Author Topic: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas  (Read 2288 times)

Offline 16onRockandRoll

  • Survivalist Mentor
  • *****
  • Posts: 519
  • Karma: 19
  • Prepper Wannabe
Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« on: October 01, 2015, 08:31:57 PM »
So I just found out CA is offering up to $2/sq ft ($2000 max) for replacing ornamental landscaping that you remove with native drought tolerant plants.  The exception to the native requirement includes food bearing plants!  CA is going to pay me to put in a front yard garden. 

We will likely be selling our house in the next few years, so I want to do it right.  All watering has to be efficient micro drip type stuff (fine with me anyway).  The house is a pretty standard suburban house, with a little over 1000 sq ft of front yard, north facing (by NW), and slopes down about 3-4 ft to the street over maybe 40' to the house.

I am thinking of raising the front and putting in a brick retaining wall by the curb, with a sloped walkway that splits it in two, so you could walk up the center to harvest easier.  That would allow a lot of good garden soil to be trucked in over the top.  I want to plant at least one fruit tree.  I will be digging up and replacing our sewer line from the house to the curb while doing this since it has occasional problems (none for the last few years *fingers crossed*) and I don't want to have to dig up the beds. 

So I guess I am partly bragging, and mostly looking for any ideas or considerations I should take.  Thanks!

Offline I.L.W.

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1004
  • Karma: 203
Re: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2015, 09:32:32 PM »
CA is a weird home market. You have both extremes depending on your location. Some would be thrilled at having an edible landscape, while other communities want uniformity between all the houses, with only ornamental plants. So food can be an advantage, or a disadvantage when selling, depending on the area and the prospective buyer.

I would therefore go with plants which are edible (or otherwise utilitarian), but look very ornamental.

Cacti: Prickly pear and Pitaya (dragon fruit)
Vines: Passion Flower, Vanilla Orchid, Confederate Jasmine
Herbs: Feverfew, Thyme, Oregano, Thai Basil, Echinacea, Sweet Woodruff, Banana, Red Aloe, Sage, Salvia, Miner's Lettuce, Sagewort, Yarrow, Ginger, Yucca, Meadowsweet
Flowers: Daylily, California Poppy
Bushes: Goumi, Camellia sinensis (tea plant), Mountain Rose
Trees: Citrus (any, but get a full-size tree and pollard it, training to dwarf size)

If you intend to sell your home, most sales happen in early summer. Families with kids like to move between the school years. Many companies start the calendar year for vacation time in Q2, so that's when people can get time off of work to look at houses. Knowing this, you may look for plants which are in their peak in early June when prospective buyers may be coming to look at the house.  Steer clear of plants which go dormant in the summer.

Take a ton of photos every month of the year between now and when you sell. Then you can showcase the house in the listing with all your plants leafed out and in full bloom. Get close-up shots of every plant in it's prime. Though they may be at their peak several months apart, on the realtor sheet, the pictures can appear side by side, showing only the best aspects of the property in one condensed listing. That's how many of the featured properties in Home magazines do it, they have the photographer out a half dozen times during the year. Time compression is a legitimate marketing technique.

I read a study which correlated smell to home sales. Big surprise, good smelling houses sell better than stinky houses. Some fragrant plants might help sweeten the deal for the buyer.

Just remember, CA is not actually paying you. That's your tax money. You're paying you, and they're still taking a cut from it. Being enthused about this kind of tax incentive is like saying "at least my rapist bought me dinner first". But I guess if you're getting F***ed either way, might as well order the fillet, lol.

Offline 11steve11

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 48
  • Karma: 11
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2015, 08:44:08 AM »
A couple of additions to the excellent list from I.L.W that grow well for me in a arid regin and are beautiful to use as landscaping:

Perennials
Rhubarb - very tough and  drought tolerant. I have a patch that was neglected for 7 years and it still grows well. Beautiful big leaves and does well in shade or sun.
Grapes - I have neighbors with living fences and arbors of this one.
Kiwi - Similar to grapes, low inputs with abundant outputs.
Garlic - will grow about anywhere.
Asparagus - will grow about anywhere.
Buffalo berry - nitrogen fixer, bush size, silver/dark green leaves, berries are edible, not as aggressive as sea berry.
Could also try elder berry and raspberries, mine planted in the middle of 100deg summer are doing great.

Annuals that act like perenials
Jerusalem artichoke - Tall, beautiful, very drought tolerant and although it is an annual it acts like a perenial.
Aramanth - I'd suggest several varities; some get maybe 3' tall while others are 12-15. Reds, greens, yellow, purple and orange varities in colors. The entire plant has value.
Waltham butternut squash - grow vertical for big beautiful yellow flowers and then hammock the fruits for a ornimental lantern look.
Tomatillo - we have a purple streaked green one this year, very sweet berries and beautiful plant.

All of these should be very easy to source in California, there's nothing exotic here.  Additionally, they would be looking alive & well for you in late March and by mid April would be looking 'ornimental'.

