Ready to pull out your lawn? Make sure to ask your landscaper these 4 questions before getting started.
We all know the reasons for converting your lawn to water efficient landscaping, right? Lack of rain, multi-year drought, watering restrictions, high water rates, lack of biodiversity, etc. I could go on and on about the reasons, but I’ll assume you’re already on board and are ready to pull your turf out. If you want to learn more about the reasons why – go here.
So you’re ready to move forward, but there are some things you need to be thinking about as you choose a landscaper in order to ensure your lawn conversion is a success. In large part, the outcome of your new landscaping will depend on the due diligence you do while choosing a landscaper.
Let’s look at a few things you need to ask as you try to find the right company for the job…
1.”Have you done this before?”
This might seem like an obvious question, but I’m afraid too many people fail to ask it. Ideally, you’ll find a company that has a lot of experience with lawn removals. By choosing an expert on this type of project, you’ll potentially avoid many future headaches. If the lawn is improperly removed, you may end up with a lot of regrowth, which means you’ll either be out in the yard all weekend trying to stay on top of the weeds, or you’ll have to pay someone else to do it.
In addition, a company experienced in lawn conversions will know the appropriate removal method for your specific grass type. Again, this helps ensure the long term success of the project. You’ll also benefit from their experience because they will have the process down pat. This means a smoother, faster, and more affordable project for you.
2.”How will you improve the soil after the grass is out?”
Does this sound like a boring question to you? I understand, but nonetheless, you need to ask it. If they don’t have a good answer, look elsewhere, because you’ll regret it when your new plants won’t grow and you’re still using a lot of water.
After a lawn is removed, we almost always find that the soil underneath is highly compacted and almost entirely devoid of life. This is the opposite of what we need to have a self-sustaining, water efficient landscape that is lush and healthy.
Soil remediation is absolutely critical in lawn conversion projects. We need soil that is full of microorganisms that provide the plants with the nutrients they need. We also need soil that is loaded with organic matter, which will provide food for the microorganisms and soak up water.
With proper soil building, we create what we call a “living soil sponge”. It’s full of life and soaks up water easily, holding it there for long periods of time, like a sponge.
This means the soil, not fertilizer and irrigation, is what’s going to provide your plants with nutrients and water.
With good soil building techniques, you’ll have a colorful, lush garden that grows quickly and easily with very little input from you. It’s a step that should not be skipped in any landscape project, especially a lawn replacement. Make sure your landscaper knows how to accomplish this. Hint: adding a little compost to the base of the plants isn’t enough. Sheet mulching is absolutely the way to go on this. However, we’ll have to save the details on sheet mulching for another day.
3.”How much irrigation will the new plants need?”
It would seem kind of silly to replace a lawn with a bunch of other water loving plants, right? The biggest reason to pull the grass out in the first place is to save water, so it’s important to know what’s going in after the lawn is out. This is where it helps to have a landscaper who is very plant savvy.
Not all plants you see at the nurseries are truly drought-tolerant. In fact, many are downright thirsty. A good landscaper should be able to select appropriate native and climate adapted plants to suit your new landscape. In addition, there are other techniques that can be used to bring your water bill down even more.
For instance, take rainwater catchment. For this, we like to use passive methods where we redirect your downspouts into swales in the landscape. A swale is simply a depression or low spot. They can come in many forms such as a wide, shallow basin, a rock lined creek bed, or they can even be made invisible by using an extra thick layer of mulch.
The rainwater is directed into the swales and since you now have a “living soil sponge”, the water is held there for many months, nurturing your plants. Imagine how that will affect the plants throughout the year.
Even if you only have a thousand square feet of roof to catch rain off of, that’s about 600 gallons of water for every inch of rain. That’s a whole lot of water for these drought-tolerant plants. It’s amazing how well they do throughout the dry season even on very little irrigation because of that extra rainwater.
There are other methods of increasing the water efficiency of your new landscape, this is just one example. Make sure your landscaper knows how much water your new plants will need and has a plan for how to make your outdoor space as water-wise as possible.
4.”How can you make this easier on my budget?”
It’s time to talk about money. Landscaping isn’t cheap, or at least it better not be or I’d be afraid to see the end results. The fact is that it takes a lot of labor, materials, expertise, and management to successfully complete a landscaping project. For more details on the costs of landscaping, see our article “How Much Does Landscaping Cost?”.
With all that said, there are some things that can be done to lower your expenses.
Since we’re talking about lawn removals here, the first way you can save some money is by applying for a lawn removal rebate. They are easy to get and you can receive up to a $2,000 rebate, depending on where you live and the size of your lawn. For more details on rebates, see our article “Lawn Rebate Programs in SLO County”.
Another way you can make it easier on your budget is by financing the project. Not all companies offer this, so it’s something to inquire about. Greener Environments offers financing through YGrene. It’s an outstanding program that offers homeowners $0 down payment, low interest financing for energy efficient and water conserving upgrades to their property.
There are also other ways of reducing the cost, such as opting for 1 gallon plants, using less expensive materials for walkways and patios, or doing the project in phases. If you have budget concerns, talk to your landscaper to see what options they have available to assist you.
This is just scratching the surface of what you need to do to find the right landscaper and have a successful project. If you want to learn more, download our Consumer Guide to Landscaping in SLO County.
In this free informational guide, you’ll learn:
- How to avoid getting ripped off
- More questions to ask before you hire a landscaper
- Water conservation tips
- How to have a healthy, lush landscape
And much more… Download it for free by going here.
If you need more info or further assistance with finding the best company for your landscaping project, or if you’d like to learn how we can help you create your new outdoor space, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!