Long Beach Encourages Homeowners to Go Native With the Innovative Lawn-To-Garden Program
The Long Beach Water Department has an easy, affordable way to convert your gluttonous grass front yard and parkway into a water-wise wonderland.
Long Beach will pay you $3.00 per square foot to rip out your lawn and replace it with native, low water landscaping. My husband Nick and I accepted the challenge at our home, which had a rarely used, somewhat sparse front lawn and parkway. Long Beach makes the process surprisingly easy. And despite our novice landscaping skills, the results are beautiful. Trust me, you can do it too.
The first step is to file an application with Lawn-To-Garden, which we submitted on-line in a matter of minutes. The application itself is easy - you just need your water account number and the square footage of grass you are replacing.
Next we received a letter in the mail telling us our application was approved and we had 45 days to submit our garden design. This is the reality check in the process – are you actually willing to do the work? Lawn-to-Garden has a lot of resources available, so you don’t need to hire a professional landscaper. You start by taking a short mandatory landscaping class (either on-line or at the water department). Then, you review the list of approved plants and other requirements and make a drawing. My husband and I looked at all the on-line examples, grabbed some graph paper, and went to work. Our drawing was crude, but accepted without ridicule. Then we waited…
A few weeks later we received a letter saying our stick figure drawings were approved and we had 120 days to construct our new garden.
Step one is to kill your grass. Since ours was already parched, we were in good shape. We hired the incredibly strong Miguel to dig up our remains and fix our sprinklers, which we converted to low flow rotator heads. In the meantime, I showed our plans to my friend Leslie Grenier, a professional landscaper and extremely generous person. She gently suggested a few changes to our design with phrases like “I consider this a freeway-quality plant.” Yikes. We ran the changes by the Lawn-To-Garden folks who didn’t even raise an eyebrow at the fact we were tweaking our design with two weeks to go. I am sure they’ve seen it all. Then we started visiting nurseries to collect the plants and mulch. Seeing all those shades of green and beautiful flowers lined up in front of our house made me realize low water does not mean boring and monotone at all. And in one very long day, Nick, Miguel and I did it – planted over 120 plants in our front yard and parkway and mulched every one. We even had our first butterfly – a perk of going native. We emailed the city, they came and inspected, and we passed. Glorious victory!
Joyce Barkley, Long Beach Water Conservation Specialist, told me there are more than 500 Long Beach homes currently in various stages of the Lawn-To-Garden program. The funding comes mostly from a refinanced bond and the program is accepting applications. According to Joyce, the Water Department “expects to see an average water savings of 30% per single family household” that converts to a low water garden. At our home we reduced our water usage by 9 hundred cubic feet in the first partial-year alone. Joyce hopes the program will help change the perception that lawns are beautiful. I am definitely a convert. I feel like my new front yard has a wonderful organic quality that evolves and changes with the seasons. And converting a lawn is a tangible, important step towards responsible water conservation. It feels good to do our part.
For us, Lawn-to-Garden covered about ½ of the cost of replacing our lawn. Our expenses were split about evenly between Miguel’s time and plant/mulch/paver materials. If we were willing to dig out our own grass, we would have come close to breaking even (unless Leslie had charged us what she is really worth). More importantly, Lawn-to-Garden made the process simple. They were constantly available for questions, were flexible with our changes, and really did provide all the on-line resources we needed to succeed. For more information, check out www.lblawntogarden.com.