Published in the December 27 – January 9, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Sure, this time of year, your Gilroy lawn looks pretty amazing. Cooler temperatures and a little rain can do wonders. It’s probably lush and thick and green and ready for mowing. But you know it won’t last. And, this is an excellent time of year to consider replacing that lawn with something more productive, or at least more drought tolerant.

Lawn logistics

Lawns are a sign of wealth and prosperity. They come to us from English nobility. It ends up that lawns grow easily in England, and sheep like to keep them nicely trimmed (and well fed). Gilroy summers are nothing like English summers and our lawns pay the price. What looks beautiful now is bound to end up brown, brittle, and prone to erosion. Otherwise, you will have to water it every few days and still most of it ends up sunburned. There are other options that maintain property values and usefulness.

Gilroy groundcovers

(native and otherwise)

Instead to ill-suited lawn grasses, you can install yarrow, mint, or oregano make lovely edible ground covers that your children can still use to play ball. If you prefer the advantages of going native, you can grow Ceanothus thyrisiflorus, creeping buckwheat, or many species of salvia.

The California Native Plant Society (www.cnps.org/) can make dozens of other suggestions for ground covers and other lawn replacement options with plants that have evolved to thrive in the Gilroy area without a lot of effort or water on your part.

Lose the lawn to edibles

Instead of weeding, feeding, seeding, watering, and mowing a lawn, why not invest a fraction of the effort for some edibles? Many food plants, besides garlic, grow in Gilroy.

A single fruit or nut tree can provide the same shade as an ornamental tree, but they will also provide several pounds of food each year for a decade or more. You can also opt for traditional row gardening, artistic raised beds, or you can think up something really creative.

Of course, some communities frown on front yard gardens, so be sure to check on the rules in your city ahead of time.

Zero effort yards

If you are like many people today, time is at a premium. You simply do not have any to spare on gardening (and what a shame that is). If this sounds like you, you can eliminate yard work altogether with a stone garden or a xeriscape. Stone gardens are exactly how they sound, an artistic arrangement of stones of various sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Xeriscapes use plants that generally do not need watering or other care. Succulents and cacti are common examples.

If you are ready to replace your lawn with something better, you can learn more about the Santa Clara County Lawn Replacement Rebate program by calling (408) 630-2554, or visiting www.valleywater.org/Programs/LandscapeRebateProgram.aspx today. This program is a great way to recover the costs associated with replacing your lawn with something easier, more productive, and easier on the environment.

You can learn more about lawn care and replacement at the South County Teaching and Demo Garden, found at St. Louise Hospital, 9400 No Name Uno, in Gilroy. You can learn more at http://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/demonstration-gardens/south-county-teaching-and-demonstration-garden/ Classes are regularly offered to the public.

For more information, check our events page at http://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/events/ or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener in Santa Clara County. She wrote this column for Gilroy Life.