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Old ideas about lawns in Lodi are over and out

Lodi homeowners are transforming their lawns into drought-tolerant oases complete with rock beds, less-thirsty plants and brickwork

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Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014 7:04 am

Some Lodi homeowners are ditching their lawns for something that will stand up in the face of the drought we’re experiencing in California. Whether it’s rocks, lawn ornaments or a wealth of alternative greenery, there are plenty of options to ditch your lush green lawn for something more sustainable.

A lava rock landscape

Susan McCleary lives in a simple white duplex in Lodi. Her front yard is tidy and neat, but she hasn’t touched a lawn mower in years.

Her parents have owned the duplex since 1978, and traded a front lawn for gravel so they wouldn’t have to mow.

The yard is basically maintenance-free. It’s covered in two shades of lava rocks artfully arranged into sloping hills. A small row of potted plants line the porch. A jade plant, a geranium and a Martha Washington are all about 25 years old, and get by with just a little water every few days.

The water fees for both units used to cost $80, but when metering kicked in for her neighborhood, the total cost dropped to $35 a month.

“I love to garden, but I have no time to garden,” she said. “This works for me.”

Plants inspire everyday learning

Pat and Glenn Robinson decided right from the start that they would do something different. The couple bought a nice big lot on a cul-de-sac off Ham Lane in 1961, built their own home and they have never once had a lawn.

Instead, they grow whatever looks interesting. A persimmon tree, varieties of bamboo, a sun hibiscus and about a dozen small cacti are featured in the large backyard. There’s two greenhouses, a small plant nursery and dozens of large leafy trees to cover the patio areas in shade. A sun azalea, a potted ginko grown from seed, several maple trees and a mandarin orange tree provide an explosion of color in the fall. Gravel beds dotted with stepping stones lead from one area to another.

“It’s fun, intriguing. I’m always learning something by doing this,” she said.

While there’s no reason to haul out a lawn mower or weed whacker, Pat Robinson instead spends her Saturday mornings puttering in the backyard with trimmers and a watering can. There’s a few weeds to pull here and there.

“We water in front as needed. We don’t use enough that it would make a difference to anyone,” she said.

Trading a lawn for low-maintenance

When Jeff Lodi moved into his home 40 years ago, the entire front yard was lush green lawn, save for the driveway. But Lodi isn’t the yard-maintenance type, and he took steps over the next few decades to change his landscape a little more to his liking.

“I’m a water freak. I think people use too much. To save water, I didn’t want a yard,” he said.

First, ten Italian cypress trees were planted along the left and right borders of his property 30 years ago. Today they tower over the house. Then half the lawn was taken out to form a small circular driveway looping around a bed of palms, cacti and succulents. Next, the rest of the lawn surrounding a towering palm tree was replaced with lava rocks.

Today, the yard is bricks, rock and pavers. The tall palm tree is gone. Instead, there’s a few potted plants on the porch. As a retired firefighter, Lodi decided to display his collection of fire hydrants around the yard.

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