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Lawn Conversion: How-to tips and guidance to remove your thirsty lawn and exotic plants and create a beautiful Native Plants Landscape, Organic Vegetable Garden, Naturescape or Xeriscape ...


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Is Your City, School or College Supporting Lawn Conversion?  Should it Be?

With the encouragement of city halls in various parts of the United States and increasing concern for the ecology in recent years, many home owners are ready to rip out their lawns and create beautiful Native Plants Landscapes, Xeriscapes (primarily in the Southwest) and Organic Vegetable Gardens in their place.  Many cities actually provide grants to folks who convert their lawns to native plants landscaping, as shown below, while others use the punitive approach of increasing water utility rates in times of scarce water resources.  During an economic depression, the punitive method can hurt some people very deeply, and may be perceived as opportunistic, especially if no credit is given for prior lawn conversion work. 

Artificial turf and decorative stones have also nudged out the growing grass in some places. Gardens you can eat are more likely to be established in the backyard away from public access, hungry animals, etc.  But some green garden enthusiasts proudly show off their carrots, grapes, oranges and apples to all passers-by!

Scarce water resources, costs of time and labor to mow and maintain lawns (including removing dandelions and other weedy intruders), air pollution from gasoline-powered lawn mowers, ecological values and a simple preference for native plant landscaping or growing your own food, are major motivations for this trend.  Clearly economy and ecology are the primary carrots in addition to the stick of aches and pains from weeding and maintaining thirsty lawns and exotic plants.  Guidelines from permaculture and sustainable agriculture help to promote a cultural evolution in the urban way of life.  It's enticing to grow a garden you can eat!  With current drought conditions in California and other western states in the USA, increased costs of water and governmental restrictions lead you to consider alternatives to large lawns.

The articles below show various methods of removing an existing lawn and several choices and resources for the more eco-friendly alternatives.  Some people plan to remove the entire lawn in one fell swoop and gather resources to make that happen.  Others start from the edges of their driveways or walkways and incrementally replace the lawns one patch at a time.  Even without city grants, you can start to reduce lawn costs by removing small strips of grass at convenient times and places.  It doesn't have to be an all-out killer project, if you plan it carefully.

Incremental Lawn Removal - Transformation

For quick results, the incremental plan can be accomplished by the use of a few hand tools, such as the Ergonica Turbo Weed Twister, hoes and shovels, for example, for removing an existing lawn in small strips as well as preparing the soil for native plants or organic vegetables, all in one day.  Many people like this approach, since you don't have to make a big investment or plan the entire project to start your lawn conversion project.  You can progress at a pace that's comfortable for you, and make planning and design decisions as you go along. 

First Step Planning Guide: Ten Square Feet Test Area

With a supply of mulch at hand, and using available tools or possibly some new tools if needed, time yourself when removing about ten square feet of turf.  Cover the area with mulch about 3-4 inches deep.  This can be your gauge for planning the rest of the project.  If you have new native plants or edible goodies ready to plant, you can complete the transformation in one day for your 10-square-feet test area.  This can also help you decide on whether you need additional tools, mulching material, or people power.

Instead of waiting for mulch to kill your lawn or assembling a crew with heavy duty tools or tractors to rip out your entire lawn, you can get immediate satisfaction by quickly removing and replacing your lawn mostly by yourself, one small strip at a time!  Or give a neighborhood kid a few bucks to give you a hand if you get really ambitious.  Start working and start saving one day at a time.  One small strip for you, one giant salve for Mom Nature!


Helpful Tips and Information by EPA: Considering Landscaping with Native Plants?  Whether you are thinking about planting a small urban plot or a few acres with native landscaping, you may have some questions about getting started and what you can expect from your new landscape.  First, you need to decide what you want to do with your land. Are you going to incorporate some native plants into your garden? Restore an area to its original pre-settlement condition? Is your goal to attract wildlife or to solve an environmental problem such as flooding?

