Green Tips: Functional turfgrass and water-wise landscaping

Bev Harrison
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Turfgrass is not always the “bad guy”—thirsty, hungry, and costly. It is a favorite place where we play and generally hang out. And functional turfgrass is an important part of a water-wise landscape.

Kelly Kopp, Professor, Extension Water Conservation and Turfgrass Specialist, at Utah State University, emphasizes several environmental benefits of functional turfgrass. Its dense root system absorbs water and almost eliminates runoff. Less runoff helps protect water quality. An area of turfgrass moderates wind erosion of soil, traps pollen and dust, and reduces environmental noise. It moderates temperature levels and reduces energy used for home cooling.

How do you make your turfgrass functional?

  • Only use it in areas where it provides clear benefits.
  • Water your turfgrass less. USU Extension estimates that the typical homeowner uses twice as much water as their turfgrass requires.
  • Choose a grass mix that is best suited to your area. Professor Kopp notes three distinct grass type zones in Utah.
  • For non-functional areas, consider using non-irrigated turfgrass that withstands drought stress — it will go dormant, turn brown and green up again when conditions improve.
  • Don’t plant turfgrass in narrow areas where it cannot be efficiently watered.
  • Irrigate turfgrass in areas separate from other plants which have different water needs and can be irrigated differently, e.g., by drip line.
  • Support water efficient grass through proper mowing and fertilizing.
  • Contact Elizabeth Cohen at from the Summit County Extension Department for excellent information about all things landscaping.

Recycle Utah, your community non-profit drop off recycling center, provides these weekly tips. Visit their website for more information –


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