And I only use drippers except for the rhubarb.  The rhubarb got a 3gpm mister sprayer (connected to the dripper mainline) so that when the mid afternoon sun hits it, the spray comes on and cools the patch about 20deg. Rhubarb will not grow edible stalks when it is super hot, it doesn't shrivel yet by using the mister I continued to harvest mine all summer long.

nkawtg

  • Guest
Re: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2015, 09:09:48 AM »
Check with your zoning board to determine if you can plant an edible garden in your front yard.
Too many stories out there where people were ordered to remove their vegetable gardens from their front yards or face fines.

Offline I.L.W.

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1004
  • Karma: 203
Re: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2015, 11:26:41 AM »
Here's a list of native species. That's specifically what they'll be looking for when applying the credit.
http://www.laspilitas.com/plants/plants.htm

I believe you are correct that it's been expanded beyond natives to include general food crops. Still, if you plant an "Invasive" food crop, they'll get a bug up their ass about it.

The trick is to stay under the radar with more esoteric plantings, mixed with those incredibly common in the region. So you'll have the standards like citrus. On the other end, most home owners wouldn't know what meadowsweet is, to them it's just a pretty flower. To you, it's a tea plant and medicinal blood thinner, fever reducer, and pain killer. California poppy, in addition to being native, beloved by the environmental conservationists in the region, and being attractive is also a powerful non-opioid sedative. Most people don't know that. To them, it's just a nice looking flower.

If you go with the middle ground... food crops which are uncommon to the region but still recognizable by most (pears and persimmons for example) people recognizing them as food crops will make assumptions about the property, both good and bad. Many HOA administrators for example find it unconscionable that you would eat something that grows in dirt (they're that far removed from reality). Farming is considered by some cultures an act of the impoverished. Looking for affluence, they may look down on a property which favors practical rather than extravagant plantings. If it looks pretty, is low maintenance, and they have no idea what it is, that's perfect.

I don't think the zoning board will try to levy an injunction against a state conservation incentive program. If that incident hit the right ears, they'd be out of a job very quickly.  No real worries there.

Offline 16onRockandRoll

  • Survivalist Mentor
  • *****
  • Posts: 519
  • Karma: 19
  • Prepper Wannabe
Re: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2015, 10:08:38 PM »
Despite being squarely suburben, we are in a wonderful little patch of unincorporated county with little/no zoning issues. We can't have horses (or I think other large livestock) but chickens etc are fine here. Our town holds pretty tight to its rural roots, and fights to avoid growing too fast. There are a shocking number of horse properties around us because of it.

Also, our backyard has most of our square footage, and the bulk of the garden. But it needs an overhaul of the watering system. But the front lawn looks like hell since I stopped watering it, so we wanted to do something with it anyway. Great ideas so far.

Offline I.L.W.

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1004
  • Karma: 203
Re: Lawn removal incentive, looking for ideas
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2015, 12:02:55 PM »
The most amazing "dry lawn" I've ever seen was comprised exclusively of achillea (yarrow). It was mowed most of the year, keeping it short and green, like a ferny/mossy carpet. Around August they'd let it grow and bloom to reseed. When frequently cut, it grows very thick.

Apparently, these were all the rage with environmentalists in the late '80s but didn't catch on in the mainstream, as they dry out in cooler winters. Now it's in the same niche as moss lawns, but a bit hardier in your region.  If you google it however, there are some pretty amazing pictures.

Seed is fairly cheap, about $40/lb (on par with many premium lawn grass mixes), but spreads farther. A pound would do about 4,000 square feet. Weeds will get into it, but are virtually invisible and quickly get choked out (even grass). The only catch, you want a mower with a deck that's at least 5" from the ground, while many max at 3½". For a push mower, it's just a matter of getting bigger wheels. Most riding mowers get a minimum of 4", many up to 6", so not much of a problem if you have one of them. 

Yarrow plantings mix extremely well with landino clover.

Estimated water usage is 1/2 to 1/3 of grass due to deeper roots, lower transpiration rate, and the moisture is stored in the roots more so than the leaves, and thus not lost when mowing.

Herbally, it's a strong blood coagulant used topically on cuts to stop bleeding. Also highly anti-septic, making wounds treated with achillea less likely to become infected. Many claim it's also useful as an anti-inflammatory, and can ease allergy symptoms when eaten or used in teas, though I have not found any scientific studies to back up that claim. It's a reasonable assertion, just not "proven".

Attracts bees (specifically bumble bees).

I'd do this myself, but my front lawn is two acres... that's a big project and low priority for me right now. But I've been propagating yarrow in mass, just incase I decide to pull the trigger.

For those following this thread, I've done some research, and many states (via extension offices) will give free seeds for "alternative lawn" trials. You get to be the canary in the coal mine to see if non-grass lawns do indeed work well in an actual suburban environment. There are many moss and clover lawn programs (restricted to people who's property meets specific requirements).  But if you source seeds that way, it would be separate from the other state programs.

Some of these programs are offered exclusively to lawncare professionals, who can offer them to their customers, but they oversee the installation and maintenance and do all the reporting. Even some of the crazy HOAs are getting onboard, gracing their members with "waivers" so they are not in violation of their agreement if they participate.  There are also a number of new housing developments which are installing entire neighborhoods with non-grass lawns. The idea is slowly gaining momentum.