Homeowners Replant Landscape, Reduce Waste

Emily Hagopian The once monochromatic lawn at Verdemar Drive and Catalina Avenue has been replaced by a diverse selection of drought-tolerant plants.

 

Last year while facing a record-breaking drought, a homeowner association on Bay Farm Island decided to do its part and take action. The community of more than 400 homes known as the Casitas Alameda Homeowners’ Association replaced 25,000 square feet of water-intensive lawn at Verdemar Drive and Catalina Avenue with new landscaping that saves water, increases biodiversity and prevents stormwater runoff. 

Instead of eliminating the turf with herbicides or excavation on the 0.7-acre plot, the landscape contractor sheet mulched it in place using layers of cardboard and locally produced recycled compost and mulch. The process of sheet mulching applied 82 tons of recycled waste rather than tearing up 46 tons of old turf destined for the landfill.  

These materials, along with the decomposing grass, add organic matter that improves soil health and acts like a sponge to hold more water.

Along with the healthier soil, a selection of 100 percent summer-dry adapted plants, and effcient irrigation contribute to the water savings. While local code allows homeowner associations some 420,000 gallons annually to maintain landscaping, Casitas will use just 144,000 gallons per year. This results in a cost savings of $1,540 annually.

“The board did an excellent job of selecting low-water, climate-adapted plants that improve the property’s aesthetic appeal,” said Jesse Painter, the regional manager for Willis Management Group.

In addition, decomposed granite pathways allow rainwater to percolate into the soil, and the property was graded so that any runoff drains to a cobble-lined dry creek bed. 

The project also eliminated the need for pesticides on the site, using integrated pest management by planting species that attract the right kinds of insects. The site will no longer need to be mowed, reducing reliance on fossil fuels or electricity. StopWaste estimates the project will keep some 28 tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

StopWaste provided the Casitas Homeowners’ Association with a sheet mulch and bay-friendly rated landscape grant that helped fund the project.