About half of total average California household water usage is used for landscaping and other outdoor uses. You can drastically cut down your irrigation needs by changing your thirsty lawn into a beautiful water-efficient landscaping.
An easy way to get rid of your lawn is to sheet-mulch - a method of killing your grass without harmful chemicals or tilling, and providing nutrients and a good foundation for your new landscaping!
Our own board member, Kimberly, recently sheet-mulched her front yard as part of the Contra Costa Water District's Lose Your Lawn rebate program. Here is her experience:
Hi - my name is Kimberly and I recently sheet-mulched my front yard during late Fall 2014. I knew I wanted to participate in my water district's lawn conversion rebate program, so I submitted my "pre-application" for Contra Costa Water District's Lose Your Lawn, Grow a Garden program.
They sent a CCWD representative to my house after receiving my application, to measure my front yard that I intended to convert to drought-tolerant landscaping. It was very convenient because I didn't even need to be home during the initial evaluation - they just measured the front lawn and then sent me a letter telling me exactly how much money I was eligible for in the rebate program, and a notice of approval to proceed.


I had heard about sheet-mulching 


before through SCOCO's sheet-mulching Action Guide (www.sustainablecoco.org) and decided to give it a try because it didn't involve using chemicals to kill the grass, would leave my tree's roots intact (not necessarily the case if I tilled) and less intensive than tilling the whole yard. 
STEP 1: Mark off sprinkler heads with a flag, and dig a trench around the permimeter of the lawn area. This trench will help ensure that stubborn edge grass doesn't try to peak out. 
STEP 2: Spread a 2" layer of compost on top of the grass. I got my compost delivered from EcoMulch in Martinez. The layer of compost will help "activate" the soil and encourage soil microbes to work through that top layer of soon-to-be dead grass. It will also provide nutrients for the soil.
STEP 3: Layer large pieces of flat cardboard over the whole area, and make sure to overlap the pieces to completely block out sunlight from reaching the grass. You can buy rolls of cardboard for this purpose, find old boxes, or what I did - collect large flat pieces of cardboard from Costco! They have lots of these pieces next to each pallet of product and inbetween layers of product, that were easy to pull out. I explained what I needed the cardboard for to the Costco employees and they were fine with me taking it! 
STEP 4: Wet the cardboard, and then spread a 2" layer of mulch on top. 
And that's it - done sheet-mulching! Sheet-mulching took me a few weekends with the help of a friend, but you can probably get it done in one weekend if you have more people helping and start out with enough cardboard - I ended up making two trips to Costco for cardboard.
By this time it was winter and I just let things sit. I met with a landscape designer who was on the approved CCWD list (they reimburse you for 2 hours of design assistance!) and by early spring, nurseries were carrying the plants that I needed. 
TO PLANT: Just brush away the mulch in the spot you want to plant, tear / cut a circle in the cardboard, dig through the soil and plant! Eventually, the cardboard will break down naturally into the soil. 
I'm still putting in plants but it's been a fun project so far and I can't wait to see the finished product. My neighbors have been curious about this project and I hope to encourage some of them to lose their lawn as well!

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