Grass Warfare in L.A.

“We thought we were doing the right thing to save water,” Staci Terrace Goldfarb, a Southern California homeowner, said late last winter. “I hate looking at it.”

It had been a little more than a year since Goldfarb had the small, semicircular lawn in front of her 1960 Cape Cod in the San Fernando Valley replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping. Yet her front yard was a flat patch of gravel, the kind you can buy in bulk at Home Depot. It was the work, she said, of a company called Turf Terminators.

Goldfarb hired the company in December 2014 to install stone ground cover and low-water plants, but in the months that followed, the plants failed to thrive. Turf Terminators came back three times to replace dying yarrow, rosemary, and day lilies before Goldfarb gave up.

Fourteen months after the initial job, those shrubs looked uniformly stubby. Some were withering. Weeds poked up through the rocks. This month, Goldfarb wrote in an e-mail, “My yard just looks worse than ever. So sad, the plants may be drought tolerant, but certainly not heat tolerant. Soon I could end up with all rocks.”

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