Lawn Be Gone (4)

Download PDF


In February, we submitted what we hoped were to be the final photos for the SoCal Water$mart Turf Replacement rebate. Unfortunately, MWD determined that we had not met the program requirements. A call to the agency revealed that the leaf mulch that we used under the western sycamore was not allowed: “Acceptable forms of organic mulch include shredded bark, bark nuggets or wood chips.” My bad!

To remedy this problem, we had a truck load of wood chips delivered a couple of weeks ago. We removed some of the leaves and topped off both sides of the front yard with a layer of program-approved, organic mulch. Next we took new pictures and sent them in. I hope that I can report success in my next Lawn Be Gone episode.

In this post, I will review what we’ve been doing for the past 10 months, including the plans and the plant list. In future posts, I’ll report on the rebate debacle, provide more pictures of the project in action, and discuss what worked well and what was more challenging. Check out these earlier posts, LBG (1), LBG (2), LBG (3), if you have not already read them.

Spring 2022

The project began in the spring. We mowed the lawn on the north (uphill) side and cut off the irrigation. Using wood chip mulch, we started covering the lawn. See Lawn Be Gone (2) for more information on how this worked out.

The south side has a beautiful western sycamore, so we continued irrigating through the summer to ensure that we did not stress the tree.

Lawn drying out on the north side of the front yard.
Lawn drying out on the north side of the front yard

Fall 2022

We submitted a proposal for the turf replacement rebate in September. The plant list and plans follow.

Landscape plant palette
Plant List. Location N is uphill side, Location S is side with sycamore tree.
Garden Plan, p. 1
Planting Plan, p. 2
Planting Plan, p. 3

Winter 2023

After covering the north side of the front yard with leaves and wood chips, we continued to dig out pieces of grass and weeds that emerged along the edges of the garden. We also dug a small basin or swale to fill with rocks for water infiltration. And lastly, we ordered the plants.

On January 7th, we planted the north (uphill) side of the garden. We also sowed wildflower seeds (elegant clarkia and California poppy) along the edges of the upper bed, in the swale, and around the Free Library. See Lawn Be Gone (3) for planting information and pictures. Here’s an “as built” diagram, not to scale, of the planting.

Sketch of garden with plants
Rough sketch of planted garden
North side, front yard garden was planted on January 7.
North side, front yard garden was planted on January 7.

Late Winter/Spring

When the sycamore started to drop its leaves, we piled them on top of the remaining lawn. As mentioned earlier, we did not stop irrigating the sycamore through the summer. And of course, it continues to get ample water from this winter’s heavy rains. It was my hope that the leaves would block enough sunlight to kill the grass. This kind of worked and maybe given another year, it would have worked better. More on this in the next blog post.

On February 9th, between raindrops, we planted the south (sycamore) side of the front yard. The grass was flattened, but with the cold, wet weather, it was still succulent beneath the leaves. It was difficult to dig through the matted grass and tree roots. Furthermore, the soil was wet, and it is not a good idea to work a garden when the soil is saturated. This can lead to soil compaction and a general loss of healthy soil structure. Nonetheless, with the rebate in the balance, we planted the south side.

South side of the front yard with wood chip mulch
To comply with the rebate requirements we spread a layer of wood chip mulch on the south side of the front yard.
Mulched and planted front yard
In addition to spreading the mulch, we removed the weed cloth and gravel that surrounded the crape myrtle next to the sidewalk. The soil beneath the weed cloth was sodden. Weed cloth reduces aeration, and does not prevent weeds in the long term. As such, we will do the same around the sycamore.
Poppies bloom in the new garden
It is exciting to see this come alive!