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 landscaping practices. Sustainable 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 sheet mulching 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 Regenerative Landscaping Practices


ReScape California, which began as the Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition, is a nonprofit organization that promotes a whole systems approach to landscaping and gardening that works in harmony with the natural environment. ReScape’s landscaping practices are based on 8 core principles which foster soil health, conserve water, sequester carbon and protect valuable resources while reducing waste and preventing pollution.
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  1. Act Local recognizes that built landscapes are a part of the larger ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay watershed and that they can contribute to it’s health if designed and maintained using sustainable practices.
  2. Reduce Waste means that we should reduce waste by choosing the right plants, avoiding invasive plant species, using recycled and salvaged products in the landscape and by composting, mulching and grasscycling plant debris.
  3. Nurture Soil soils are living ecosystems and when landscape practices allow the soil food web to thrive it can filter pollution, store water, provide plant nutrients, and help plants resist pests naturally.
  4. Sequester Carbon recognizes that healthy vegetation works together with soil rich in organic matter and beneficial microorganisms to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it as soil carbon, an important strategy for addressing climate change.
  5. Save Water means using a holistic approach of creating drought resistant soils with compost and mulch, selecting plants naturally adapted to summer-dry climates, using stormwater, greywater and recycled water in the landscape as much as possible and using efficient irrigation systems that include self-adjusting, weather-based controllers.
  6. Conserve Energy by reducing the need for mowing and shearing, by shading buildings and paved areas, using efficient outdoor lighting, and buying local landscape products.
  7. Protect Water & Air through maximizing permeable surfaces and minimizing stormwater runoff, using integrated pest management, minimizing the use of synthetic pesticides and avoiding overuse of fertilizers, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and planting trees to remove CO2 and absorb air pollutants.
  8. Create Habitat: through maximizing permeable surfaces and minimizing stormwater runoff, using integrated pest management, minimizing the use of synthetic pesticides and avoiding overuse of fertilizers, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and planting trees to remove CO2 and absorb air pollutants.
Resources

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.

Workshops


The Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) offers regular landscape classes in the spring and fall throughout the Bay Area. Check their website to find upcoming events and workshops at the Alameda County Water District's headquarters in Fremont. 

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