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Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Lawns of the Future: Cash for Grass

cash for grass

Instead, plant food for pollinators.

“Together we can save precious water and invest in a more sustainable future.”


By Linn Smith

August 19, 2018—- Under Gov. Jerry Brown, Southern California has recently allotted $43 million a year to bring back it’s popular Cash for Grass program, a program which removes lawns and replaces them with  landscapes that require less water.

In the past Cash for Grass was implemented, but the program ran out of money, although it did manage to save a total of 237.3 billion gallons of water in the year it was in place. The past program was only partially successful, as it didn’t care what homeowners replaced their grass with, as long as it saved water.

climate change

The lawn of the future.

The New Cash for Grass Program

The new 2018 Cash for Grass program has strict guidelines. Here’s how it works:

In order to get the Cash for Grass rebate, homeowners must replace their grass with plants that are native, drought-tolerant varieties. Homeowners must cover 50% of the new area with drought-resistant plants and no more than 25% in rocks.

No bare soil can be showing. Bare areas must be covered with mulch to keep the soil moist. The homeowner must install some type of rain barrel to capture rain water from the surrounding area. The rainwater captured can be done by installing an underground tank that holds rainwater or digging trenches around plants to let rain soak into the roots.

Sustainable lawns

Cash for Grass

From Storm Drain to Ocean

In Southern California’s Cash for Grass program, no artificial turf may be used as it doesn’t give back to the ecosystem that produces food for butterflies and other pollinators or perform the necessary evapotranspiration—in other words, it doesn’t cool the environment! Also, artificial turf doesn’t hold water like healthy soil, but transports rainwater into street gutters which empty into the ocean in L.A.

Allowing rainwater to soak into the soil instead of running into the oceans will help replenish Southern California’s underground aquifers. According to http://www.dpw.lacounty.gov, “Storm drains in Los Angeles take rainwater and runoff from sprinklers straight to the ocean to avoid flooding, carrying contaminants to the ocean such as animal waste, auto fluids, fertilizers and pesticides which create health risk.”

Pollinator insects

Maintaining the health of our pollinator insects.

Urban Heat Islands

Allowing water to soak into the soil of a local area also helps cool large urban communities which have become heat islands. Heat islands are urban areas that have significantly warmer temperatures than surrounding rural areas because of city pollution and massive amounts of building materials. (For a history of heat islands see https://planetearth5.com/?s=heat+islands)

Greeley Colorado: Cash for Grass

The city of Greeley, Colorado recently implemented the same Cash for Grass program. They have started out by offering a free landscape lecture series on xeriscaping to residents. The class will cover the best way to transition from grass to a xeriscaped lawn, how to transform your landscape in a cost-effective way and planting areas that will attract the birds, bees and other pollinators.

Gov Jerry Brown says it well….. “Together we can save precious water and invest in a more sustainable future.”

Cash for Grass

Also see Planet Earth Weekly article: https://planetearth5.com/?s=history+of+lawns for further information

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Xeriscaping: A Step Towards a Healthier Planet

xeriscape

Xeriscaping can be combined with a traditional lawn

“What can we do to eliminate the stress our lawns create on the environment? Xeriscape!”

By Linn Smith

June 15, 2017—Spring is turning into summer soon and it’s time to think about our yards. It’s time to ask ourselves if we can continue our current practices of lawn upkeep and still protect the planet.

In May, I published an article, “The Origin of Lawns and their Environmental Impact.” In this article I stated the negative impact of keeping a lawn green. “Keeping turf from turning brown wastes water. People use too many pesticides and herbicides that contaminate the soil and water surrounding their lawns. Mowing burns fossil fuels. Also, we’re killing off our bee population, which you probably have heard by now, we need for pollinating the food we eat.”

It’s estimated by the EPA that lawn irrigation uses approximately 9 billion gallons of water daily, sending nitrogen from lawn fertilizers into our waterways. Also, millions of tons of pollutants are emitted into the air from lawnmowers.

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping with native plants reduces water needs.

What can we do to eliminate the stress our lawns create on the environment? Xeriscape! We can replace turf that requires an excessive amount of water with plants that can withstand drought conditions. Xeriscaping is a more creative and less toxic method of maintaining the land around our homes. It uses plants that require little water to maintain.

