Embarrassed By Your Brown Lawn? Just Paint It Green

A segment based on this story was produced for KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected." Watch it here now.

While the green thing to do during the drought is to simply let your lawn go brown, it's also not the most aesthetically pleasing option, especially if you're dealing with a strict HOA or trying to sell your house.

So what to do when the Golden State has just announced emergency regulations that limit residents' outdoor water usage? Well, you could rip up your lawn and put in drought-tolerant landscaping. You could keep your lawn but be water wise about it. You could install artificial turf if you want your kids to have a soft place to play.

Or, if you really like the look of grass, you could simply slap a fresh coat of paint on it.

Yes, lawn painting is actually a thing, and though it may have only entered the mainstream in recent years due to the drought, the environmentally friendly process has been around for decades.

Realtors have used specially formulated grass paint to spruce up neglected properties before showings, and landscapers have dyed golf courses and athletic fields to keep them looking fresh. California cities have even started turning to lawn painting contractors to keep their public parks and other spaces green. In fact, several years ago the city of Perris (about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles) led a lawn painting initiative. Fraught with foreclosure, it set aside $2 million to stabilize foreclosure-stricken neighborhoods by hiring a contractor to paint all the lawns of abandoned homes and help raise curb appeal.

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For homeowners battling their own brown lawns, lawn painting pays for itself in the amount of money and water saved. Even if you have a patchy lawn that's only half dead, the lawn painter can match their paints to the parts of the lawn that are still green. The nontoxic spray paints are vegetable based, making them safe for children and pets. They're also safe for your grass, which still has a chance to grow back and turn green (naturally) with rain.

Think of them as hair dye... for your grass. They're a semi-permanent solution that usually fades away in about three months (semi-permanent in that the paint won't last forever, but once it's on, it stays on; you won't have to worry about a freak rainshower sending green water down your gutter).

In the meantime, homeowners who employ lawn dye can not only comply with their water district's conservation guidelines, but also cut back considerably on their water and landscaping bills (after all, a dead lawn doesn't need to be mowed).

In Los Angeles County, a 1,000-square-foot plot of grass runs between $200 and $300 for lawn painting services. If you're the DIY type, you can use a product like LawnLift to spray your own lawn. (A trip to a home improvement store like Ace Hardware or Home Depot will yield more options.)

Like a recent update on LawnLift's Facebook page says: "California here we come! State-mandated water rationing in full effect starting tomorrow August 1st! Get your green on before the water authority gets your green with mandated $500 a day fines!"

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