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The small lawn makes great sense today.


It needs less water It takes less time. And it can still be useful and good-looking

In any year in any place, a small lawn means less work and lower cost than a big one. And nowadays in the West, the small lawn also makes really good sense because it doesn't demand as much water. There's a negative side to any lawn, whatever its size: it demands more water per square foot than anything else you can grow in your garden.

But there's also a big plus: the lawn supplies a uniquely comfortable and inviting surface that's perfect for barefoot play and lounging on warm days. It can also combine handsomely and easily with other garden textures and colors.

Balancing the pros and cons, many owners of new homes will still want to put in a small lawn. And some families who have had to let their lawns go during the present dry season may want to replace or shrink them. If grass is in your plans, fall is the best season to plant or replant a cool-season lawn of an size.

Lawns don't have to be big to look good

On these four pages, we show six Western lawns that take up only a fraction of their garden's overall space, yet still offer enough room for playing and entertaining-and provide that welcome sight of cool green grass.

The smallest lawn we show, the 150square-foot semicircle pictured on page 82, is enveloped by trees, shrubs, and rocks, making it seem like a private glen. The largest works more like a pathway, meandering through a 150-foot-long rear garden.

In all of these examples, the lawns' sizes and shapes stand out. If they were bigger, they might seem even less distinguished; small lawns can have a stronger total visual impact than large ones.

How much lawn do you really need?

Studies done for the Arizona Department of Water Resources show that for most family activities 600 square feet of lawn is plenty. For example, the octagonal lawn in Lake Oswego (page 80) measures about 500 square feet. Unless you plan to play football or baseball (better saved for parks anyway), a patch of 20 by 30 feet or less should do the trick. And it takes only 30 minutes a week to care for.

That sensible, grass-scrimping attitude seems to be catching on. Many communities in California are adopting guidelines that recommend restricting the size of new lawns so they take up less than 25 percent of the total landscape.

In northern California's Marin and Sonoma counties, installing a smaller lawn and practicing other water-conserving techniques (see page 168) can cut the cost of a water meter hookup to a new home. In Goleta, near Santa Barbara, a building permit for a new house or remodel is denied if the plans include too large a lawn (it must occupy no more than 20 percent of the total landscape).

How important is lawn size when it comes to water conservation?

It's very important, as is the lawn's shape. John Nelson, general manager of the North Marin Water District, compared water use and maintenance costs of a 548home subdivision in northern California. Half the homes-the ones with small lawns and drought-tolerant plants-were characterized as water conserving. The other half had larger, more traditional lawns and landscaping.

Mr. Nelson found that the amount of water used in a landscape was directly proportional to the lawn's area and its total perimeter. Put simply, that means if you want to save money and water, keep your lawn small and in simple geometric shapes. It also helps to keep it flat, to minimize runoff.

As well, the water-conserving landscapes used about half the water of those with big lawns, saving an average of about $75 a year in water and maintenance costs a figure that will surely rise with the price of water.

How to shrink (or get ridof) your present lawn 1. Plan. Before you dig, know what you'll do with the space. Try water-conserving plants, or enlarge or add a patio or deck.

2. Mark the grass. Use a rope or hose to define the grass you want to save. Avoid plumbing changes; shape your new lawn according to existing sprinkler patterns.

3. Remove unwanted sod Use a spade as shown at right (damp sod comes up easiest), or rent a sod cutter from a rental yard. Bermuda grass must be removed to a depth of at least 3 inches. Spot-treat any resprouts with glyphosate,

4. Cap unneeded sprinklers. Remove heads and cap risers (hardware stores sell screw- or glue-on caps). You can cut off part of the riser first (below ground level) if it's in the way.

5. Install new sprinklers. If your new lawn isn't evenly watered by an existing system, add, change, or move beads. New plantings around the lawn will need a separate system and valve, since they shouldn't be watered as often as the grass should.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1988
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