Water-Wise Gardens

Before the recent drought, over 40% of residential water use was attributable to landscape irrigation. Existing residential landscapes may have been established decades ago when the common standard was to cover all landscaped areas with turf grass, which can require significant amounts of water and maintenance.

New landscapes, by law, are now much more water-efficient and are required to adhere to the Landscape Development Requirements and Policies (LDRP) and Bay-Friendly Landscaping practices. Bay-Friendly Landscape plantings don't require as much water, avoid need for regular pruning, and use far less pesticides. The results are beautiful water-efficient landscapes that are easier to maintain.

Fremont residents can easily convert their existing gardens into water-efficient landscapes by considering the following practices.

Converting Your Lawn to a Water-Efficient Garden
Compost & Sheet-Mulch
Sheet mulching enriches soil, establishes a new garden area, and helps you to remove your lawn without using grass-killing chemicals. The first step to sheet mulching is using a biodegradable weed barrier such as recycled cardboard on top of the area you plan to convert. Compost and mulch is layered on top of this. Trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals can then be planted directly through the sheet mulch. Learn more about composting and sheetmulching from Stopwaste.
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​Plant with Natives
Not only do native plants require less water because they are adapted to our local climate, but they require less maintenance in terms of pruning, fertilizer, and pesticides. Additionally, they attract beneficial insects and native wildlife such ladybugs, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, which can help to pollinate other plants in your yard and encourage a healthy local ecosystem. Learn more about the benefits of natives from the California Native Plant Society.
Use Permeable Materials
Permeable landscaping prevents water runoff and allows air and water to penetrate the soil. In the garden, permeable landscapes can consist of mulch, bark, rocks, sand, and decomposed granite for walkways and other areas where you do not wish to have plants. Read more about permeable landscaping from PlantSF.
Use Artificial Turf Sparingly
Artificial turf can serve as a useful alternative to turf grass in specific situations. For example, its use in athletic fields offers a low-maintenance, weed-free playing surface that does not require fertilizer or water and is resistant to heavy foot traffic. On the other hand, artificial turf does not support biodiversity and can detract from your garden's soil health. Furthermore, the process of making artificial turf requires significant chemical resources, and runoff can carry those pollutants into our water supply. When artificial turf exceeds its useful life, it must be disposed of, often ending up in landfills. Artificial turf therefore should only be used sparingly and in situations where turf grass would otherwise be necessary. Learn more about lawn alternatives from Sunset and the drawbacks of artificial turf from Stopwaste. 
Use Bay-Friendly Gardening Practices
The Bay-Friendly Coalition is a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable landscaping and gardening practices to reduce waste and pollution, conserve natural resources, and create vibrant landscapes and gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bay-Friendly Practices & Principles involve gardening with the following 7 elements in mind:
  1. Landscape Locally: Garden with with an awareness of local conditions and the land’s natural inhabitants
  2. Landscape for Less Landfill: Make compost, use organic materials, choose appropriate plants for the region
  3. Nurture the Soil: Use compost, hand-till, sheet-mulch, grow cover crops, leave leaves & grass clippings on soil
  4. Conserve Water: Plant CA native or Mediterranean plants, minimize lawn areas, use mulch, collect rainwater
  5. Conserve Energy: Plant trees for shade, purchase materials from local suppliers, use energy-efficient equipment
  6. Protect Water & Air Quality: Use permeable materials, avoid invasive species, use hand tools, avoid chemical fertilizers & pesticides
  7. Create Wildlife Habitat: Plant CA natives, provide year-round vegetation, diversify plant species, allow plants to go to seed
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Lawn Conversion Rebate Programs 
California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has a rebate program for removing turf and replacing it with landscapes that require little water at California single-family residences to support the State's drought response. Rebates are up to $2 per square foot. For more information, visit the Save Our Water Rebates page.


The Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) offers regular landscape classes in the spring and fall. The following workshop is scheduled this fall at the Alameda County Water District (ACWD) offices, located at 43885 South Grimmer Boulevard in Fremont:


  • Gardening with CA Native & Drought Tolerant Plants - Tuesday, October 25 from 6 pm to 8 pm 
    This class will discuss how to garden with water-efficient and low-maintenance native and drought tolerant plants. Learn how and why drought tolerant plants need less water, and how to plant and care for them. Discover the role of soil organisms and organic matter in maintaining plant health and improving your garden’s water-efficiency.

Demonstration Gardens 
The Alameda County Master Gardeners are trained by the University of California Agricultural Extension to extend research based knowledge and information on home gardening issues to the residents of Alameda County. Demonstration Gardens are found at the following locations:

Quarry Lakes Demo Garden