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Lawns for a Drying California

I was speaking with a friend the other day in the Bay Area.  She told me all the landscapers are busy pulling out lawns.  No doubt!  But then she said they are recommending artificial turf AKA fake grass.  Google ‘artificial turf and cancer‘ and you’ll come up with a lot of buzz on the internet.  Fake grass is made from tire products and many of those chemicals are considered carcinogenic.  I’d be especially worried about installing fake turf in my home if my kids played on it or my pets laid on it.  Sure it’s easy to maintain because you don’t have to do anything–it’s fake!  But I personally wouldn’t take the risk.

So, if you want a lawn and live in a parched California, where water is the new oil, what can you do?

My answer was written up in a post back in 2009.  Carex pansa lawns.  Because of the extreme drought situation, I wanted to repost and speak again about this fabulous native grass.

Dry Gardening lawn

Carex pansa front yard lawn

Here is some of what was written in that previous post years ago:

Once established, it requires watering only about every 3 weeks or more, depending on your site, and mowing no more than 4 times a year!  I do have clients that keep it very ‘lawn-like’ and mow it every two weeks, but since it only grows 6″ high, that isn’t necessary.

Carex pansa can tolerate traffic.  I have clients with kids who play ball on the lawn.  But it isn’t for intensive traffic.

The planting/preparation method is simple.  Prepare your bed as if you were going to plant a conventional lawn, in other words, good soil, lots of compost, rake out the clods, bed should be to finished height.  I always install a conventional irrigation system–better safe than sorry and its so much easier for the homeowner.  In the beginning you will need to water the plugs till established and the first summer while filling in, water a few times a week.  So a watering system on a timer is essential.  This means the irrigation system should be installed prior to planting.  The sprinkler heads can be installed and then adjusted to correct height once the Carex is in.

Carex pansa needs a good edging as it will spread beyond your beds without one.  Its not a weed nor really invasive, but, like grass, it will grow outside its borders if given water and good soil.  Depending on your design, you might even want to pour a concrete edging.

Dry gardening lawn

Carex pansa in a large backyard situation

I’ve put in a few dozen of these lawns and never had any problems.  For Californians, now is the best time to prepare your area and plant your plugs. Carex pansa grows during the warm weather, so your lawn will fill in quickly.  Plant 3″-5″ apart for a fast fill, although if you need to save money you can plant 6″-9″ and wait longer and weed more. For information as to where to obtain the plugs (this ‘grass’ must be planted from plugs), as well as further information including how to plant a natural meadow, please see my eBook Gardening for a Dry California Future.

Dry California lawns

Carex pansa lawn with kids and dogs in househole