Whole Life Magazine

December / January 2016

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Page 9 of 43

NO PLACE FOR LAWNS: For years now, devoted native plant gardeners have been pleading with folks to "Ditch Their Lawns" in favor of landscapes with native plants that would attract bees, birds, butterfl ies, and other pollinators. When it comes to living ecosystems, there is simply no place for lawns. Lawns are dead-zones without biodi- versity. They have no fl owers to feed bees and butterfl ies. They have no insects to feed the birds. Despite all the research out there and all the discussions, people have been slow to come around to the concept of native plant gardening and the impor- tance of a balanced ecosystem. Until now in California… MONETARY INCENTIVES: With the California drought in its fi fth season, there are monetary incentives for "Ditching Your Lawn." Now Califor- nians are sitting up and taking notice. Besides saving money on water bills, there are rebates available from the Los Ange- les Department of Water & Power and the Metropolitan Water District for removing traditional lawns and replacing them with drought-tolerant native plants. NO MORE CASH FOR FAKE GRASS: In July, the rebates were put to a vote. The Board of Wa- ter & Power Commissioners voted to continue rebates but to eliminate the rebate for plastic grass (artifi cial turf) installation. "Why? They are still a water-wise move," you might say. The problem with plastic grass is that there is nowhere for water runoff to go. A garden's rainwater or irrigation water needs to soak into the ground, not go off to storm drains and the ocean. A drainage fi x can be as simple as impressions dug around na- tive plants, or smart use of decompressed gravel. Homeowners are encouraged to be proactive in saving any excess water by installing underground cisterns, and they are encouraged to re-use some household water in the garden, such as for deep- watering fruit trees. Under the new rules, in order to be eligible for lawn removal rebates, homeowners must show that their new yard will be at least 50% drought-tolerant plants. They must also limit their use of gravel. Both plastic lawns and gravel contribute to heating up the ground on sunny Southern California days. PUT ON YOUR WALKING SHOES: Not sure what can be done? Put on your walking shoes and take a walk around your neighborhood. It seems everyone is getting in on new lawn-less, drought-tolerant landscape de- signs. Check out the California Native Plant Society's website (www.cnps.org) where they have a comprehensive list of plants that are native to your area, as well as a list of contractor re- sources. It is important to get a contractor who really knows na- tive plants, as not all drought tolerant plants are actually native to your area. Many plants that you will see on your walk around the neighborhood are native to Australia, for example, as their climate is very similar to ours. But, if you are going to re-design your yard, why not plant California plants instead of those from other places? Visit calscape.org for a list of popular natives in the Santa Monica/West Los Angeles area. CONSIDER WILDFLOWERS: Another lawn replacement option is Native Grass & Wild- fl ower Seed. Few people realize that there are drought- tolerant, low-growing wildfl owers and grasses that create a meadow-like look in the California garden. With native grass seed, you can have a lawn and still be water-wise. The DWP rebate program does not allow for ANY turf, even if it is native and drought-tolerant. However, if you are replacing your lawn and are not applying for a rebate, this is another option for you. The Theodore Payne Foundation, in Sun Valley, is a tremendous source of native California wildfl ower seeds. These additional rules by the Department of Water and Pow- er show that the discussions about maintaining healthy, living, and balanced ecosystems in our gardens are alive and well. Let's look forward to the time when our gardens are recognized as ecosystems and folks welcome in the whole host of creatures that should be living there. Photo: Theodore Payne Native Plant Tour city of angels By Kathy Vilim Los Angeles Native Plant Garden Replaces Lawn NO CASH FOR PLASTIC GRASS 10 wholelifetimes.com

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