Pleasanton Weekly

- March 28, 2014

Mow no mo'!

Learn to cut your water bill instead of your grass

Dixie Finley, an expert animal tracker, had had enough of watering her lawn, and as a long-time observer of the natural world, she knew her turf didn't provide a habitat for wildlife. So it was with pleasure on a fall morning in 2012 that she welcomed a group of 30 shovel-bearing "Mow no Mo'!" enthusiasts to her front yard in Livermore.

This group, comprised of folks from first-time homeowners to seniors and everything in between, spent a few hours removing her front lawn with a method called sheet mulching. They trenched along her driveway and sidewalk, then laid out cardboard, spread compost and shoveled a large pile of woodchips. After a few hours, Finley's grass was gone and she was ready for her new plants.

With design help from Kat Weiss of Kat Weiss Landscape Design and a nearly $500 rebate from her water district, Finley purchased a variety of native plants, including California lilac, manzanita and sages, coral bells and seaside daisies.

"I'm just thrilled," she said, looking fondly at the native plants in her garden. "I love to sit out in the front garden, watching the birds. It's so peaceful."

Finley's water bill now hovers around $30 a month. She said she is captivated by the beauty of her native plant garden and delighted with the bees, butterflies and birds it attracts.

Sheet mulching enriches the soil as it removes the lawn, using a biodegradable weed barrier — such as recycled cardboard — over the grass, then compost and mulch to mimic the way layers of leaves build up on forest floors. Then trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals can be planted right through the sheet mulch.

Michael Johnson, a fly fisherman, said he thinks he has been using too much water on his lawn.

"I want to leave the water for the fish and plant natives that will provide food, shelter and nesting areas for wildlife," he said. "I attended a 'Mow no Mo'!' workshop last year, and I'm confident that sheet mulching is the way to go," he said.

Johnson's front garden in Lafayette is the venue for the upcoming "Mow no Mo'!" workshop, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow. Participants will learn how to remove a lawn and select drought-tolerant plants as well as how to receive a lawn-removal rebate from the water district.

"Not only will we be using a lot less water once the lawn is gone, but we'll be receiving a significant rebate from EBMUD for removing the grass," Johnson said.

Sheet mulching magic

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