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Midvale Journal

Midvale residents show off their waterwise yards

Sep 08, 2023 11:32AM ● By Annabelle Larsen

The backyard of the Patterson/Cantrell household displays decorative car skeletons. (Annabelle Larsen/City Journals)

Water conservation is vital to life in this state. Everyone tries to do their part, whether it be running your sprinklers in the early morning, or something as simple as turning off the tap when you are brushing your teeth. 

One Midvale couple Kelley Cantrell and Larry Patterson takes water conservation very seriously and adapted their entire yard to be more eco-friendly, while still maintaining style. Displaying a lovely xeriscaped yard that includes rocks, sand, and many desert-type plants that require very little water.

The popularity of xeriscape yards—yards that put an emphasis on using plants and yard set-up to emphasize the natural requirements of the local climate—have become more prevalent in the past several years, even driving down a neighborhood road one can see a variety of xeriscaped yards.

The couple changed their front and back yard over several years to accomplish their water conservation goals, and now show off their vibrant and unique xeriscaped yard. Although they stated that this process was long and took around 12 years to complete, in the end it was worth it, and they both are happy with the outcome of these changes, and are happy to share what they have learned from this experience.

Cantrell and Patterson displayed a variety of plant life and a lot of shade in both their front and back yards, keeping the temperatures down without sacrificing aesthetics. There’s a variety of different plants that thrive in Utah’s climate, such as asters, various types of cacti, several trees, mint, yucca plants, aloe and sedums. Patterson mentioned that the sedums are great pest repellents as well, trading in voles, moles, and mice that often eat garden plants, for bees and hummingbirds, that help with pollination. Mint is also used often as a natural mosquito deterrent, so with the interesting combination of these variety of Utah plants, pests seem to be no more for the Cantrell/Patterson household. 

Their yard is not only home to a variety of pollinators and plants, but their three dogs reportedly enjoy the xeriscape yard as well. There are several spots in their backyard that consist of dirt pathways and non-silica sand that their dogs love to play in and around. 

The couple said that maintenance of their yard is very simple, and although it takes a bit of daily maintenance, it overall saves them time in the long run. Any watering they do is with a bucket, and varies depending on the plant that they water. Because Cantrell and Patterson opted out of a sprinkler system, their watering is done by hand, but because the watering is so minimal it takes no time at all. This combined with the few weeds that sprout up for them, yard maintenance has become an easy and enjoyable task for the two. “Why are we just watering and watering and watering?” said Patterson in regard to the upkeep on his yard.

Patterson said that he views xeriscaping in Utah as, “an investment, not a last ditch resort.” And Cantrell/Patterson talked about how they slowly built their xeriscaped yard, paying for adjustments as they went, but in the long run they saved a lot of money by paying less for water. “We haven’t paid $20 over the city minimum water bill in years,” said Cantrell. They also sport solar panels along the roof of their home, and solar powered lawn lights throughout their yard. The couple also mentioned that they understand that oftentimes xeriscape is not realistic for everyone, and often people want yards that have lawns for their children and pets to play in, but that the xeriscape yard works well for them.

Cantrell and Patterson are passionate about sharing their knowledge of water conservation with those who are interested. When asked for advice on how to start a xeriscape yard, their answer was: “Do research!” They gave examples of checking out the Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan, checking in with the Utah State University Extension office for information on which plants to use and what works best in this state, and even visiting local nurseries such as Deseret Nursery Perennial Farm in Salt Lake City. Nurseries have staff that can be helpful for those looking to revamp their yard or garden. The couple also mentioned that oftentimes, those with xeriscaped yards are happy to offer advice to those who ask.

Lastly, the Utah Department of Natural Resources also offers a Landscape Conversion Incentive program, that can help those that are eligible be able to receive a loan to incentivize water-conservative lawns across the state. For more information visit conserve  λ