Lawn is NOT a Bad Word!

Lawns are made up of turfgrass plants. And, yes, a turfgrass lawn can use a lot of water; but it doesn’t have to if it is used functionally, irrigated appropriately, and the correct type of turfgrass is selected.

 What is turf? It is grass plants that are used in non-crop settings such as lawns and sports fields. 

There are two types of turf or grasses: cool-season and warm-season.

Cool-season turf

Tall fescue                                                   

Tall fescue                                                   

COOL-SEASON TURF: Tall fescue is the most popular species of cool-season turf. Others include perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass, and fine fescues. Cool-season turf stays green all year and has a deep green color. It requires less maintenance than some of the warm-season grasses. However, it requires A LOT of water!

Warm-season turf

St. Augustine grass

St. Augustine grass

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass

WARM-SEASON TURF: This type of turfgrass lost its popularity when tall fescue came along as a lawn turf. Warm-season lawns like it hot. When winter and cold temperatures come along, they can go dormant (brown). Warm-season turfgrasses are tough. They form “runners” and can fill in dead spots easily which makes warm-season grasses great for pets and play. This also means they can easily invade areas of the landscape or garden where they are not wanted. The more common species are Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, zoysia, seashore paspalum, even the weedy kikuyu grass. Bermuda grass can be quite drought-tolerant, as much or more than most “drought-tolerant” plants. Stay tuned: There are warm-season grass varieties being bred right here in our watershed that will hold green color throughout the winter

Illustrations by Christine M. Dewees. Excerpted from UC IPM online, UC Guide to Healthy Lawns. Copyright © 2002. The Regents of the University of California. Used by permission

There are those who think all lawns should be banned. In many situations, lawns makes sense in areas of a landscape that need the functions it provides. Before you rip out all of your lawn, consider the pros and cons:


  • Difficult to irrigate without wasting water if the edges of the lawn are not surrounded by other planted areas
  • Requires a lot of water if cool-season turf is used
  • Needs frequent grooming (mowing)
  • May require pesticide use


  • Significantly cools the environment. A lawn surface can be 30 degrees cooler than an paved area
  • Improves air quality by releasing oxygen and trapping junk from the air
  • Makes a great playing surface for activities
  • Can be very attractive
  • Can absorb sound
  • Protects the soil from wind and water erosion
  • In sports applications, Mother Nature rids the surface of blood, sweat, bacteria and other gross bodily fluids.
  • Can be used as a vegetative filter to treat stormwater runoff.

Here are some helpful publications from the University of California (Provided with permission):