Greening the Desert

“Most deserts are manmade.” — One of my favorite quotes from rainwater harvesting expert Brad Lancaster. The flipside good news is, deserts can be transformed back into lush fertile land by the same species that created them! Check out #GreeningTheDesert Geoff Lawton; #HarvestingRainwater Brad Lancaster; #GreywaterOasis Art Ludwig.

The photo at the top shows an example of human-induced desertification in my city (where we get about 49 inches of rainfall annually!). Fortunately it’s easy to fix this. Add mulch, and plants. Notice in the second photo, the lush belt of tall grasses and other plants in the background behind the mowed area. The plants pictured here are naturally occurring and drought-tolerant. My name for dense belts, clumps, and borders of low-maintenance vegetation is “puffy landscaping.” Not only is puffy landscaping pretty; it’s also good for drought-resistance, flood control, heat-island mitigation, and erosion control among other things.

If you really love and use your lawn, that’s fine, but consider letting the grass grow a bit more between cuttings. Just a block away from the dismal over-mowed lot where I took the first picture, my neighbor’s lawn grows lush and green with no fertilizer and minimal irrigation, simply because she lets it grow about 4″ high instead of scalping it.

The steps we take to address desertification can also mitigate the negative consequences of urban sprawl and development. If you’re a person who loves trees and wildlife, it’s all too easy to sink into despair in the face of development’s relentless march. Big-box stores; multi-lane roads; vast parking lots. But (in addition to getting organized and vocal) there’s something else that you and I as everyday citizens can do to help mitigate the impacts of over-pavement. We can nurture more of a forest or prairie environment in our yards. Natives, edibles, trees, tall grasses. Reverse the de-vegetation trend! Start a grass-roots urban re-forestation movement! Another term I’ve coined, along with “puffy landscaping,” is “infill forestation.”

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