An “Alternate Lawn” as a Lawn Alternative!

by / 20 Comments / 1355 View / June 8, 2009

I’ve killed many lawns in my day. On purpose.

I just love FLOWER gardens more than lawns and  I had a good excuse anyway. There is a drought problem in Los Angeles and lawns require more water and fertilizing to maintain than other plants do.


What would “festival seating” be without a lawn for the crowds to sit on?

Which is not to say that I don’t feel that a lawn has it’s place, even in times of drought. I couldn’t imagine attending a neighborhood “Concert in the Park” event and sitting on a paved floor or on a chamomile lawn, (no mater how fragrant and bee-friendly) it is!

Having a small lawn at home for kids to play on or for pets to rest on is also very desirable.

Water Restriction is now legally enforced in Los Angeles!

Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a”state of water emergency”  in California and has passed a law to restrict the use of sprinklers in residential yards to two days per week- Mondays and Thursday’s.

Furthermore, it is against the law to use your sprinklers between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM.

You CAN get busted too, the ordinance provides for enforcement in the way of “water police” patrolling the streets of Los Angeles.

You know that neighbor who you can’t stand?

Better play nice, because citizens are encouraged to report violating neighbors.


I should dust off my “Garden Police” uniform for the new water conservation law in Los Angeles!

So it looks like lawn lovers are out of luck in Los Angeles (“LLOOLLA”). I

f you are a LLOOLLA, and  not willing to give up a “lawn experience” in your yard but want to be a law-abiding citizen, let me introduce to you an exciting organization!

Grass Roots Program I recently learned about the Grass Roots Program, (GRP) a coalition of irrigation and horticultural professionals from the Green Industry as well as concerned citizens from the Green Movement who are educating the public about alternate lawns for dry, desert areas such as Los Angeles.

The Grass Roots Program also helps you bundle rebates and incentives based on your site location.

Look for the clever “Grass Footprint Calculator” on their website to calculate how much water you can save by using a more water efficient lawn variety.


UC Verde Buffalo grass grows to about 4″ to 6″ inches tall and can be maintained naturally without mowing. Introducing UC Verde grass…

What caught my attention is a specially developed variety of Buffalo grass,(Buchloe Dactyloides) called “UC Verde” that was developed by the University of California for climates such as ours.

According to the Grass Roots Program, UC Verde grass uses up to 70-80% less water than common fescues and other popular varieties!

Too Good to Be True? Seventy to eighty percent less water needed to maintain UC Verde grass?

That is a huge claim, and if true, an incredible opportunity for lawn lovers and conscientious landscape designers like myself to include lawns in our projects.

One of the goals of the Grass Roots Program is to install UC Verde in public-owned parks, schools and other notorious “lawn intensive” landscapes.

Here are the claims regarding UC Verde grass from the GRP website:

Top Rated: “UC Verde tests best, above all grass varieties including Fescue, BermudaZoysia and Bluegrass, as a sustainable lawn 

Buffalograss (Buchloe Dactyloides) is the only turfgrass that is native to the United States. UC Verde is the only buffalograss cultivar developed in California for our state’s climates.”

Lowest Water Needs: “UC Verde requires 80% less water than Tall Fescue and 40% less water than Bermuda grass.
Deep roots extend several feet into the soil, allowing for drought survival and a very quick recovery once water is available.”
The GrassRoots Program has received  a coveted Innovative Conservation Program grant from the  Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The funds from the grant will be used to conduct case studies of the performance of UC Verde grass with different kinds of watering systems.
Comparisons will be made between UC Verde watered with a traditional above ground sprinkler systemunderground irrigation tubing, hand watering and more.
I’m putting UC Verde to the test!
Not one to take claims at face value, I replaced by creeping red fescue lawn in my front yard last week with UC Verde.
I will be blogging about my experience with UC Verde and commenting on it’s performance during the next few weeks, so please subscribe to Eden Makers for updates!
Have you tried UC Verde grass? I want to hear from you!

20 Comment

  1. […] my blog post titled “An ‘Alternate Lawn’ as a Lawn Alternative” for more information.   […]

  2. […] little over a year ago, I blogged about the new restricted watering schedule for Los Angeles area […]

  3. water conservation should be done because we are already having some water shortage these days*”-

  4. Thanks I love your blog and your style of writing . Keep it up!

  5. thats quite a lot of water to save. thanks for throwing some light on the water conservation with this alternative lawn. water conservation

  6. […] of you have been following my blog series on the “UC Verde Lawn Test for Los Angeles,” where I report on a lawn that has been specifically bred for hot, dry […]

  7. UC Verde sounds great. Bermuda grass is eating my fescue lawn, and overrunning my borders of stacked concrete pieces and infesting my garden. I am ready to kill it all off and replace it. My question is, will UC Verde overrun my borders like bermuda does?

  8. Hi Wayne,
    Thanks for dropping in and answering Land Architect’s question.

  9. To Land Architect: Todd Valley Farms, the nations largest buffalograss producer, has a variety for every climate. See: http://www.toddvalleyfarms.com/BuffalograssGeneralInfo.htm

  10. […] Looking for more water wise garden design ideas? Subscribe to Eden Makers blog for notification of new blog posts! […]

  11. Hello Shirley, I just discovered your web blog. I am interested UC Verde Buffalo grass. I wonder if someone has produced a cultivar for the Southeast. I have had clients ask for Buffalo grass in the past. I will be watching your observation. Thanks again!

  12. Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for the visit. Please come back and see the results.

    Dear John,
    Thanks for visiting EdenMakers. Yes, I am very curious about the “semi dormancy” period. I will stop watering in the winter and hope UC Verde retains at least a little color.

    Hi Delphine,
    I am honored that you would dedicate a post to my design work! Thank you very much. I enjoyed visiting your blog.

  13. Hi Shirley,
    I love your blog and your work very much !
    i made a post about you on my french garden blog :


  14. Shirley, it will be great to hear your first-hand experience. Keep reporting through the winter – I’d love to know just how dormant yours goes, and whether irrigation delays dormancy. Terrific post!

  15. Thrilled to see you’re experimenting with UC Verde Grass, Shirley! I have read the same claims and, like you, I’m very curious. The soil and general conditions around LA can be challenging at best for enviro-friendly turfgrasses. (The no-mow tall fescue blends are great, but just as thirsty as their shorter kin). With SO MANY clients and designers looking for alternatives, I look forward to reading your observations!

  16. HI Nancy,
    Thanks for taking time to comment. Great to see you at Eden Makers!

    Hi Michelle,
    Well, well, well, look who the cat dragged in. How awesome to have a great design talent in our midst! How have you been?

    Thanks for the compliments. Have you used this Buchloe grass before in your designs?

  17. Shirley,
    Definitely dust off your Garden Police uniform . It’s time to get armed and dangerous with the Buchloe grass.
    Kick some drought tolerant ass.

    P.S. – love your butt kick’in blog.

  18. I actually made a mistake on the water savings. Sorry. It is not 30% it is more like 70 to 80% according to Grass Roots Program!! Can you believe that? They have a calculator on their site that will give you an estimate of your water savings, so go check it out!

  19. Sounds like a common sense alternative. It looks great.

  20. Wow, 30% – thats quite a big saving on water. Our most drought tolerant grass in South Africa is Bermuda Grass, but there is quite strict controls about bringing new species into the country. It would be interesting to see if there are any plans to bring Buchloe here…

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