Rebates for redesigns

To help water conservation efforts, a program is giving support for landscape conversions.

September 18, 2014

Water is the lifeblood of everything and everyone which exists on this planet. It is all of our responsibilities to cherish, protect and conserve this valuable resource required to survive. Even now, when facing drought situations similar to the one in California, people continue to take water for granted.  This situation can be hard for landscapers, who are on the front lines of this struggle to preserve water while still maintaining a landscape that clients and communities can be proud of.

  Re-defining what a landscape should bring to people is a challenge because everyone loves their English-garden style yards with hedged boxwoods and stunning green grass. This is the way it has been for hundreds of years and changing that mentality takes time and patience. However, clients are starting to get the message. Lawns only make sense for people who use them. If they are not being used by sports teams, children or pets they have no place in our modern landscape. The Lawn-Be-Gone program rewards clients for taking this next step to eliminate these water-loving lawns and turn them into a low-water use, beautiful landscape which will require little maintenance and will be sustainable throughout a drought season such as this.

“The biggest reward is water savings,” says Sam Anderson, account manager at Gachina Landscape Management, a company using the Lawn-Be-Gone program. “That’s first and foremost. That’s the original intent: to save water.”

The program helps with this by converting lawns and putting in low water use plants. This changes the nature of the landscape, and changes the way the plants get irrigated.

“I think the second part of it, and something we as a company are moving towards, is changing the way landscape is viewed,” Anderson says. “Before, people liked having large expanses of lawn. Now, as landscaping has changed and evolved, people are redefining what they think landscaping looks like.”

Clients who do choose to eliminate their once desirable green grass are typically satisfied with the end product. One such success story is a recent turf elimination project which was just completed at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Complex off of Sand Hill Rd. in Menlo Park, Calif. Gachina is the onsite maintenance contractor, so when the center decided to take the next steps to be on the forefront of conservation, Gachina was already there.

“We generated the proposal and they were interested in it,” Anderson says. “[Stanford Linear Accelerator Complex] had a lawn there that always looked horrible. They have a lot of grass on the property that nobody even walks on. They’re trying to show the water scientists that they’re doing whatever they can to preserve natural resources. So I brought up the program and they were really excited about it.”

One of the first, small steps was removing a large un-used portion of turf near their facilities department. The grass never thrived, consumed water and did nothing to add value to the landscape except drain the one resource that should be conserved.

This new landscape was installed by Gachina Landscape Management with the rebate support of BAWSA, (Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency), the City of Menlo Park Water District, and SLAC. Lawn-Be-Gone is a government funded program paid for by taxpayer dollars and grants. The government is giving water municipalities money to go out and get people to convert their lawns.

"They oversee the implementation of the project, make sure we’re planting only approved plants on the list they provide," Anderson says. "We have to make sure we fit all the guidelines, and as long as we abide by those requirements, they issue $1.50 per square foot of turf that’s removed. If you can plant plants that spread out a lot, and make sure the project fits, it’s fully funded.”

After completion, the municipalities come in and inspect everything to make sure it was implemented correctly, and then they issue the client a rebate check so the client gets reimbursed.
These new landscapes encompass a lot of popular landscaping practices – Drip irrigation conversions, sheet mulching, locally sourced mulch applications and appropriate water-wise plantings. The end result is a modern, low maintenance and low water-use landscape which is appropriate and sustainable for years to come.