lawns gone wild 2011

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This lecture was given in January, 2011 as part of the California native plant gardening series ‘Out of the Wilds and Into Your Garden’


  • 1.Out of the Wilds and Into Your GardenGardening with Western L.A. County Native PlantsProject SOUND 2011 (our 7th year) Project SOUND

2. Lawns Gone WildC.M. Vadheim and T. Drake CSUDH & Madrona Marsh Preserve Madrona Marsh Nature Center January 8, 2011 Project SOUND 3. 2011 Theme: Mindful Gardening(understanding options/choices for your garden) Project SOUND 4. The two most important tools in themindful gardeners toolkit1. A thoughtful (question posing) attitude2. Time spent watching and thinking about your garden Project SOUND 5. A traditional sod lawn may be the bestsolution... Tough stands upto kids, dogs, playand even worse Evergreen and anice medium greencolor Smooth goodplaying surface Gardeners can them Project SOUND 6. Many benefits of a healthy conventional lawn Reduces soil erosion Filters contaminants fromrainwater Absorbs airborne pollutantslike dust and soot Great at converting carbondioxide to oxygen. 54 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend. 5% of U.S. air pollution comes from traditional gas-powered lawn mowers. 80 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere each year by theaverage gas-powered mower. 800 million gallons of gas are consumed each year by gas mowers. Source: Environmental Protection Agency and People Powered Machines Project SOUND 7. So, ideally you should choose a conventional turf lawnbased on conscious weighing of pros & cons rather than simply going with the usual solution Project SOUND 8. You may conclude that you do need some lawnbut can reduce its sizeGiving you more space to useas you desire (whatever thatmay be) Project SOUND 9. What do you really want fromyour lawn area? Project SOUND 10. Your first answer maybe drought tolerant Cities/water districts are promoting incentive programs Beautiful Long Beach Lawn- to-Garden Incentive Program Also programs in Santa Monica, City of L.A., other areas These programs may give you the extra incentive to re-think your lawn space but they cant tell you whats right for your yard Project SOUND 11. Just because its drought-tolerant doesnt mean its right for you Project SOUND 12. What things dont you like about yourcurrent lawn are? Too water-thirsty Needs too much fertilizer &pesticides Time spent mowing could bespent more enjoyably Cost of gardener to maintain Not used any more kids grown Poor habitat value Boring Full of weeds Lawn doesnt grow very well too shady or too hot Doesnt reflect the naturalheritage of western L.A. co. What can I do to avoid these pitfalls in my new lawn? Project SOUND 13. What do you like about your current lawn? A place for kids to play Green most of the year Cool in summer Mowing it gets us outsideand working/exercising Looks good with the designof the house Easy to maintain Reduces erosion; allowswater to infiltrate Takes up CO2 Whatever it is you like aboutyour lawn Project SOUND 14. Your lawn before you removed it The good thingsThe bad things Green in Spring/Summer Requires too much water Looks neat & tidy Not local native would Can be walked onprefer that Mowing enjoy occasionally Project SOUND 15. Your personal lists will help you make achoice thats right for your gardenThe good things The bad things Green in Spring/Summer Requires too much water Looks neat & tidy Not local native would Can be walked onprefer that Mowing enjoy occasionally Project SOUND 16. Saltgrass Distichlis spicata Project SOUND 17. Saltgrass Stiff perennial grasswith numerous longstems Warm-season grass Sod-forming spreadsby rhizomes May grow flat or moreerect (4-16 inches tall) Looks somewhat likeBermuda Grass Project SOUND 18. Keys to a successful Saltgrass lawn Lawns usually started from plugs or cut sections of rhizomes Best done in winter Bury rhizomes 1-2 inches Keep ground moist until established Needs full sun Needs winter moisture; can water in summer to keep green Mow infrequently Needs no/little added fertilizer Project SOUND 19. Benefits of Saltgrass Can withstand harsh conditions salt/alkali soils, seasonal flooding, seasonal drought Good habitat for birds (seeds and cover) and butterflies (Skippers) good for controlling wind or water erosion Highly resistant to trampling even for playing fields Looks like Bermuda Grass and can be treated