Suggestions for native landscaping on residential properties:
  • Draw your plan on paper
  • Start out small, only do a little at a time.
  • Tell your neighbors what you plan to do. Consider putting up a sign (e.g. Jane's Wildflower Garden) to define your natural area. This will help others feel more comfortable with a different approach to landscaping.
  • Talk with local officials to find out if there are any local ordinances you should be aware of (e.g. restrictions on the height of vegetation). If so, will they help you get a variance?
  • You may even want to register your natural landscape with the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program of the National Wildlife Federation or with the National Institute for Urban Wildlife. There may also be other local associations available to assist you.

May first lady spark a lawn removal trend? White House garden makes a big statement:  You have to admit that this gives new meaning to the idea of a "shovel-ready project." There are now 1,100 square feet on the South Lawn of the White House being transformed into a kitchen garden. If Americans follow the first family's lead, the seed pack will become the new stimulus package... The image of Michelle Obama surrounded by fifth-graders digging into the White House dirt gave heart to locavores everywhere.

Need a new Camera?
Need a new Camera?
Baltimore Sun By Susan Reimer November, 2010 

White House Gardens

Los Angeles DWP offers incentives for removing lawns - Faced with another year of drought, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is offering customers a cash incentive to replace their grass lawns with drought-tolerant plants. The current deal is that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will pay $2 per square foot, up to $4,000 total, if you replace water-guzzling grass with drought-tolerant landscaping. Imagine that — the DWP sending you money instead of siphoning it right out of your wallet.

DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said that in the six months that ended Jan. 31, residential and commercial customers ripped out 813,000 square feet of turf. Since 2009, 6.6 million square feet of grass have become history. Ramallo said there was a tenfold increase in applications last fall, when the price per square foot went up from $1.50.

Long Beach is offering $3 per square foot in its lawn-to-garden program, with a maximum payout of $3,000. Kevin Wattier, general manager of the city's water department, told me there's been a spike in applications since the city upped its payment from $2.50 a square foot.

New landscaping plans must be approved by the DWP before they are implemented and evidence of installation must be provided to receive the rebate.
Call 888-376-3314

Southern California Bewaterwise.com Rebates


How to turn my lawn into a Food Not Lawns project:  Claremont Food Not Lawns is a local community organization dedicated to replacing our lawns with edible gardens in the name of sustainability and self-sufficiency. We hold monthly meetings which are both social and educational.

Need to Remove Your Existing Lawn Quickly?

Learn out how to properly remove your grass, replace it with water efficient landscaping and save money on your water bills. Nevada SNWA example is analogous to other states such as California and Arizona.. Removing Your Grass - How to remove your grass - various methods.
Santa Fe Sustainability with Solar: Solarsmith, a green building firm out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, recently helped Betsy Armstrong and Richard Barr build an eco-friendly, traditional southwest-style home in the foothills of Santa Fe.  Except for a small orchard, the design uses the xeriscape method of landscaping, which means using low-maintenance, native plants that require little water.

Jetson Green by Sarah Roe March 9, 2009

Smart Growth Naturescaping What is Lawn Conversion?  Many homeowners today are choosing to convert their lawns or a section of their lawns to a more natural state. This includes planting hardy native plant species of grasses, shrubs, wildflowers and/or trees, which require less maintenance than the conventional bright green lawn. Naturescaping is similar to xeriscaping, which is the term for yards designed to use little or no water. The term naturescaping includes other aspects like biodiversity into the design. Top view of a front yard designed using naturescaping principles
Naturscaping, Red Deer California

Water Efficient Landscaping Methods (Xeriscape) at Texas Christian University - TCU.  Seven xeriscape principals:
  • Start with a good design
  • Improve the soil
  • Use mulch
  • Limit lawn areas
  • Choose low-water-use plants
  • Water Efficiently
  • Practice good maintenance

East Mesa makes switch: On July 25, 2007 staff from Mesa’s utilities conservation department rolled out a revamped rebate program. The city will pay homeowners $500 for getting rid of grass in favor of a xeriscape yard.  To receive the rebate, homeowners must remove at least 500 square feet of grass and re-landscape with plants requiring less water. A list of acceptable plants, along with a rebate application, is available at www.mesaaz.gov/residents/water-conservation/residential-grass-to-xeriscape-rebate. Drought tolerlant plants official list for Arizona is listed here (PDF file).

