Land — by Jonathan Davis March 6, 2013
What do you think about residential sprinkler systems? You know, the in-ground kind of sprinkler system used to keep the grass green in the front yard? Well, I am not a fan. As a landscaper, many people have told me how they have grown frustrated with such systems in their yard, how they want to go to xeriscaping and how the droughts we have in south Texas lead to restricted watering and dead plant material. The front and back lawn can go as far as I’m concerned. I know many of us have this same view, however I don’t mind a little area of nice pleasant grass. It’s the waste of space, waste of nutrients and other misused resources I don’t like. Picture this, a small grassy area in your front yard and beautiful thickly mulched beds all over the remaining yard. This is the best of both.
In San Antonio Texas we have a problem — there are three main types of warm season grass used as groundcover: Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine. Bermuda is somewhat drought tolerant, but if you want it to look nice you still have to water it a lot, in which case you need a sprinkler system. Also, Bermuda Grass allows weeds to grow in it because it is kind of sparse. Zoysia Grass is thick so it chokes out weeds and looks beautiful, but it won’t make it through the tough droughts without most of it dying back. St. Augustine Grass is thick and beautiful, choking out weeds, but it too will not make it through the tough droughts without dying back.
But from the drought, wisdom is born. What I have seen over the years is the St. Augustine Grass die back to the point where it has some shade. In San Antonio what often happens is a cluster of Oaks provides the shade and the St. Augustine grass can retain the water it needs and even do well. But does the grass have enough light? If it doesn’t then maybe the trees could use a little trimming. If the area has turf grass then maybe it’s an area of use and could stand a little more beautification by clearing out the canopy. These cuttings can be used for many purposes in permaculture, like those beds all around the yard that can be used for vegetables. Another drought-beating technique is to throw some Bermuda Grass seed down on the edge of the St. Augustine grass and further out into the unshaded area too. What this does is creates an ebb and flow so that one grass does better in drought and the other does better when there is plenty of rain. These two particular grasses do well together because Bermuda has deep roots and thin blades while St. Augustine covers the ground with runners and has broad blades.
As far as sprinkler systems are concerned, there are some advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages are that if you already have a system you can use it for those heavily mulched beds and even convert it to a different kind of more efficient system, say subsurface or drip. I have seen too many of these very high priced systems degrade to think installing a new one is a good idea, however an existing system could be nice.
So if you have a front yard in a neighborhood like mine where they would call the police if you had a food forest in it, and maybe you like a little turf as a gathering place, you could use these ideas. Plant trees to create more shade, convert beds for vegetable production, plant appropriate grasses in appropriate places and utilize the things you already have, like an in-ground sprinkler system, to your advantage — at least until you can move somewhere you can plant a food forest.Comments (7)