Contact info


High Country Conservation Center 737 Ten Mile Dr Frisco CO 80443 PO Box 4506 Frisco CO 80443


(970) 668-5703


Dear Eartha, my neighbor recently tore out part of their lawn and replaced it with a garden. I’d do the same thing, but wouldn’t a garden require more time and water than my grass?

Sounds like your neighbor is on board with the latest trend – turf replacement, or simply removing part of your grass lawn and replacing it with low-water landscapes. In fact, cities and towns across the western U.S. are launching turf replacement programs to help people like you and me make the change.

Creating a Mountain Oasis

What’s a low-water garden? More than just rocks and stones, these landscapes feature plants that need little to no water once they establish deep resilient root systems. And when you choose native plants for your garden, you remove the need for pesticides. Thanks to evolution, native plants have developed their own chemical defenses against local pests. Isn’t nature amazing? There are even some plants that are not native to Colorado that have adapted to our climate and provide many of the same benefits. Ultimately, the advantages of converting your lawn are bountiful. Whether you want to save water, the environment, time, or money, (or all the above), a low-water garden has something for everyone.

Conserving Water

Americans love a nice green grass lawn, but we need to stop ignoring the impact that watering grass has on the amount of water we use. Did you know that we use more water on our lawns than anything else? That’s right, 55% or more of the water we use at home every day in Colorado is used to keep lawns green (except in the winter of course). When we add that up across the country, we use around 9 billion gallons of water a day on lawns alone. To give you some perspective, that’s the same amount of water it takes to fill over 13,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools every single day! And unfortunately, a lot of the water used on lawns is wasted because of broken irrigation systems or overwatering. So, for the portions of lawn you do keep, make sure your irrigation system is functioning efficiently.

With persistent drought plaguing the southwest, swapping out a portion of your lawn for a low-water garden has a big impact on our water footprint and the health of our planet. On average, a low-water garden will use 50-75% less water than a grass lawn. And in our high alpine environment where the summers are hot and dry, the water savings can be even greater.

Protecting Ecosystems

Low-water gardens also provide a healthier environment than lawns. Most lawn care requires some type of chemical fertilizer, herbicide, and/or pesticide to keep grass looking great. When it rains or your grass is overwatered, those chemicals can run off into waterways and seep into the soil creating health risks for humans, insects, and wildlife. Thanks to their natural defenses, native low-water plants require little to none of these chemicals to thrive, promoting a safer landscape for everyone. With the vast selection of plants available, low-water gardens also attract all sorts of cool critters like bees and butterflies, creating a buzzing, vibrant ecosystem right in your backyard. And we all know how important our pollinators are to keeping us healthy!

Saving Time

These days, it seems like we are all getting busier by the minute. That’s why one of the biggest perks of low-water gardens is the reduced maintenance they require. That’s right – unlike your grass lawn that needs frequent mowing, watering, and chemical applications, low-water gardens are pretty hands-off once they’re established. With their natural resilience to drought and pests, these gardens often thrive with minimal intervention. So, trade your lawn mower for a hammock and let nature do her thing!

Want to learn more about turning your yard into a beautiful mountain oasis? Join us on Wednesday, June 19th from 5:30-7:00 pm at Mi Casa in Breckenridge for our Water in the West Series event focusing on Low-Water Gardens. Topics of discussion will include the benefits of replacing unused grassy areas with mountain-loving wildflowers and shrubs, considerations for removing grass and retrofitting irrigation, low water-garden designs, local compost, and other resources. This event is free, but registration is required. 

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at