fence were the cause. Had there been no shade from the fence, it would have all been burned. The way my street curves allows no late afternoon shade.
Too much shade all day and then frying in the late afternoon.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Plantmaven, I found the same to be true in my lawn--a little bit of shade (such as scattered decidious trees) have helped the stress on the grass, although the trees also tend to be water-hogs as well, LOL.
Jim, this year my lawn has had very little watering and that has been a relief for me. So, generally speaking, your lawn uses less water than your plants? This is what I am trying to zero in on. Since we are required to have a lawn, I am wondering if by minimizing the size of the lawn and maximizing the size of the beds I will use less water overall. Of course, I know that moisture-loving plants are out of the question in my case.
I do love the natives and use some of them, but I'm not ready to give up my roses, iris, and daylilies.
Molly


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

I am of the opinion that the plants will take less, especially if they are mulched.
Years ago my great uncle was the Cameron county ag. agent. He used cotton seed hull as a mulch.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Beds, definitely.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Some people in the areas worst affected by the droughts of recent years have begun rethinking what they have in their yards...even me. I've noticed that the meetings of the native plant chapter in San Antonio are now crowded compared to earlier years. Rain collection systems are becoming more common. Xeriscape landscapes a bit more common. Drought, water restrictions and high water bills have taken their toll. The idea of watering turf grasses one way and the rest of the yard another way isn't always practical for everyone, but it can be done. And if you want turf grass, it's possible to have it in areas that don't have the most extreme limitations on watering. Just find out what turf grasses needs less amounts of water and use them. You might have to fertilize them less and mow different, too. Personally, I don't have any kind of turf grass. I tried Buffalo Grass and it didn't work out here. As for other plants, natives and other well-adapted xeriscape plants can work if you do it right. One problem is that most any plant needs to be watered fairly often as it gets established. But avoid the water hog plants as much as you can.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Beds of drought tolerant perennials clearly use less water than lawns. Our water company puts the average neighborhood usage right on the bill so the numbers I have are accurate. My beds are packed full of flowering plants like Turk's cap, salvias, nepeta, and mistflower. If you can use ornamental grasses in your area then they take even less water.

If you plant large swaths of water-loving annuals you might get close to lawn usage but that wouldn't be a good plan in your situation anyway.

It might be an opportunity for your HOA to reconsider their outdated restrictions as well.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Rock_oak_deer you are re-inforcing my thoughts that drought-tolerant perennials and ornamental grasses would be easier to maintain than the lawn. I have already eliminated almost all annuals and replaced them with four-nerve daisy, Melochia tomentosa, certain salvias, artemisias, skullcap, etc. The only problem that I can foresee is that these types of plants may resent our wet springs. Since the "lawn" is held sacred in the neighborhood and cannot be eliminated, I'm thinking of increasing the size of the beds, and adding more paving/gravel to diminish the size of the lawn. I really appreciate hearing the experiences of other Texas gardeners in this regard.
Molly


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Sadly in my case, flower beds use more water but that's because my lawn is native, little bluestem and buffalo and we don't water it at all. This summer it's still green but it goes dormant when it needs to and comes back fine. So in my case, anything I plant uses more water, even if it's very drought tolerant. That said, my situation is far from typical. Even though I love my native grass prairie, I am replacing parts of it with perennials, partially for aesthetics but mainly for wildlife.

So that's the other argument for replacing typical lawn with beds. Typical lawns are essentially a desert wasteland for pollinators, birds and most other insects that are critical so the food chain. So plants are good!

Teri


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Molly, there are a lot of great resources out there to show beautiful low-water use gardens replacing water hogging lawns. Some plants identified as xeric are just as happy in wetter environments so check into some of those as well.

Lucas, you have a similar landscape to ours and I'd much rather put the water on the flowers to attract butterflies.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

rock oak deer, your landscape is lovely. I love how it looks with your house and is so natural. Did you have any problems with the neighbors on either side when you put rocks bordering their lawns?

I'd love to see a full shot of your front yard. Is there one on your blog?


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

The driveway strip is the only spot where rocks border the neighbors. If you look closely at the photos in the link you will see a gap between the rocks and the neighbor's lawn. We kept him in the loop on every decision and double checked at each step to make sure he could maintain his lawn. We used granite gravel on the other side so it doesn't interfere with their lawn maintenance either.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

I think it's great and would like to do something like that between my driveway and the neighbor's. There is a slope down from our neighbor's and we are going to have to have a French drain and maybe a ditch put in for drainage. We've been having quite a bit of erosion from her side and we need to stop that before spending more money on our drainage problem so the ditch doesn't fill with dirt.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

marti8a - Here's a post showing more of the yard and house.

Here is a link that might be useful: Front Yard


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

This one shows the flowers in bloom.

