As Benicians begin to feel the pain of increasing water rates in the near future, it might make sense to rethink the lawn. Lawns are the largest single water user in a landscape. Lawn-less landscapes can be beautiful when done correctly, and reap ongoing benefits, especially if replaced by water-efficient plants.
Benicia’s water is sourced from the Solano County Water Agency (SCWA). In an effort to reduce overall water usage, which benefits everyone, the SCWA is offering cash rebates for replacing lawns with water-wise plants, which benefits homeowners.
Through the Water Efficient Landscape Rebate Program, paid for by the SCWA and a Proposition 84 grant, the agency can help homeowners (or renters, with the homeowner’s permission) defray the cost of purchasing plants that would replace an existing lawn, in amounts up to $1,000, depending on the square footage of the turf area. The double benefit—reducing the water bill and getting a rebate on water-wise replacement plants—makes for good incentive to redo your landscape.
The SCWA recommends using Bay Friendly’s simple (and inexpensive) sheet mulching method to eliminate a lawn and at the same time, create healthy, nutrient-rich soil. In a nutshell, cardboard or newspaper is placed over the lawn and topped with layers of compost and wood mulch. This creates a natural weed barrier for the replacement plants, and an ecosystem that will provide healthier growing conditions.
Water customers can call the agency to schedule a pre-inspection site visit, where the lawn will be measured and approved. Dead lawns, new construction lawns or already removed lawns are not eligible for the program. Landscaping requirements are provided, and after the project is completed, a post-inspection will take place for final approval.
The SCWA stresses that new plant selections should match the need of the plant with the site, taking shade, soil, slope and wind into consideration to ensure a healthy habitat. The agency has many resources available for homeowners and renters interested in reducing water usage.
Solano County Water Agency, Solanosaveswater.org
Bay Friendly, bayfriendly.org
California Native Plants for Solano Gardens, cnpsjepsonchapter.org
Morningsun Herb Farm, morningsunherbfarm.com