According to http://www.xeriscape.sustainablesources.com, there are 7 things to consider when xeriscaping:
1. Planning and Design
2. Soil Improvement
3. Appropriate Plant Selection
4. Practical Turf Areas
5. Efficient Irrigation
6. Use of Mulches
7. Appropriate Maintenance

xeriscaping

Drought tolerant plants use less water and are hardier.

Planning and Design

It’s not necessary to Xeriscape your entire lawn. You can decide how much you want to plant sustainably. Choose native plants and plants well adapted to your area. Native plants are already survivers of the climate you live in. Rama Nayeri of Creation Landscape Design says, “For almost every non-native plant there is an equally sustainable native option”—which also attract native wildlife.

Soil Preparation

Get rid of the existing grass or weeds. If you’re in a hot sunny area you can cover your turf with black plastic in the spring or early summer. Leave it in place for 4-6 weeks. You can then remove the plastic, leave the dead grass as compost and begin planting and turning over soil. There are excellent instructions in an article at https://conservationcenter.org/gardens/turf-removal-replacement-101/

xeriscaping

Use plants native to your area.

Appropriate Plant Selection

The plants you choose for xeriscaping depends on what climate you live in. In the Southwest cacti may be the answer, while in more moist climates, prairie plants may be the answer. In an article by Julie Martens Forney, “Xeriscaping Plants”, http://www.hgtv.com, she states, “Many homeowners mistakenly associate xeriscaping plants with a desert-style garden, featuring cacti, yucca and agave. The fact is that xeriscaping plants run the gamut, from classic drought-tolerant succulents, to prairie plants, to ornamental grasses.”

Most drought tolerant plants for your area would be plants native to your region. These are the original plants that graced your landscape before folks started digging them up! The website, Native Plant Finder, at http://www.nwf.org, will help you identify native plants to your area buy entering your zipcode.

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping requires less lawn care.

Practical Turf Areas

You can decide how much turf to leave for such purposes as play areas, pet areas and areas for sports. Designing these in a round shape can make for easier mowing and more efficient watering. Choose turf which requires the least amount of water.

You can talk to experts in greenhouses or your local university extension turf grass management program, which often offers free advice for home owners in lawn care.

Efficient Irrigation

To prevent over watering know how much water your plants/lawn need. The most effective way to water is to water deeply but not often.

Morning is the best time to water because evening waterings can invite fungus to grow overnight. Measure rain with a gauge. If you get 1 inch or more skip the watering. You can attach a rain sensor or moisture sensor to your sprinkler system to shut it off. Use a rain barrel to harvest water for plants that you water by hand.

A study found that homes with sprinkler systems used 35% more water than other homes. It found that most people with irrigation systems use “a set it and forget it” method. The study states that without proper scheduling and use of sensors, a sprinkler system is extremely wasteful. If you have 1/4  acre you could end up using 6,000 gallons of water to get a one inch deep watering.

A sensor by Toro has 2 prongs that measure the moisture of the soil and shuts down the sprinkler system if water isn’t needed. This method can use up to 40% less water. The Toro 53812 Xtra Smart Soil Moisture Sensor sells on Amazon for $126, or you can shop around because there are other moisture sensors available online.

Use of Mulches

Mulches are used around plants to hold the moisture in the ground. They can consist of bark chips, straw, compost, gravel, rocks or a plastic fabric sheet. Whatever kind you choose, it should allow water and air to pass through to the plants. Mulch can also be beneficial in creating paths through your landscape. Organic mulches, (bark, straw, pine needles, leaves, nut shells ect) are best because they add nutrients to the soil. Large landscape rocks can also help hold moisture in the soil.

Maintenance

A xeriscaped yard requires less maintenance than a traditional yard. Pruning, trimming dead branches, can stimulate plant growth. Use natural methods of pest control, as chemicals can kill beneficial insects. Bees and many insects are needed for pollination. To reduce unwanted insects you can use insecticidal soaps or install bird and bat houses around your yard. Natural pesticides also include Neem oil, salt spray, mineral oil, citrus oil, cayenne pepper, Eucalyptus oil, onion and garlic spray and many more. Native plants are adapted to your local soil so do not need fertilizer.

In conclusion, what is needed is a commitment by each homeowner to lessen the burden on our Mother Earth. You can start small with a portion of your lawn if a large project seems too intimidating. The important thing is to make a move in the right direction, either large or small!

Xeriscape for a healthy planet!