#06- Should I have a lawn in an area that often has droughts?

Hey, hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode. We're going to dive into something that's kind of been a hot topic lately, especially in areas like Utah, California, Arizona, in these areas that can have drought conditions, where resources like water, like rain, can sometimes not come when you need them. And, you know, as part of that conversation on our side, there's a lot of talk about ripping out your grass. There's a lot of talk about the negative impact and the drain of resources that lawns are. And so I want to talk a little bit about it and offer my perspective because I know even just yesterday I saw an article–I can’t remember who it was; maybe I’ll dig it up and put the reference there–but they were saying in some areas in Colorado, the city or the government was actually giving you money to rip out your lawn because of it using resources. And so there's a big movement that's anti-lawn, anti-grass. And so I kind of want to talk about that and share some research that I found and let you come to your own conclusion. 

So as most of you know, I'm in the lawn care industry, and so this is a serious conversation for me. At the same time, I believe in the stewardship that we have over the environment, each one on our own property. And then when you're in a company that's impacting the environment, like myself, if you're applying things or you’re trying to control things, I think there's a level of stewardship and caution that you need to use, and balance because, yes, on one side I don't want to drain our resources. On one side, I don't want to apply nasty chemicals and things like that. And then on the other side, you know there's a business and there's a lot of benefits of lawns. So I’ve kind of been thinking quite a bit about this. So let's jump in. 

So the main argument that I've seen going around in these articles to get rid of your lawn, downsize your lawn, is especially in the areas that I've mentioned in the midwest and the west coast, where you just don't get the rain that they do in Jersey or Massachusetts. And so on the East Coast–and I’ve done business on the East Coast–it just rains and rains. You'll have your occasional drought late July, maybe through the month of August, but you get so much rain that it's easy to grow turf. So I remember there were times we would throw seed down–half the properties don't have irrigation–and it would grow. And lawns could look pretty decent without irrigation. 

Where areas like Utah, you have to have sprinklers installed, automated to really have a good looking lawn. And so the biggest argument I've seen against it is, you know, is how can you justify it when we're having a shortage here, in bad years. Currently, right now, we're having a great year. There's a great snow pack. It's winter. It's been snowing a lot. So that's great. Our reservoirs will fill up hopefully. But what about those bad years? You know, how do you justify taking all that money and resource and and using it to water your lawn when you could be using it for other things? 

That's a lot of the argument that I've seen, and I absolutely agree. It's, on one side, I understand. I think that it can be a little crazy if you have, you know, 2-3 acres of turf and you're in an area like our area or you're in an area like California and it's just taking so much resources that we don't have a lot of during a drought and utilizing it. And not to rip on anyone who has that, or judge them. Look, everyone's got their property. In my mind they have a right to do what it is they want to do on that property. But at the same time, there's got to be, back to that environmental stewardship, that protecting what we have. When we're in a drought, if the resource isn't there, it's just not there. And so I get that as well. So let’s talk a little bit about...That's kind of the argument for getting rid of our lawns. 

But what we don't hear as much is the benefits of turfgrass. So there’s a lot of benefits. One of them is it can reduce run off. If you think about it, you know, imagine your yard and imagine it was just all topsoil or something else. When you have a lawn, there's a lot of friction. There's a lot of grass blades. There's a thatch layer. You know, there's all this that makes up a lawn. And run-off can get trapped in there as well as pollutants–I said that funny–as well as pollutants. That's how I'd say it. As well as pollutants and other chemicals that rainwater can gather. And then it kind of just pushes it down as it runs off, and it can trap them in our soil, in the lawn. And so that's a real benefit to think about. 

