by David Salman

native grass lawns are a sensible alternative to chemically dependent, high maintenance lawn grasses
Native grass lawns are a sensible alternative to chemically dependent, high maintenance lawn grasses.

Lawns are a mainstay of American landscapes. But traditional lawn care and maintenance methods are an ecological nightmare. American gardeners and landscape professionals need to make a concerted effort to make our lawns more eco-sensible.

We can do this by:
  • reducing the amount of area covered by turf and use more groundcovers where appropriate
  • select regionally appropriate native and “low mow” lawn grass varieties
  • use only organic/natural fertilizers and soil amendments to restore the soil’s health and slow the rampant growth that results from the use of high nitrogen chemical fertilizers.

The following excerpt from the most recent issue of sciencedaily.com will be quite startling to most folks.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010)Dispelling the notion that urban "green" spaces help counteract greenhouse gas emissions, new research has found -- in Southern California at least -- that total emissions would be lower if lawns did not exist.

Turfgrass lawns help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it as organic carbon in soil, making them important "carbon sinks." However, greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer production, mowing, leaf blowing and other lawn management practices are four times greater than the amount of carbon stored by ornamental grass in parks, a UC Irvine study shows. These emissions include nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that's 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, the Earth's most problematic climate warmer.

"Lawns look great -- they're nice and green and healthy, and they're photosynthesizing a lot of organic carbon. But the carbon-storing benefits of lawns are counteracted by fuel consumption," said Amy Townsend-Small, Earth system science postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study, forthcoming in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The research results are important to greenhouse gas legislation being negotiated. "We need this kind of carbon accounting to help reduce global warming," Townsend-Small said. "The current trend is to count the carbon sinks and forget about the greenhouse gas emissions, but it clearly isn't enough."

Turfgrass is increasingly widespread in urban areas and covers 1.9 percent of land in the continental U.S., making it the most common irrigated crop.

This research emphasizes yet another big reason why it is imperative that we:

  1. Stop the use of chemical fertilizers and toxic herbicides, fungicides and other lawn chemicals and
  2. Plant native and improved dwarf  “low mow” turf grass varieties that don’t require intensive mowing and maintenance.

  1. Cynodon hybrida Dog Tuff Grass Plugs

    Dog Tuff™ Grass (Cynodon ‘PWIN04S’) is an amazing, highly drought-resistant lawn grass perfect for high traffic and play areas. It has excellent durability in yards with dogs a...

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    Dog Tuff Grass Plugs Dog Tuff Grass Plugs Cynodon hybrida Dog Tuff
    $59.95
    Per Tray of 70

    Dog Tuff™ Grass (Cynodon ‘PWIN04S’) is an amazing, highly drought-resistant lawn grass perfect for high traffic and play areas. It has excellent durability in yards with dogs and is resistant to yellowing from dog urine. Once established, this warm-season grass is highly weed resistant, deep-rooted and provides a soft, cushioned feel for bare feet. It only grows 2 ½-4 inches high, so you need not mow it unless you prefer a manicured look. 2015 Green Thumb Award Winner. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth. Questions? Download our Dog Tuff ™ Grass Planting Guide.

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  2. Blue Grass Bella Grass Plugs, Blue Grass Bella Plugs for shade and semi-shade!

    Bella Bluegrass Grass Plugs for shade and semi-shade are a truly revolutionary new dwarf turf bluegrass that requires 10-20% less water than traditional bluegrass. Bella Bluegrass ha...

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    Bella™ Bluegrass Grass Plugs Bella™ Bluegrass Plugs
    $59.95
    Per Tray of 70

    Bella Bluegrass Grass Plugs for shade and semi-shade are a truly revolutionary new dwarf turf bluegrass that requires 10-20% less water than traditional bluegrass. Bella Bluegrass has excellent shade tolerance (up to 80%) and doesn't require mowing as the grass blades only to grow to a height of 2 to 3 inches. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth.

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  3. Buchloe dactyloides UC Verde Grass Plugs, Buchloe dactyloides UC Verde, UC Verde Buffalo Grass Plugs for Coastal CA and Desert SW

    UC Verde Buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) produces a dense turf of soft, bright-green, very fine leaf blades. It is recommended for planting in the high heat conditions found in th...

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    UC Verde Buffalo Grass Plugs UC Verde Buffalo Grass Plugs Buchloe dactyloides UC Verde
    $59.95
    Per Tray of 70

    UC Verde Buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) produces a dense turf of soft, bright-green, very fine leaf blades. It is recommended for planting in the high heat conditions found in the lower elevation of the desert Southwest and California. UC Verde Buffalograss It is drought resistant (xeric), requiring only 1/4 inch of water per week, and has a very low pollen rating. Growing 4-8 inches, it requires mowing only once per year. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth.

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  4. Bouteloua gracilis Hachita Grass Plugs, Bouteloua gracilis Hachita, Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs

    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads,...

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    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Bouteloua gracilis Hachita
    $59.95
    Per Tray of 70

    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads, it can also be mowed once a month to create a soft, inviting lawn. Quite xeric, 'Hachita' Blue Grama thrives in both sandy soils and clay! You can also interplant plugs with wildflowers to grow a colorful, low-care short grass prairie. For a turf type lawn, plant plugs 6" apart. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth. 4" tall (15" with seed heads).

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