With the hot weather finally here we are seeing dry spots develop in lawns where it is difficult to water. In some of these areas, water conservation is best achieved by changing the landscape and giving up on lawn. Don’t get us wrong, we love lawn. Quite frankly, we make our living on managing and maintaining lawns. That being said, we also hate trying to maintain lawn where it won’t grow or where it is hard or expensive to maintain. The pictures above are examples of where lawn should not be. 

Inspiration from afar: Due to the scarcity of mulch products, rock is a common groundcover in California, Colorado, and Arizona. We have seen many examples of creative use of rock and it continues to inspire us in that there are many other creative and drought tolerant solutions where lawn is and should not be.  
Why is lawn where it shouldn’t be?  The simplest answer is that lawn is the cheapest part of landscape installation and when brand new, looks great. New lawn on freshly prepared soil looks awesome. Parking strips and parking islands are probably the worst place for lawn. There is concrete or asphalt on most or all sides, often times the soil is shallow or there is rock or asphalt below, irrigation coverage is difficult due to small odd shapes, and as tree roots develop, they compete for moisture.  We believe that parking strips and islands may take as much as 5-10 times as much irrigation to maintain. A bad combination in which to grow and maintain lawns. In addition, these areas are difficult and sometimes dangerous to maintain due to nearby cars and obstacles.

What is the alternative?  There are lots of options. Replacing lawn with just barkdust or some sort of groundcover are both options. We have experimented with Sedum similar to green roofs but it has had marginal success. We are seeing locally and nationally the use of rock and are very excited about that as an option. Below are several pictures of rock as a groundcover that is very attractive and easy to maintain. Rocks do not need water and never die. Some have expressed concern about the liability risk with rocks but we believe that is low. If someone wants to throw a rock through a window, they will find it even if there is no rock in the landscape.  
Several years ago, we used the parking strip out in front of our Hillsboro office as a test case for a lawn conversion. Below is the before and after. We are now using little irrigation and the parking strip is even more attractive.