One example is that as I was down in, there’s an area called Vineyard, here in Utah. It's off of Geneva Road. And if you go down there, it's always dusty. It's always, it just has a dirty feel right now, and it's because they're just starting to build, right, and so there's not a lot of lawns. There's not a lot of plants that are taking in these run-offs, and taking the pollutants out of the air and capturing them somewhere. And so I've noticed that you go down there. You're like, man, it's really dusty and kind of nasty out here. Now I believe as the area gets built up and and people start, you know, putting in some lawn, some landscapes and beds, things like that. It'll minimize that. It'll clear it up, it'll help. So that's one great thing. 

Another thing is, it actually helps prevent erosion, right, of your land, of soil, grass and its root systems. They all lock into the soil particles, and so there's a big part where it helps with the erosion. 

It helps with just safety. I mean, in a couple ways, if you think about it, you know, maintained lawns, they don't have as many ticks and other pests, you know, in that area versus just a wild native area. And so if you have kids out playing, you know that's a big deal, especially where I come from in Jersey. We had deer ticks everywhere. Now they could get into the lawn, but I'm just saying, a lawn area that's manicured versus a native wood area in my backyard, you're definitely going to see a decrease in certain insects. And just, you know, think about your kids playing and they fall down. You know that grass is always there to cushion and help the fall. 

Another thing that I really think we don't think about, is how it can help the air. So especially here in Utah, you know, we have an air quality problem in certain parts, you know, Utah County, Salt Lake. You know, sometimes there's, you turn on the news and it’ll tell you if you go outside today. It’s called inversion. And so the air quality is a serious thing around here and what's cool is, these plants and the lawns, they take up that carbon dioxide, and they release oxygen into the atmosphere. And grass lawns do that as well. And so, that just helps out with the air. You also have, you know, dust, airborne allergens that kind of get trapped, again, in the turf. 

And so just some other ways that it really helps. Another thing is like with temperatures, you know, temperature regulation. You know, lawns, turf is really cool compared to sidewalks, compared to, you know, other things. And you can test that. You go out on a hot day barefoot on the lawn and then you step onto the sidewalk. And it’s ow, you know. And so when you have, you know, lawn areas, it actually helps to cool down the environment around it, especially for plants and soil and things like that. 

And the last thing I was thinking about is just that lawns they can help with carbon. They actually play an important role of removing carbon from the atmosphere and then during the photosynthesis process the carbon dioxide is actually converted into plant biomass, and that allows the plant to really store that carbon below ground with the roots. So it actually plays a great role in that. So, a lot of benefits. 

And then, of course, the downsides of the, you know the resources and is and is it worth, can I justify using this precious resource in some areas? Is it eco friendly to even have a lawn. So I, you know, my opinion is this, and I have, you know, thousands of customers. Each case is a little bit different. And I say, look, this is your property. I'm not going to come in here and make you feel bad or judge you. If it were me, I would consider, you know, I have some clients that might have 3 acres of turf in Park City, which water is really expensive. It's hard to get up there. So I would say, you know what? I would consider taking some of that out, maybe dropping it down considerably so you can still have grass and have some of the benefits on your property, but maybe not as much. So you're not draining as much of the resources that you need. So that's one option. Another option is xeroscaping some of the area. Maybe take that three acres and you make 1/2 an acre lawn with a xeroscaped area that has nice, you know, native plants, a fire pit area, a tennis court. You know these type of things. 

But I guess what I'm trying to say is, I really think it's moderation here. I think the answer is in the middle. I think you have to be aware and realize that we are, we could be in a drought and you have to be responsible. But also look at the benefits at this place in my backyard, in my front yard. Maybe it's a combination of both having some lawn, but a lot less, smaller, so you're not draining resources. I know a lot of people love the xeroscape, rip out all their lawn, and I've seen lately they've gotten so good at that. It actually looks pretty great. And so I love that, too. 

But I guess my summary is, you know, I see both sides of it. I always like to have some grass. I think it's beautiful. It's fun to play on. It has all the benefits I've listed. But I don't like to have too much because of what I think about the amount of maintenance, the water it takes, the fertilizer it takes, and all that. So that's my opinion. And there it is. 

So I hope this helps. I hope you guys have a great day. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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