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Draper Journal

Mayor ‘flips his strip’ and more

Sep 03, 2022 12:37PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

“You can’t find a park strip that isn’t also watering concrete when it’s being watered. We should have been doing this in Utah for the last 100 years. We never should have seen ourselves as England and planted the kind of foliage that takes 30 inches of rain a year. We should have planted for an arid climate,” Draper Mayor Troy Walker said.

With the drought and the need to conserve water, Walker wanted to serve as an example to residents of Draper by “flipping the strip” in front of his home. He admits that taking out the park strip grass was no easy task. “I did it with a shovel. I don’t recommend it at my age. I recommend hiring someone to rip the grass out and you can be done really quickly.”  

He and his wife Stefani were so encouraged by the water they were saving, they decided to hire a backhoe service to take out the rest of their grass in order to change their entire front yard to water-wise plants. “All the grass is out. In about two weeks we’re going to have drip irrigation, mulch, drought resistant plants and a patch of clover grass for green.”

Walker enlisted the help of Localscapes as well as landscape designer Michelle Coker.

Localscapes offers landscaping patterns and practices designed for Utah’s climate. “I’m not a rock fan and Localscapes isn’t about rocks. They’re plant-based xeriscape that’s cooler for the plants and the trees,” Walker said.

Coker’s business is Gardenflow Designs. “We hired her to design it. I think it was worth every nickel,” Walker said.

Coker has a degree in Interior Design, but her love of plants and nature led her to redirect her focus and study Horticultural Science. She echoes the mayor’s experience that removing lawn and excess “soil” is the hardest part.

“Most of us in Draper have what’s really more like rock-hard clay than soil,” she said. “My experience is you can either struggle doing it yourself one weekend after another, then pay a chiropractor to fix your aches and pains, or you can save the money, pay professionals, and have it removed in a couple of hours.”

Before beginning a project, Coker said it’s important to consider foundational elements such as weed control, irrigation and preparing the areas for mulch. “I highly encourage the use of fine organic or very small wood chip type mulches in planter areas. Using rock as mulch reflects heat onto plants, often causing leaf scorch and reduced water efficiency. Rock doesn’t contribute any organic matter to improving the soil. Organic mulches are easier to weed and don’t look as messy as rock does when covered with leaf litter.”

Coker also encourages people to remove excess lawn areas that are not used for recreation or are narrow (such as side yards) and replace them with more functional elements like pathways, seating or planter areas.

Walker took advantage of all the rebates offered for flipping your strip. “The rebates are nice, but everything is expensive. You get the rebates as long as you follow their program. They come out and check it to make sure you follow the rules,” he said.

Walker’s wife Stefani is a Master Gardener. “Stefani has become quite good at drip irrigation,” he said. Stefani said it’s been a family effort and that their neighbors have been supportive as well.

The Walker family isn’t finished yet. Next year, they plan to take all the grass out of their backyard and replace it with drought resistant plants and a paver-stone patio.

“Park strips save 30% of water and, if that’s all you do, that’s enough to make a big difference. I can tell you my neighbor started yesterday, so I may have started a trend,” Walker said.

Coker serves as a volunteer on the city’s Tree Committee. She said the city has worked with the Tree Committee and Jordan Valley Water Conservancy to bring free landscaping classes to Draper. The next class series will take place in September. Coker said it all comes down to soil.

“If you want your landscape to thrive, get to know your soil and don’t treat it like dirt. Soil is a living, breathing ecosystem. When it fails, so do the things we plant in it. Instead of growing plants, grow your soil,” she said. “Your plants will thank you.”

Walker is proud to say the city met their water conservation goal. “If people will do it in their yards, it will really save water,” he said.