Water & Drought

Who helps homeowners replace lawns with native plants?

Q: Are there any local or state programs to assist or provide information for homeowners interested in replacing their lawns with native plants that use less water? – Alexander Davis, Orangevale

A: A variety of programs are available to assist homeowners. Some even offer rebates or other financial incentives. But these programs vary from one water provider to the next and funds are subject to availability: first come, first served.

First, determine which agency provides your water. Then, click on www.BeWaterSmart.info, the Regional Water Authority’s one-stop website for water savers.

Most likely, your provider is Orange Vale Water Co., http://www.orangevalewater.com/, (916) 988-1693. Currently, that agency provides exterior and landscape surveys of single-family homes with recommendations on ways to save water, but does not have a “cash for grass” or turf replacement incentive program in place. (California-American Water Co. and Placer County Water Agency both have turf replacement incentives, according to the RWA.)

The Regional Water Authority does have a rebate program that includes an audit of your yard’s water use and rebate incentives to purchase and install water-efficient irrigation equipment. It’s available to customers in several water districts. For more details, contact the RWA at (916) 967-7692.

As for what California natives to plant instead of turf, check out two links from the BeWaterSmart home page: Water-Wise Gardening and Water-Smart Gardening. They may sound like the same thing, but the two links take you to very different introductions to low-water landscaping. The Water-Wise link focuses on plants for Gold Country and Sierra foothills gardens, featuring an interactive database of more than 1,800 low-water plants. The Water-Smart link takes you to the Blue Thumb Gardener home page and includes step-by-step information on how to do water-smart makeovers such as lawn replacement.

Also, check out the UC Davis Arboretum ( arboretum.ucdavis.edu) and its low-water plant collections such as Arboretum All-Stars, featuring many California natives. The website offers plant suggestions and a how-to plan for designing your own California native garden. You can see a gallery of all 100 Arboretum All-Stars on The Bee’s Home & Garden page, too.

Roseville and Elk Grove both have “ Greener Gardener” programs that showcase water-wise landscapes. On April 26, Elk Grove will host a tour of its Greener Gardens as well as a DIY Expo at Miwok Park for anybody who wants to learn how to have a more water-efficient garden. Many vendors and experts will be available to answer questions. Roseville’s Greener Garden tour is set for May 17.

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.