Daryl Lindsey’s career in landscaping began as a hobby.
She often helped acquaintances reorganize their lawns and gardens in individualized ways that also benefited the neighborhood’s ecosystem. Then, last summer, after receiving ADHD and autism diagnoses, Lindsey decided to move away from a career in digital marketing and instead focus on landscaping.
She began using TikTok to educate an online audience about water-efficient and sustainable lawn practices. When some of Lindsey’s videos on the platform went viral, with one currently sitting at over 3.7 million views, she recognized a distinct and widespread need among many other homeowners.
“There’s a gap in the market for landscapers that are native-plant and water-wise focused,” Lindsey said, “especially as our climate anxiety continues to increase along with our awareness of … everything that’s happening with the Great Salt Lake.”
Lindsey’s presence on TikTok led online users to ask her to design their yards. Lindsey said she was more than happy to do so, and upon sharing this work online, her popularity on TikTok exploded further.
“It was a chicken-before-the-egg scenario,” said Lindsey, who began receiving many email inquiries before she had any kind of formal business.
Just seven weeks ago, Lindsey launched the website for her organization, yardfarmer.co – established between last July and November – and now, she assists Utah homeowners by implementing ecologically sustainable designs for their lawns and gardens that don’t sacrifice beauty.
The two, as it turns out, are not mutually exclusive.
What is sustainable landscaping?
For Lindsey, sustainable landscape design may be more properly termed “regenerative landscaping.” It’s a practice that reduces water use by using drought-tolerant plants that regenerate every year, with little effort from the lawn’s caretaker.
Regenerative landscaping seeks to preserve the natural elements of one’s green space, letting such areas exist as they would without human intervention.
“That’s my favorite part about these designs. I want to sit amongst my flowers, have a cup of coffee and enjoy my afternoon,” Lindsey said. “I don’t necessarily want to be doing manual labor every minute of every day.”
Allowing undergrowth, she continued, also makes for a healthier and more vibrant ecosystem, capable of supporting more native plants, bugs and other creatures. Lindsey is especially fond of the family of doves that nest in her fruit tree, above multiple canopies that comprise an ecosystem specifically designed to sustain itself, year after year.
The monarch butterfly, announced endangered last year, is one such species that depends on native plants to thrive.
Lindsey also pointed out that monarchs are natural pollinators of milkweed, a native plant in Utah’s western desert ecosystem. Milkweed assists monarch butterflies in their migration across the country, so more of the plant in backyards means more places for the monarchs to pollinate when they pass through Utah – a crucial region in their annual migratory patterns.
Milkweed is also a drought-tolerant plant, as are many plants native to Utah, according to Utah State University’s Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping.
Lindsey lamented that the city’s secondary water fees are currently disturbing homeowners in the summer. Her solution? Water less by integrating drought-tolerant plants into neighborhood lawns and gardens across the Valley.
“You’re going to save money, especially in the parts of Utah where you’re not hooked up to secondary water or [where] they started metering your secondary water,” she said. “You’re going to reduce your long-term water needs, which is good for the planet and good for your wallet.”
Grass is a consideration, too
Grass is another area where homeowners can save water.
While most lawns in Utah grow Kentucky bluegrass, Lindsey champions a number of more drought-tolerant strains of turf grass (grass you can walk on and don’t have to wade through). Buffalo grass, for example, is the only turf grass native to the United States, and it thrives in Utah’s landscape.
What’s more, Lindsey’s explanation of seeding a new lawn does not require an overhaul of one’s existing grass. Instead, the homeowner may seed any one of these drought-tolerant strains over their current lawn and wait a few seasons for the new strain to take over.
“We need lawns,” Lindsey said, noting a lawn’s importance to a family or the family dog. “But we can make our lawns smarter and more efficient, and drastically reduce the amount of water they require.”
Sarah Anderson is one Salt Lake-based homeowner who has benefited from Lindsey’s work.
“We were really tired of looking at yellow grass,” said Anderson, who’d been scarcely sprinkling her lawn because of recent suggestions to use less water. “But the quote for professional landscapers to come out and make these transitions was something like forty grand, and it’s not a very big yard. I thought, ‘We’d never do that.’”
Lindsey visited Anderson’s home in October and replaced the yellowing lawn with native, drought-tolerant plants, including trees and shrubbery. The entire process took two days, according to Anderson, far less time than the three-week estimate that traditional landscapers gave her.
This was due in part to one of Lindsey’s connections, a group of Utah arborists that dropped off a truckload of woodchips for free.
“[Lindsey] completely planned everything, including what [the lawn] will look like in ten years,” Anderson said. “She asked me questions, valuing my input, even though in the end I really let her run with it.”
Anderson added that she’s happy to have incorporated sustainable landscaping into her lawn.
“This drought isn’t going anywhere, so I really think it’s time to make a shift,” she said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that we’re literally just pouring water in the ground … and it really feels good, just as a person in the community, to be making this transition.”
With the climate crisis growing and the Salt Lake shrinking, Lindsey said she has found the regenerative practice to be a personal yet effective action-oriented step towards solidarity with these issues.
“I understand that planting some flowers isn’t going to save the world, but it is going to have enough tiny, positive impacts that I can channel all the stress and anxiety I feel for where things are going with the climate … into this work,” Lindsey said. “It’s knowing that you’re helping in even the smallest of ways.”
By focusing on personal passions, Lindsey said anyone can learn to “let yourself succeed.” Success, in this case, may very well mean the survival of the state’s treasured lake.
Daryl Lindsey appeared as a guest on the March 16, 2023, show of Voices Amplified on KRCL’s RadioACTive. Listen to the conversation.