We’re in a drought. What can you do about what used to be the water-gobbling green, green grass of home?
Two-minute showers, re-using dishwater and rain dances have all become common practice for many South Africans. Our country may be in the grip of a drought, but that doesn’t mean your yard has to look the part. There are ways that you can keep your garden looking picturesque and healthy while still saving water. Here are some ways to replace your water-gobbling lawn.
Paving slabs are easy to clean, come in various designs, are generally low in maintenance and provide a good surface for outdoor entertaining.
However, they can result in scraped knees and elbows if used in children’s play areas and the concrete can crack over time. Initial installation costs are also higher than some other options.
Mulch is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to save water in your garden. Mulch is any substance that can be placed on the soil surface around plants to keep the moisture in the soil. It also helps prevent soil erosion, keeps the roots of plants cool and helps to prevent frost damage to plants.
Organic mulch comes from plant or animal sources and is the best type of mulch because it conserves water and feeds the soil as it slowly breaks down. It also attracts earthworms and other micro-organisms, which aerate the soil. Examples include compost, pine needles, grass clippings, bark chips and leaves.
The drawback of mulch is that it retards the heating of the soil by the Sun. In summer this is not a problem but in early/mid spring when you need all the warmth you can get from the Sun’s rays it can inhibit the germination of seeds, especially those seeds that need a higher soil temperature to germinate. Lower soil temperature can also reduce the growth rate of seedlings.
Mulch can be unsuitable for crops that need fine sandy soil to flourish (such as carrots) or are subject to collar rot in moist conditions (such as garlic).
Pebbles are an economical, simple alternative that can be used anywhere you need ground cover. They require essentially no maintenance, unless leaves need to be raked away and inhibit weed growth. Pebbles are inexpensive and require no water. They also add a decorative touch to your garden. However, pebbles are not a good choice for children’s play areas and can pose a choking hazard for small children.
A true outdoor carpet, artificial grass directly addresses the primary environmental concerns of real turf. It requires no watering, no mowing, and no feeding. Some manufacturers use recycled materials, such as old tyres or plastic bottles. And, though expensive, artificial turf has a life expectancy upwards of 25 years, making it a less costly alternative to real turf over its lifespan.
Available in an array of blade lengths, colours and textures, synthetic grass can fool most.
The main benefit of going artificial is that it is low maintenance, child friendly and of course saves water. That said, artificial turf has its own environmental drawbacks. It is a petroleum-based product that creates pollution and waste in the manufacturing process. And, although it is often made partially with recycled materials, it is not biodegradable. Despite a long life of from 15 to 25 years, it will, ultimately, end up in a landfill. Critics also point to synthetic turf as an environmental heater. It absorbs heat and feels hot to the touch in direct Sun.
The types of artificial lawn to consider include nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene. The amount of traffic the lawn receives will help determine the type of material best suited for your home. Polyethylene is soft, vibrant in colour and resilient. Nylon is strong, allowing it to maintain its shape, and can withstand high temperatures. Polypropylene, while less costly, does not have the durability or resilience of the other two.