Images of Arizona Drought-Tolerant Shrubs, Grasses, Groundcovers
by Rich Benda 2014

Drought Tolerant Arizona Shrubs, Grasses, Groundcovers by Rich Benda

Lawn is gone, cactus and veggies are in, thanks to volunteers at children's home:  Over several months, volunteers from the Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, the El Paso chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico, and the El Paso Rock and Cactus Club, along with Duncan, have replaced a large turf area with a cactus garden, have restored a greenhouse, and are building vegetable and flower beds. "We have grass everywhere, and it takes a lot of water and upkeep," Thomas said. "But what we're trying to do with the Master Gardeners, the Rock and Cactus Club and the Native Plant Society is to xeriscape so that we use a lot less water."
El Paso Times 05/03/2009  By María Cortés González / El Paso Times

Lee & Beulah Moor Children's Home resident Rosie Gonzalez watered tomato plants after she and other children planted a garden with the help of Master Gardeners April 23 outside the home. (Photos by Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

Lawn Care for Cleaner Air - Landscaping Awards Program:  Are you interested in trying a different approach to lawn care that would mean less work and pollution while providing more beauty and wildlife habitat in your backyard or corporate lawns?  Operating a typical (4 HP) gasoline-powered lawnmower for one hour produces as much smog-forming hydrocarbons as driving an average car almost 200 miles under average conditions (more than the distance from Louisville to Nashville).

Remove Pesky Grass Weeds
 or Entire Lawns with

Ergonica Drill-Ready Turbo Weed Twister

Turbo Weed Twister attached to a 3-speed cordless hammer drill pulls out Bermuda grass quickly and effectively. There is no other tool currently available that can remove troublesome Bermuda grass, crabgrass and similar grasses as quickly and effectively as this tool.  For lawn conversion, this unique tool can remove a strip of lawn in just a few minutes.  Use it to prepare the soil for your native plants or organic vegetables, as well.  Get immediate satisfaction: Quickly remove and transform your lawn one small strip at a time!

Is Your City Supporting Lawn Conversion?  Should it Be?

The Kitchen Garden

Segment from Geoff Lawton's new DVD on Establishing a Food Forest the Permaculture Way.  Available Sept. 2008 from www.permaculture.org.au


Bye-bye Golf Courses, Hello Nature Preserves: At the Ocean Meadows Golf Club in Goleta, California, the ping of an iron hitting a dimpled ball is gradually but inexorably fading from the fairway. Taking its place will be the whistles of white-tailed kites, the chirps of snowy plovers, and the warbles of tree swallows as the University of California-Santa Barbara transforms the 64-acre, nine-hole course into a nature preserve during the next two years.

SHRINK Your Lawn: Let Her Run Wild:  A great way to reduce yard work and water use, create a more interesting landscape, and increase wildlife habitat all at the same time is to restore some of your property to a self-sustaining natural ecosystem.

Within the larger landscape, the dominant ecosystem varies according to local topography and climate, so consider your site's attributes and your needs as well as your area's climax ecosystem when planning your wild area.
  • For sunny, dry places, plan a prairie.
  • For shady hillsides, try a forest glade with ferns and rocky outcrops.
  • In the desert, consider xeriscaping with native desert plants and rock.
  • If you want to create shade, design a woodland.
  • In low areas that trap runoff, make a wet meadow or thicket.

Lawn Conversion: We’ve spent the entire weekend smothering our grass lawn. The method we used is called “sheet mulching“. Basically, it’s a way to build up the soil without having to till or add synthetic fertilizers. Because of the horribly compacted soil and multiple layers of sod netting, we thought this would be the best way to prepare the soil for planting our edible and medicinal landscape.