like itBut.1. It really does best and is most water-wise with summer-fall drought2. It is coarse-looking and feeling (like Bermuda-grass) Project SOUND 20. Perhaps youd like something a little lesstough but more refined looking Project SOUND 21. Creeping Wild Rye - Leymus triticoides Project SOUND 22. Creeping Wildrye is quite versatile Any soil texture, but should be well-drained Tolerates alkali soils & salty soils Low/no fertilizer needed Full sun to light shade Water: it takes what it gets will stay green with some summer water Project SOUND 23. Uses for Creeping Wild Rye Nice, green native lawn grass and takes well to mowing Good for erosion control Suited for washes, riparian areas probably our best native for vernal swales Good bank stabilizer and weed suppressor Project SOUND 24. Mowing your Creeping Wild Rye (orother native grass) Mowing is tolerated well Mowing changes how it looks - will look just like a turf grass (Bermuda Grass) Mow every 3-4 weeks during growth season onlyHint: this grass spreads byrunners may want to grow in Set mower high as highcontained area or limit wateras it will go is best Project SOUND 25. Dune (Seaside) Bentgrass Agrostis pallens Project SOUND 26. Dune (Seaside) Bentgrass Agrostis pallens Cool-season perennial bunchgrassthat also spreads via runners &reseeding Summer dormant in nature turns an attractive golden brown Native to dunes does great insandy soils Full sun to part-shade Water: Zone 1-2 to 2-3 (forsummer green) Use as an ornamental grass,meadow grass or (small) mowedlawn Project SOUND 27. Weighing the pros & cons of locally nativelawn grasses Pros Locally native Tough Easy to grow Can be very drought tolerant Can be mowed occasionally or left unmowed Cons Some (like Saltgrass) are coarse looking Really best and most water-wise with some summer/fall drought Project SOUND 28. Native Fescues can make nice lawn grasses But they ARE from northern CA so need some summer water to look good Project SOUND 29. The really lawn-like native grasses are from further North (and require more water) Festuca rubra Molate - Molate Red Fescue Spreading/bunching the mostlawn-like of CA native grasses finetexture Can be mowed occasionally (and high 4-6) for more lawn-likeappearance take some foot traffic Shade or sun Needs occasional summer water best as Zone 2 or 2-3 for greenlawn appearance Widely available as seed or plugs easy to grow on many climates Project SOUND 30. Your personal lists will help you make achoice thats right for your gardenThe good thingsThe bad things Evergreen swath of green Requires too much water Low maintenance Doesnt look great in the Reminds me of being out in the shady areas of the yardwoods (which I like) Project SOUND 31. Does it really have to be all grass? Other options for shadyareas: Yarrow (Achillea) Native strawberries (Fragaria spp) native to Central CA coast, local mountains Benefits Interesting woodsy look Good habitat value Tough and more water- wise than grass Can be combined with grass-like species for more interest Project SOUND 32. Choices from the N. CA Coastal Prairie tend to be green looking with some water Coastal prairie conditions are sunny and mild, with fog and cool breezes. Red fescue (Festuca rubra), a grass that expands by underground rhizomes California Oatgrass (Danthonia californica), a plant that doesnt mind being stepped onA native lawn of Pacific dune sedge Pacific dune sedge (Carex pansa), a lush greenlooks lush with just monthlywatering (in N. CA) groundcover. Project SOUND 33. Sedges (Carex species) can be a goodevergreen alternative to grass Relatively easy to establish & maintain Evergreen look grass-like to most people (including your neighbors) Can take a little more water good for wet areas near neighbors lawn Some can be mowed (for a more formal look) or left unmowed (for a more informal look) Project SOUND 34. Which lawn sedge is it? There has been some confusion in the past Carex pansa (north coast) Shorter, bent best for sandy soils Lawn-like even when not C. pansa is left, praegracilis is right mowed (on slopes) C. praegracilis (local native) More upright best for clays/ likes more water C. tumulticola (local native) More mounded Slow-spreading; plant closely for meadow or lawn Slightly more drought C. pansa lawn, on the coast tolerant Project SOUND 35. Green & easy-care the Carex pansa solution pansa is the most lawn-like, butits from N. CA and it does requiremore water