Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Green Guilt

How I ameliorate my feelings of guilt about my green lawn:

I live in Utah, and I am concerned about my water usage. This is an arid place, and we had very little snowpack this year.

Our lawn is not in great shape. It pitches and rolls. In some areas, there is more clover than grass (does clover use less or more water, I wonder?), but it is consistently green. This is a huge accomplishment for a lawn that used to be an asphalt parking lot and still has the stuff lurking beneath its surface in places.

We had to work hard to make it so. We spent the early summer repairing the sprinkler system. In an ambitious attempt to address all the leaks, we dug through one boggy patch to discover not a leak in the irrigation pipe, but a slow, persistent leak in our water main that been there for at least three years.

But even fixing that cannot make up for the amount of water we must use to make the grass grow greener.

We’ve begun taking out grass. We planted fruit trees throughout our back yard so that watering the lawn waters something fruitful and productive. We cut out grass for tree skirts, expanded our garden, and planted sunflowers and raspberries. We have hardy herbs growing in our flower beds around the house and at the sidewalk, the deep mulch punctuated by local rock. We’ve started incorporating native plants into the beds, a slow process as my husband has been propagating them himself.

But even as we’re trying to reduce our grassy footprint, I still feel the need to water and care for what we do have. In the same talk where President Kimball told us to plant fruit trees and vines, he also told us to

Keep in good repair and beautify your homes, your yards, farms, and businesses. Repair the fences. Clean up and paint where needed. Keep your lawns and your gardens well-groomed. Whatever your circumstance, let your premises reflect orderliness, beauty, and happiness. Plan well and carry out your plan in an orderly and systematic manner. [fn1]

At some point we still want to install a water permeable patio, although that project was somewhat delayed by the water main situation. Maybe we’ll get it in this fall.

We have a plan, but it’s a slow process that takes a lot of time, money, and work. It’s teaching me patience as I watch my grass grow.


[fn1] http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1976/04/family-preparedness?lang=eng

  • Sprout says:

    You are my hero, Rachel. If you’ve got green guilt, than I have green envy! 😛

    Our lawn is a total source of guilt, shame and frustration for me. The home-owners before us put in pure grass all over the place and nothing else. Plus we’re on a corner lot, so we’ve got a lot of yard space. I feel green angst every time I use commercial fertilizer and weedkiller on it and then I feel social angst when it looks brown and weedy. But I don’t quite have the time, money, energy (or knowledge, sadly) to make it both look good and be environmentally friendly. I’m saving my pennies to do some xeriscaping soon, but it’s been tough in the mean time.

    • ReaderRachel says:

      I hate using chemicals, but I haven’t found any way to deal with bindweed other than Roundup. We’re hoping that our need to use it will decrease as we keep up with spraying now and keep our mulch cover up in the future. In the beds around our hedge we had to do very little spraying this year. Last year before we got it all weeded and mulched it was a constant battle.

      We also use Roundup for the goatheads, those sticker weeds that can puncture bike tires. There were a ton of them in the back part of our lot where our garden is now. We’ve got mulch down around the beds just so we can control it. We want to put in more raised beds, but every time we put in one, we have to dig out chunks or sheets of asphalt and slag. It’s a slow, slow process.

  • Jessica says:

    This is the first year since living in our present house (purchased in 2003) that I have actually given the lawn all the water it wants. I water my front yard with greywater (it is a low-water landscape and gets compliments), and I replaced a bunch of lawn with flagstones, but I still have about 1000 more square feet of lawn than I reasonably need. I just got sick of having it look ratty all the time. Someday I will figure out a solution, too. Maybe. I’m hoping.

    • ReaderRachel says:

      I want to rig our washing machine so I can use its grey water, but it is against our city codes. Even so, I may choose to use my plumbing as an act of civil disobedience, should I ever get around to that project.

      • Jessica says:

        Oh, I am totally in violation of city codes. But I am essentially in compliance with the codes recently adopted by a nearby city, so I am counting that as moving the political ball forward rather than lawbreaking. The only “plumbing” it required was to drill a hole through the exterior wall of the house and put a drain pipe through. It goes into a surge tank, which connects to a hose, which I move around the yard to different mulch piles under plants. 

        • ReaderRachel says:

          Do you use that in winter too? Are there concerns about freezing water?

          • Jessica says:

            I’m a wimp and live in the year-round balmy clime of So. Cal, so freezing is not an issue. However, I still have the original drainpipe into the sewer, so it is no big deal to move the washer hose from the greywater system back to the sewer pipe. I never actually switch mine back, however, as I can use the supplemental water even in December. It’s really a desert out here, we’re just all in denial about it.