A friend of ours rented a sod cutter and removed a large piece of turf for her dirt backyard. Then came the first step of laying down cardboard. The best place to find cardboard for this project was the billiards store! The cardboard creates a barrier that kills the remaining grass and any weeds.

The Organic Sister May 2008

Going Native: The trend to convert unused lawn to natural areas can increase recreational potential and solves many management problems.  While lawn is an important component of sports areas, its ability to provide space for many other forms of recreation is actually very limited. With this idea in mind, many parks and nature centers in the Midwest are beginning to convert their un-used lawn to native landscaping as a way to provide space for other forms of recreation, including outdoor classrooms for the study of native plants and animals. Recreation Management, Jack Pizzo, Chris Hauser and Cory Ritterbusch

What is the Native / Exotic Plant Ratio in Your Public Parks?  Excessive Lawns?

Balancing native, non-native plants in a yard is a tough act:  I think the biggest problem is that many of us introduce non-native plants into our gardens, fully expecting Mom Nature to take care of them, and she doesn’t want any part of it. How do we introduce interesting species and coerce nature to help? It sounds sneaky, but really, it’s the secret to good gardening practice.

Powerful Ergonica Turbo Weed Twister digs into rocks to remove weeds by their roots: Let your 1/2-inch drill do the twisting with this 36-inch tool that can quickly uproot small and large weeds.  Rocky or desert landscaping and xeriscaping in California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and other western states, as well as Australia, Africa, etc., can now be cleared of weeds, quickly and efficiently, by this powerful and safe tool made by Ergonica. No chemicals, herbicides, pesticides needed! Great for removing all types of grasses for lawn conversion. Muscles optional! Requires 1/2 inch drill such as the 18 volt Makita impact drill used in this demonstration.

Landscaping with Native Plants:  Across North America, more and more people are discovering the satisfaction in beauty and the benefits to the environment of landscaping their homes, schools, businesses and places of worship with native plants.  Native plants are those that evolved naturally in North America. More specifically, native plants in a particular area are those that were growing naturally in the area before humans introduced plants from distant places.

How to Naturescape: Curious about native plants? Interested in a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape? Concerned about health and water quality?  In the pages that follow, we will introduce some basic Concepts of landscaping with native plants, referred to by many as "naturescaping," and follow that with steps you can take to get started.


San Jose Lawn to Natives Conversion:  In contrast to the lawn-centric design, this mature garden requires only bi-annual trimming, semi-annual weeding, and about 4 deep waterings per year. 

Are the Highways - Freeways in Your State Landscaped with Native Plants?  Should they be?

Eat Your Lawn: A new wave of gardeners replants front yards with food - A mile from the White House, in Washington DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Ed Bruske is growing vegetables where his lawn used to be.  During the summer, the garden provides about 80 percent of the produce Bruske, his wife, and their eight-year-old daughter eat.

San Rafael, California - Retired Lawn: In 1975 after having replanted dead grass in his front yard twice, Michael Duffy decided to cover the entire yard with decorative stone. Inspired by his recent lawn conversion he purchase Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from a local store, and installed them in the stone surfaced garden. He next added the lawn mower and hung a “Retired” sign above it. He was soon asked by people to add lawn to his sign as it looked like a Retired Lawn.

Retired Lawn.


Does your school or college campus apply sustainable landscaping, native plants, xeriscaping?
Are harmful chemicals used as herbicides or pesticides on campus?

Teacher, students create native-plant garden at their school - Project will help teach others about water-wise landscaping: San Marcos Middle School now has a native-plant garden that will provide ongoing lessons in water-wise landscaping, thanks to the efforts of a teacher and some of his students. Seventh-grade history and geography teacher Lawrence Osen oversaw the garden's creation Thursday and Friday afternoons. "You see a lot of land that's been disturbed or had its vegetation removed," he said. "And instead of putting ice plant in ... there are a lot of benefits from putting in native plants ---- their variety, erosion control and the color of their flowers."