Here is a link that might be useful: Summer color


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Thanks rock oak deer! I really like what you've done. I can't believe your dh climbs on that slick roof. Eeek!

Do you have a sprinkler system in there? My salvia greggii needs some regular water or it gets really dry and withered.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

We don't have a sprinkler system, just water by hand. Salvia greggii does get dry and then perks up with water. When we had renters here it went 11 years without supplemental water. I let it slow down in August, trying to keep plants at peak in the heat uses a lot of water and energy.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

I let it slow down in August too - but it's because I'm usually tired of doing it. lol

Do you have a soaker system around your foundation or do you water that by hand too? I've been trying to water my foundation evenly to minimize damage, but it's moving anyway. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be better off with no plants around it and no extra water so it dried out evenly all around it.

How do you deal with weeds without plastic underneath or heavy mulch? When we first did our dry stream, we just cleared the area of anything growing, and put in the French drain and a lot of gravel. But the weeds came through like crazy and I had to rake off all the gravel, put down plastic and put the gravel back on.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

The foundation here is on rock so it won't move and engineers confirmed that when we built the garage. The entire yard has either plastic or landscape fabric under rocks or thick mulch.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Ah, so there is a good side to building on rock. lol

I've been browsing your blog and I am so impressed by not only that you've done all the work, but with your design. I hope you are here when I doze my front yard and start over.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

rock oak deer, I tried to post a comment to your blog and the email bounced.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Alas, not watering the foundation does NOT result in the soil compacting evenly under the house. Sometimes, even watering the foundation doesn't keep the soil from sinking unevenly under the house.

Right now, I'm -very- jealous of anyone who has rock shallowly under their house (like my parents). I knew not to buy in a flood zone, but not to look for rock formations!


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

The foundation guy came over today, took measurements, levels and finally determined that our house hasn't settled enough to warrant any work. He did note that the corners are high, and that is from the last foundation company raising it too much. Grrr. So I guess I'll continue with the soaker hoses.

I've found that putting concrete stepping stones around the house keep the foot of dirt next to the foundation evenly moist. Maybe not moist, but not dried out. Our a/c unit is on the south side and almost nothing will grow near it with the heat blasting out of it. But the concrete seems to keep that dirt from getting those big cracks.


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

no lawn. Dug it up years ago and put in plants. We have a fair number of trees, most recovered from Ike.
I too am of the live or die garden variety. If it dies I put in something else. I will water when I first put things in but slack off once they get established.

Even though we are no longer under restrictions I live like we are, there is a bucket in the kitchen sink for the water from the bird dishes, water cans in the bathroom to empty the tub, the dog water gets dumped on a plant when dirty. I would love to be able to put in a gray water system.
Our house is on pylons so no foundation, heck no dirt, the ground here is sand, pure beach sand.
Tally HO!


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

"no lawn. Dug it up years ago and put in plants". That sounds wonderful, Tally. I just can't keep up an acre of plants,and the HOA won't allow the no-lawn thingy, so my problem continues. If only I could afford an acre of flagstone paving, right?
Molly


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

Molly, speaking of paving stones, I have some areas in my yard 'paved' with mulch. It's on the sides of the house, in back of the store room, under the trees along the fence line, plus in all the flower beds and as a topping for plants in pots so they can be watered with the hose without the soil splashing out. In all these places it eventually disintegrates into compost and then I add some more on top. I've been lucky enough to catch the tree trimmers and ask them to dump their ground up limbs nearby in a vacant area where I can get it in a wheel barrow, but you could have some hauled in. I apply it pretty thick and no weeds have ever grown through it. It looks fine to me, like a forest floor, and doesn't need watering. I know you have to keep the grass in certain places, but in other places on your large property where you don't want grass or flower beds you could just mulch it.

An interesting thing about the mulch where it was dumped in a long pile about a foot or two deep is that it's still moist from the rains we had weeks and weeks ago. So it really does preserve moisture if applied thick enough. I apply it about 5 or 6 inches deep and then settles down a bit. It burns up a lot of calories hauling that much stuff in a wheel barrow :-)


 o
RE: Who's the bigger water hog - lawn or flower beds?

I am a huge fan of mulch, dropping my truck off this week for repairs so I can start hauling it in again. The ciy provides it free. Great exercise loading it, unloading it and hauling it around the yard, a load is good for a 2-5 pound weight loss. I use it in the chicken coop and dog pen also.

an acre! I would have an acre of plants, I probably have an acres worth crammed into this yard. Think of the agaves I could grow! I could have a FIELD of crinums! I'm drooling thinking of it. Rows of fruit trees. I'll be giddy all day dreaming of having a acre to plant.

Never had to deal with hoa, I have a feeling we would not like each other and the battle would be constant.
There are clouds outside right now & I am dancing around the office trying to make it rain on my house.
Tally HO!


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Texas Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here