Popular opinion suggests that the best way to save water is to remove non-essential landscaping. It may seem like this would save water—and it does—but are we missing something? Here's what's at stake:
Entire ecosystems exist in yards, schoolyards, company landscaping, parks, and any place where turfgrass resides. Organisms become dependent on each other to survive, just like with any other ecosystem. There is a chain of dependencies that is carefully developed over time. This chain is very fragile if disrupted. When turfgrass is removed from an ecosystem, dependent organisms are harmed. Since grass retains water and distributes that water throughout landscapes, trees can lose essential moisture and nutrients that would be theirs if the turfgrass were not removed. In this way, removing turfgrass can kill trees, shrubs, bushes, and other plants that are dependent on that moisture. If the plants don’t get that moisture, other organisms around them may not get the nutrients from the plants. When you remove turf, your localized ecosystems soon become baren, without life.
Surrounding areas of landscapes are given cooling effects from the landscape itself. Removing that automatically increases the temperature, creating a heat island in the surrounding area. These heat islands increase energy consumption in surrounding buildings, raising the demand for air conditioning. Cities are affected most by these heat islands. In cities, studies have estimated that each 1°C increase in temperature can raise the demand for electricity by 5%. A great way to naturally conserve energy and lower costs is to keep your landscape.
Turfgrass can accumulate one-half ton of CO2 per acre for 30 to 40 years. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases are wreaking havoc on our environment, especially the atmosphere. It is essential that these greenhouse gases are managed effectively to prevent further damage to our atmosphere. Turfgrass can play an important role in the solution to greenhouse gas emissions. If turfgrass is removed, CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. This is also known as deforestation. Usually when we think of deforestation, we think of big forests. But when there is a mass scale removal of turfgrass in cities, deforestation can lead to the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Landscaping can be expensive at times. Lawn tools that keep your landscape looking great sometimes come at a price. Also, manual labor is required to keep your property looking pristine year-round. With that in mind, let’s consider the cost of removing your landscape. Across the United States, it’s currently $1.75 per square foot to remove turfgrass from your property. If your property has just 1 acre, you will pay an estimated $76,230. If you live on a half-acre, you will end up paying $38,115. If you live on a fourth of an acre, you end up paying $19,057 to remove your turfgrass. We also aren’t factoring in the costs to replace your turfgrass with rocks, gravel, turf, or something else. With that said, it’s easy to see that it is much more cost effective to keep your turfgrass.
One benefit that we often forget about when it comes to turfgrass is its water filtering abilities. Our water sources receive water from everywhere. We need to look upstream from our sources to see exactly where our water is coming from. Grassy areas filter contaminants and purify water as they pass through the root zones of the turfgrass. Also, Microbes in the soil help to breakdown the contaminants that might reach the water supplies.
According to The Lawn Institute, when rainwater is filtered through turfgrass, the rainwater is 10 times less acidic than water running off hard surfaces. Don’t forget this when you’re considering removing your landscape.
Professional landscaping gives a social benefit to our communities and our personal lives. The appearance of well-manicured turfgrass can do several things. A well-kept landscape can enhance safety and security, invite safety and send a message of peace. Landscaping creates an inviting area where others can come together to socialize. Being in areas where we feel comfortable and safe allows us to feel welcomed. Removing that turfgrass takes away the social benefits that come from landscaping.