San Marcos Middle School Native Plants

Ryan Ortiz, 13, prepares to plant a manzanita shrub at a drought-tolerant garden at San Marcos Middle School last week. (Photo by John Koster - For the North County Times)  April 25, 2009

Keeping UNLV’s head above water - Facilities management replaces grass with xeriscape, saves money: In an effort to conserve one of Southern Nevada’s most valuable resources, UNLV is also saving millions of dollars a year by replacing grass with drought tolerant xeriscape and conserving water. By converting turf to xeriscape the facilities management department is hoping for $150,000 in annual savings, Reynolds said. Currently 82,000 square feet of turf east of the soccer fields are being prepared for a landscape conversion that will be completed by the end of June according to Robert Lynn, UNLV facilities supervisor.  The conversion projects are paid for by the university and then a rebate check is received from the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Keeping UNLV's head above water

By removing landscaping that requires constant watering, UNLV has saved millions of dollars. Photo by Amy Adler - The Rebel Yell April 27, 2009 by Lindsay Ainsworth

Botanist restores native plants at CSU campus in Carson:  Botanist Connie Vadheim and a few dozen recruits in grubby clothes and stout shoes will be pulling weeds and planting buckwheat and California sunflowers on April 12 along a seasonal creek just south of parking lot seven at CSU Dominguez Hills.  It's all part of Vadheim's campaign to restore as much of the campus as possible with shrubs and flowers that are native to the South Bay area and raised from local genetic stock: sunflowers, coyote bush, tidy-tips, gilias, California wild roses, willows and bunch grasses.


Los Angeles Times - Environment March 27, 2009 

Garden Me, But Where’s the Front Lawn?  Haeg's "Edible Estates" project replaces lawns with gardens -  Haeg was standing in front of about 40 people in the multipurpose room of the Ann Arbor District Library to present his project, “Edible Estates,” which involves installations of gardens in place of front lawns. He’s implemented gardens as front lawn replacements in various locations across the U.S., and has done one in England. Haeg first traced the history of the lawn from a demonstration of wealth in the English estate, to the definition of a unfenced democratic space given privilege at Jefferson’s Monticello, to a hostile no-man’s land in post-war suburban development.

The perfect garden is one that makes YOU feel good!  Not necessarily your neighbors, your nursery store, landscaping service provider or hardware vendors...  It's Your Dirt!

Loans to help rid residents of their lawns: The Southern Nevada Water Authority, of which Henderson is a member, pays $1.50 per square foot to homeowners who tear up their grass through its Water Smart Landscapes rebate program. But the water authority estimates up to 30 percent of residential applicants withdraw from the program before completing it, often because they can’t afford new landscaping.  So, Henderson will lend up to $5,000 at 3 percent interest for seven years to a limited number of residents who participate in the water authority’s lawn conversion effort.


Time to lose the lawn?  With officials calling for at least 30 percent less water use this summer, landscaping may be where most customers cut back:  Tired of spending her weekends on expensive and time-consuming lawn care, Kathleen Tornow finally decided to get rid of the grass and put in a water-saving front yard.

Also, see our selection of beautifully illustrated Weed Books from Amazon.com

Garden Weeding Tips for Everyone Check it out!

Garden Weeding Tips for Agriculture Check it out!

Garden Weeding Tips for Seniors Check it out!

See the Garden Tools page for a comprehensive listing of Weed Solutions including Mechanical Weeders, Weed Twisters, Weed Pullers, Weed Poppers, Weed Flamers,  Weed Removal Hand Tools, Weed Hounds, Weed Claws, Garden Weasels, Weed Hoes, Weed Whips, Weed Hooks, Weed Cutters, Weed Scythes, Weed Cultivators, Weed Diggers, Weed Trimmers, Weed Grubbers, Weed Gloves and other tools and accessories including Organic Weed Herbicides and Weed Barriers and special Ergonomic Tools for people with arthritis or CTS.

Does your Roundup need a Boost?

Musings of Dr. Yucca: Let your garden thrive! A safe and sane delight.

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