Drought may be over, but war on turf continues

For those interested in water conservation, it’s time to get tough on turf.

That’s right. Douse it with earth-friendly herbicides, suffocate it with plastic, sheet mulch it to death with newspaper/cardboard or dig the whole thing up. Whichever deadly method you choose, turf removal is a great way to conserve water and save money.

“Conservation is still the cheapest and best way to ensure our water viability,” said Ray Hiemstra, associate director of programs for Orange County Coastkeeper, one of several local agencies ready and willing to provide the how-to’s of the equation. Others are the Chino Basin Water Conservation District in San Bernardino County and the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles County, all actively promoting one-day workshops/classes.

Declarations that Southern California’s five-year drought is done haven’t discouraged the many homeowners who still want their lawns or at least portions of them gone. Most want to learn the best way to do that.

“There are four methods to getting rid of lawn — chemical; solarization (putting plastic over it and sealing it); sheet mulching with cardboard and paper; and mechanical, digging it up and raking it,” said Dave Schroeder of the Chino Basin Water Conservation District.

Each method has pros and cons and can take several weeks to accomplish your goal. Those serious about turf replacement should start now since the ideal time to move ahead with drought-tolerant plantings, for example, is the first of November, said Schroeder, who will outline all four removal options at a free turf removal workshop today in Montclair.

“Yes, there’s plenty of water up in the Sierras, but locally we didn’t get a lot from the rains earlier in the year, and it wasn’t utilized,” he said. “We can’t waste water.

“I’m seeing an increase in class scheduling and appointments at our landscape design center here at the district. When I teach classes, I say we still have more people coming into the state and more building going on and we can’t make any more water.”

Water needs in the West have always been a concern, particularly in Southern California. When Gov. Jerry Brown declared war two years ago on the green lawn, calling for a 25 percent cut in urban water use, homeowners listened, lured by offers of turf removal/replacement rebates.

Most of those programs are no longer being offered. But some…

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