With Drought, Lawn Painting Spreads

The worst drought in a half a century has already caused billions of dollars of losses for farmers and communities. In parts of the country where water has long been conserved, like the west, lawn painting has unfortunately long been seen as a solution. Now, with water being conserved across the country like never before, what are all those homeowners with lawns supposed to do? Instead of replacing lawns with native plants that require little water (otherwise known as xeriscaping), more may be throwing away money trying to paint their way to a lush, verdant lawn.

The Associated Press reports that homeowners across the country are now taking this path. In Staten Island, NY, Terri LoPrimo decided to hire a local entrepreneur to spray her lawn with a “deep-green organic dye.” LoPrimo said: “It looks just like a spring lawn, the way it looks after a rain. It’s really gorgeous.” Her lawn can be seen on the left:

Many landscape architects may shake their head at such a move, but at a cost of $125 to paint her 830-square-foot-lawn, it’s certainly cheaper than ripping out the lawn and replacing with native alternatives that don’t require much water or creating a new, usable outdoor space.

Indeed, these cheap and fast approaches have yielded more business for the owner of the Staten Island company, Grass Is Greener Lawn Painting. The owner told AP that he has already painted 20 lawns this summer. The dye used is a “non-toxic, environmentally friendly turf dye that […] is commonly used on golf courses and athletic fields to give them a lusher appearance.” Just to note: There really isn’t such a thing as an environmentally-friendly dye given the huge amount of water that actually goes into producing dyes. Also, much like a spray-on tan, the green lawn look doesn’t hold forever. In about five months, homeowners going the non-natural way will need a fresh spray. 

The AP then examined the practice in the Midwest, looking to Kansas City, Mo.-based Missouri Turf Paint Inc. The company has been painting golf courses and athletic fields for years, but has seen an uptick in residential spraying. Foreclosed homes are often sprayed, the owner said, to boost resale prospects. 

In Phoenix, Arizona, homeowners are also often painting their lawns to try to sell, or out of fear of being fined by their homeowners’ associations. Brian Howland, Arizona Lawn Painting, said: “Usually it’s people who don’t feel like messing with their yard or it’s a rental or a foreclosure or a sale — something where before everything gets going they want it to look nice.” 
Howland charges $200 for up to 3,000 square feet. 

Clearly more work needs to be done to convince homeowners everywhere that there are smart alternatives to lawns, like xeriscaping. With climate change, drought-like conditions may not be going away anytime soon.

One sustainable landscape case study shows how much cheaper a native residential landscape is to maintain over time. Also, explore ASLA’s guides to sustainable residential design: improving water efficiency, and its connected guide on maximizing the benefits of plants.   

Image credit: (1) Arizona lawn painting / Green Extreme, (2) NY lawn painting / Courier Express

3 thoughts on “With Drought, Lawn Painting Spreads

  1. Kevin Moore 08/23/2012 / 12:06 pm

    Wouldn’t converting to something that’s more drought-tolerant make more sense?

  2. Matthew L 08/23/2012 / 1:13 pm

    I have some lawn. It just goes brown in the summer, but it always come back in the fall and spring. Our whole neighborhood is that way, I do water the trees (a few times in the middle of the summer) and vegetables. Are some lawns drought-tolerant? Is this only is the Pacific NW?

    • Ben H 08/24/2012 / 7:06 pm

      I agree, I live in Portland and having traveled all over the states, I think it is truly a NW phenomenon. I’m not sure how people got ‘used’ to it but I think a lot of people would get funny looks if they watered this time of year.

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