Who is behind
Waterwise Yards is an initiative of Resource Central, thirty people in Boulder determined to make conservation so simple that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Established in 1976, we’re an innovative nonprofit with programs that help people save water, conserve energy, and reduce waste. We are a community hub for high-impact conservation programs, helping nearly 600,000 people improve their homes, conserve natural resources, and save money. And we’re just getting started.
Not all plants and landscape styles are created equal. Here in Colorado, we live in a high desert climate where water is a hot commodity. 80% of our population lives on the Eastern Slope of the Rocky Mountains while only 20% of Colorado’s water is actually available there. With populations expected to multiply in the Front Range in the coming years, we need to pay more attention to how we are using this invaluable resource.
There are certain types of plants that are either native or adaptable to our climate and require less supplemental irrigation that our traditional turf lawns. And no, we aren’t talking about cactus! Waterwise plants come in all shapes and sizes, including large shrubs, grasses, a rainbow of flowering perennials, and groundcovers. When watered and maintained effectively, replacing your turf with low-water plants can reduce your outdoor water use by up to 60%! On average, 50% of household water is used for landscape irrigation, so by converting even a small portion of your yard, the potential water savings are HUGE!
Waterwise landscapes are another word for Xeriscape, which most Coloradans have some basic familiarity with, and we should be proud to know that the actual word has its roots here in Colorado. A special task force of Denver Water, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, and Colorado State University coined the word – a combination of the Greek word “xeros,” which means “dry,” and landscaping. Learn more about waterwise landscapes.
While using less water is a HUGE benefit of waterwise landscapes, there are so many other reasons to make the switch.
In addition to the incredible water-saving power of lawn to waterwise conversion, lawn removal also offers you the following benefits:
- Enjoy your yard more, maintain it less – Other than the annual pruning and a bit of watering, Xeriscaping requires very little maintenance and care. No more mowing! Period.
- Promote a healthy ecosystem – For wildlife, a lawn is a barren wasteland, a monoculture offering very little support for insect and animal life. Replacing even a portion of your lawn with a Xeric garden is one of the best things you can do to create a sustainable landscape, increase biodiversity, and nourish wildlife in the areas surrounding your home.
- Improve the health of your soil – In the compact clay soils of Colorado, a large portion of water is lost to run-off and turf roots are often very shallow. Replacing these shallow-rooted grasses with longer-rooted Xeric plants produces healthier soil, which has the ability to absorb more water and leads to less run-off.
- Enhance the beauty of your landscape – Who can resist the popping reds and whites of the Crimson Star Columbine, the oranges and pinks of the blossoming Sunset Hyssop, or the bright yellow of the Missouri Evening Primrose? Xeric plants such as these add a vibrant and attractive splash of color to an otherwise uniform sea of green.
- Create a more sustainable landscape – Here in the Front Range, we live in a high desert climate with hot, dry summers. Yet, the turf that dominates our lawns, Kentucky Bluegrass, is adapted for growth in cool, humid climates. That simply doesn’t line up. By converting your turf to Xeriscape, you are choosing a landscape that is more appropriate for and adapted to thrive in our local climate.
Implement an easy alternative to difficult to manage turf areas – If you are having trouble growing, watering, or maintaining your turf on steep slopes, irregularly shaped areas, narrow mowing strips, along fences, or in any other hard-to-water places, then get rid of this stressor altogether. Replace your turf with low-maintenance Xeriscaping.
Contrary to common myth, you don’t have to be a landscape professional or extremely strong and muscular to successfully kill and/or remove your turf. In fact, with a few easy steps and a little patience, anyone can do it! Offering a variety of options to meet your specific needs, the following section outlines four different ways for killing and removing your turf successfully. The four recommended methods are: Solarization, Sheet Covering (or Lasagna Gardening), Physical Removal, and Vinegar.
1) Solarization: With this method you will cover the area of turf that you wish to kill with a black plastic sheet, creating a sun-powered sauna for your grass that is an uninhabitable place for it to live. Can take anywhere from 6 week to a year to fully kill your grass.
2) Sheet Covering (or Lasagna Gardening): This is a method of killing your turf by covering it with newspaper or cardboard and layering it with organic matter and mulch. This process can take 6 months, starting in the fall.
3) Physical Removal: This is a method of physically removing your turf with a sod cutter or manually with a square shovel or grape grubbing hoe. Physical removal is the fastest way of removing turf and can often be done it a weekend!
4) Vinegar: Vinegar is a safe and natural alternative to herbicides. With this method, you can kill your turf by applying vinegar to it. This method is typically best for small areas.
Feeling overwhelmed or like you need some extra support to complete your project? You are not alone! There are lots of resources to help you on your way. Below are a few places to seek our support and information.
- Your water provider or city: many local communities are offering financial incentives and support to residents who are looking to remove a portion of their lawn. We recommend going to your city website and looking for their water conservation page, often under public works.
- Resource Central: we engage with over 7,000 homeowners each year to help them understand their home water use and take action to use less. We offer sprinkler check-ups, lawn removal consultations, free waterwise seminars, and our popular Garden In A Box program! We work with over 30 water providers in Colorado and many of our programs are either free or offered at a reduced cost. Learn more.
- CSU Extension: talk about a wealth of information! The CSU Extension offers unparalleled resources to Colorado residents, including fact sheets, helpful advice from their Master Gardeners, and helpful consultations.
- Your local nursery: going into your local nursery is a great way to get more information. They can recommend low water plants, share information about other materials you need to complete your project, and often have other informational resources available to you.