February 2014
Rethinking Grass

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Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  February 3, 2014

Rethinking Grass

In our urban yards, a grassy lawn is an iconic display of “The American Dream.” It’s as much a part of our cultural upbringing as baseball and apple pie. From the botanical perspective, grass is just a ground cover, one of many. The typical grass lawn is currently discouraged because of its high needs for water, maintenance, and chemical fertilizers and herbicides. Great strides have been made in moving away from the typical lush lawns to instead planting drought-tolerant, native grasses. There are many alternative plants to cover the ground other than grass, but grass plants certainly can have their place in our biodiverse landscape.

According to the California Native Grasslands Association, native grasses planted in urban landscapes are low-maintenance and drought-tolerant and can filter polluted runoff.

Bunch grasses are grass varieties that don’t spread and provide a good nesting habitat for bumblebees and other beneficial insects that pollinate and protect our food crops. Bunch grasses can be interplanted with drought-tolerant flowers that provide nectar and pollen for wildlife. Alternatively, there are native grasses that come in sod form for a more lawnlike appearance. Native grasses change in appearance through the seasons.

Some native grasses can be mowed, and some can be allowed to grow au naturel. A couple of nice examples of native grass plantings are 30 acres of native grasses at Chrissy Field and at the Academy of Sciences, both in San Francisco.

Hedgerow Farms, Pacific Coast Seed Company, and the Delta Bluegrass Company are good resources for drought-tolerant California native grasses and more information about growing native grasses.

The Solano County Water Agency is offering a rebate if you purchase a Smart Irrigation Controller http://www.waterprograms.com/solano/. Also, if you replace your thirsty turf-grass with water-efficient landscaping, such as the native grasses described above, you can receive a rebate of $1/square foot. Call 707-455-1113 for more information.

For more information check out the websites below.

Happy Gardening!

California Native Grasslands Association http://www.Cnga.org

Solano County Water Agency http://www.SolanoSavesWater.org

Hedgerow Farms http://www.hedgerowfarms.com

Delta Bluegrass Company http://www.DeltaBluegrass.com