Going Grassless Along the Indian River Lagoon

The area of my back yard where grass has slowly been removed and planting areas enlarged.
The area of Ed and my back yard where grass has slowly been removed,  planting areas enlarged, and mulched with leaves.

In 2010 the Town of Sewall’s Point passed a strong fertilizer ordinance, the first on Florida’s east coast. It was during this time, that I became “anti-turf grass.” Today when I look at a “beautiful” sprawling yard of green grass, all I see is fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, and heavy water needs that are contrary to a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and a successful Florida future.

Native coontie.
Native coontie.

In order to put my “money where my mouth is,” in 2010, I informed my husband that I was going to start removing the grass from our yard and mulching with leaves from our oaks, strangler figs, and other trees. As usual, he looked at me like I was slightly crazy, but as usual, he agreed.

This decision was made easier in that around this same time our well was starting to go dry and I had gotten estimates in from $5000 to $8000 to replace it. Not to mention the well guys said if they did drill, as it is well-known wells are going dry in this high hammock area of Sewall’s Point, and they were unsuccessful, Ed and I would still have to pay half.

“Not my kind of odds.” I thought, especially knowing water issues regarding wells, and salt water intrusion are only going to increase. Last week, in 2014, I changed the house over to “city water” as our well has finally died. I am very glad that over the past few years I have de-grassed the yard for the most part, a heavy water user, and filled it with Florida Friendly (http://www.floridayards.org) plants that  do not require much watering. I am hoping to irrigate  only once a week, or never, and just water by hand.

City water is expensive! The South Florida Water Management District states that “up to 60% of a south Florida homes’ water use can go to irrigation. That’s insane and a huge waste of water and money.

I have read that Florida produces 25% of the WORLD’S turf grass.(http://floridaturf.com/about/) Considering that, I’d say the state has an interest in keeping us “in grass.” This is a problem…a conflict of interest. I wish they were investing  in inventing an attractive low-water/low-or no fertilizer,  ground cover other than floratam type grasses; they would make billions, and help save the state’s precious spring, lake, and estuary waters rather than encouraging us to destroy them. The sod and fertilizer industries are multi-billion dollar industries that want to keep us “addicted.” 

Well, I have broken free. 🙂

Back to my family, I have to say, also, that my brother-in-law, landscape architect Mike Flaugh (http://mikeflaughla.comand my mother, always ahead of her time, also inspired me on this issues. As they too have de-grassed their yards years ago and their yards still look beautiful. Mike has “natively” and “Florida Friendly” landscaped some of the newest and finest homes in the area with no or little grass and these homes are examples of the “new yard,” “the conscious yard,” “the yard of the future.”

Today, I’d like to share some photos of my de-grassed yard in hopes of inspiring you, should you wish to be inspired, and hopefully are already! 🙂

Font of house is now ferns and other plantings.
Font of house is now ferns and other plantings.
Creeping jasmine vine has replaced grass in the front yard. Loves shade or partial sun, but not full sun.
Creeping jasmine vine has replaced grass in the front yard. Loves shade or partial sun, but not full sun.
Back yard where grass was removed and repaved with stepping stones and Florida Friendly plants.
Back yard where grass was removed and replaced with stepping stones and Florida Friendly plants.
Front yard with stepping stones and edged with plantings.
Front yard with stepping-stones and edged with ferns and plantings.
Leaves from the trees in the yard are used as mulch.
Leaves from the trees in the yard are used as mulch, as they break down they enrich the soil.
One area of the house in the front was left grass for our dogs to run and play and...
One area of the house in the front was left with grass for our dogs to run, and play, and…
Bird houses for wildlife.
Bird houses for wildlife; wildlife increases dramatically once grass and chemicals are removed. The birds eat bugs.
More native plants like this satin leaf started to germinate and grow once the grass was gone.
More native plants like this satin leaf started to germinate and grow once the grass was gone. I am letting more natives grow-letting the yard “be itself.”
Native Beautyberry provides food for wildlife and color.
Native Beautyberry provides food for wildlife and color.
Wild coffee grows like craze in our area once the grass was out. It has colorful berries for wildlife and a shiny green leaf.
Wild coffee grew like crazy in our area once the grass was out. It has colorful berries for wildlife and a shiny green leaf.
Native firebush attracts butterflies.
Native firebush attracts butterflies.
Golden dew drop  with its pretty purple flowers is a butterfly magnet.
Golden dew drop with its pretty purple flowers is a butterfly magnet.
Lantana
Lantan, another butterfly and low water plant.
Purple porter
Purple porter, yet another butterfly and low water native.
Flowers.....
Once grass was gone, this Mexican star, or something like that, started to come up all over the yard; it has a pretty yellow morning flower and is native.
Century plant needs little water.
this century plant needs little water and has an interesting shape; native beach sunflower vine in rear.
Crotants are not native but use little water and add color.
Crotants are not native but use little water and add color.
Side yard
Side yard…no more grass, with lots of  blue flowering plumbago, also a low water, butterfly attracting,  Florida Friendly plant.

 

23 thoughts on “Going Grassless Along the Indian River Lagoon

  1. Bravo Jacqui, I started a similar “go native” yard program 8 years ago and have since eliminated 80 percent of my back yard turf, and perhaps 30 percent of the front with plans to continue over time. Lots of native trees, ground cover and butterfly and wildlife friendly hedges. It isn’t cheap to establish, as you discovered, but why pour $$$$ into lawns and their weeds and bugs that are just becoming more herbicide and pesticide resistant by the day?

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  2. Great stuff, Jacqui. Sheila and I have eliminated most grass as well and concentrate on native plants that serve birds, butterflies and other life.

    The sod industry, though not as bad as sugar cane, is a huge polluter. Seems like there should be incentive programs to foster wise plantingss. And more insistence on low-water/fertilzer growth.

    Tampa Bay Watch covers much of this…

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  3. I’m so proud of you! I totally agree that all this sprawling green should only belong on a golf-course (those that are hopefully environmentally conscious). Anyway, wish I could do the same, but I’m a renter and don’t have any choice — except not to water. It only gets what nature provides.

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  4. Everyone must do their part. the homeowner has don everything asked and still the decline continues. The degradation will continue regardless of all the conservation trends until water management stops giving out CUPs. All the conservation has been turned into CUPs for the taking.

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  5. Jacqui thank you for this post – I hope you inspire MANY in this state to revert their property to gardens instead of grass. You have found the true key that the state needs – not just reducing the water and fertilizer requirement, but bringing in the plant diversity that the true Floridians (wildlife) needs to flourish. If we can convince others to do this Florida can flourish for years to come. Well done!

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  6. Just a little back-saving tip. I discovered a few years back the art of using newspaper beneath my mulch to inhibit weeds. (Going pesticide-free and using native plants results in increasing the weeding hours you will need to put in to keep it looking nice.) Putting down 3-4 pages of newspaper plus mulch in my plant and flower beds still allows for the soil to breath and for the water to penetrate, and as the paper decomposes you will start to see weeds. Then it’s time to replace the newspaper and mulch, about every 2 years.

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    1. Newspaper is really good food for garden worms too – if you have any as they will eat or digest the paper and leave nice worm tea and worm castings to nourish the soil too.

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