When my husband and I first moved into our rental house a few years ago, we had lofty dreams of fixing up a house that hadn’t been taken care of in 20 years. We were excited to begin painting and carpeting our new rental. Our friends thought we were nuts! Yet we hadn’t discussed purchasing a home because it was during the peak of the housing boom; starter homes started at $550,000. So our original plan was to live in our rental home for many years.

One area that desperately need improving was the lawn. Years of neglect, infrequent watering, and lack of nutrients had left a brown patch covered in weeds in both the back and front yard. After mowing 3-foot weeds, my husband hired a handy man to till and seed the yard. The lawn was beginning to become a luscious sea of green. That was until the owner of the house finally decided to replace our roof, which badly needed replacing. My husband organized all the labor and materials for the roofing project, and over a period of 3 weeks, we watched our newly grown lawn become a trampled mess. So, we ended up with a brand-new roof, but a lawn that was dead.

Over a period of 3 years we’ve reseeded the lawn 4 times. Each time, the lawn began to come in great, but the amount of watering needed to maintain it in such a state made us grimace each time we received our water bill. At one point the owner of the house suggested we plant sod, but we had spent so much on reseeding, we decided it wasn’t cost-effective at that point. Again, this is a rental house, not our own house and the lawn currently looks better now than when we first moved in.

Ditch the Lawn Beautifully
Photo Credit: Sunset Gardens

We’ve learned a lot about lawns throughout this 3 year process. What I’ve realized the most is that we live in a semi-arid climate and a lawn may not be the most cost-effective or environmentally friendly choice. So, I’ve begun researching alternatives to a lawn that my husband and I can use for our new home. Sunset Magazine and Better Home & Gardens have great garden plans online and have given me some wonderful ideas. One alternative is to remove the lawn completely and plant a garden of drought-tolerant plants and ornamental grasses. My husband isn’t thrilled with this option since he likes the idea of a green lawn still. Another alternative I’ve researched is having a smaller patch of more durable grass amongst a bordered drought-tolerant garden. This may be the route we choose.

Saving money on not watering a water-hungry lawn is a great first step, but my husband and I have also researched some watering alternatives that we think we could install ourselves once we are in our new house. Something we’ve discussed, and almost installed on our rental, is a rain barrel collection system. This is a fairly easy system to install, you really only need rain gutters, a drain, and a couple of whiskey barrels. Where we live, we’re lucky to receive our annual 15 inches of rain, but the collection could help water my container plants at least.

Another water reclamation project we’ve discussed, an idea that was due to a leaky washing machine flooding our kitchen multiple times, is using our house-hold grey water to water larger parts of a lawn or garden. Basically, water from baths, showers, dish washers and laundry washers drains into an outside septic tank or separation tank. That water can be diverted directly to a planter or garden. There are more sophisticated grey water models that include permeable gravel beds, but this is the simplest.

Currently, since we still live in our rental, we’ve opted to watering only the front lawn and focusing on container gardens. We’ve reduced our watering in half, so the money saved is money that is going towards our ‘house fund’. The container plants are drought-resistant and easy to care for and at least we can take the containers with us when we move.

1 Comment

  1. RainyDaySaver Reply

    Excellent blog!

    I feel your pain about the lawn. We have a sloped lawn in front of the property, about a 50-degree pitch, and it was overrun with weeds. Mowing it is difficult, but I was determined to put down grass seed. About a month ago, I tilled and seeded, and eventually, the grass started growing. Little did I know I had awakened a whole subset of crawling ground cover (not ivy, I haven’t ID’ed it yet). So now that’s starting to overrun the grass. *sigh* Perhaps I should just let it take over so we don’t have to mow the sloped area!

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