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In these uncertain times, more people are finding solace in the garden.  Growing edibles surging in popularity. Plants and seeds are flying off the shelves of garden centers.  That leads us to water.  SF Bay Area Water Districts are eager to help you save money on water-saving irrigation equipment, drought-tolerant plants, and lawn conversion. How often do you hear that?

I compiled a list of Counties and districts with links to rebate requirements – everything you need to know.  The rebates apply to both commercial and residential accounts. Scroll down for a downloadable report.


Alameda County Water District (ACWD)
Note: due to COVID-19 rebate programs may be delayed by 1-2 weeks.

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New! Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Instant Rebate (for residential customers)

Rebate for converting their lawns to water-efficient landscapes.*

$1.00/sq.ft of lawn converted. Please contact us to learn more.

*To be eligible for this rebate, customers must be pre-approved by ACWD, so please check with us first before beginning your landscape conversion project. Rebates are issued on a first-come, first served basis. Funding is limited. For additional lawn replacement ideas, please visit LoseYourLawn.org. 

For additional lawn replacement ideas, please visit LoseYourLawn.org.

Application Materials

Application – Please EMAIL this application to cons@acwd.com

Resources

COMMERCIAL

Weather-based “smart controller” rebates

Commercial and large landscape customers that replace their existing conventional irrigation controller with a “smart” irrigation controller may qualify for a rebate of up to $30* per active station. See our Program Brochure (PDF) for more information. Sites must be pre-qualified – Please contact us for more information about how to get pre-qualified.  *Rebate is based on the number of active stations of each existing controller.

Contra Costa Water District (CCWD)
Note: Rebate programs and inspections could be delayed due to COVID-19.

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Lawn Conversion rebate

The rebate is $1 per square foot of lawn replaced up to the maximum amount. 

The maximum rebate for single-family residential sites is $1,000.

The website has checklist and detailed list of restrictions.

Weather based smart irrigation controller rebates

$12 per active (used) irrigation station (zone) up to 50% of the list cost of the controller(s). Limit one rebate per customer per address. Limit one controller rebate per customer per address without pre-approval. Multiple controllers per address may be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Pre-approval is required.

COMMERCIAL

Lawn Conversion rebate

The rebate is $1 per square foot of lawn replaced up to the maximum amount. 

Maximum commercial, multi-family, and municipal accounts is $20,000 per site.

The website has checklist and detailed list of restrictions.

Weather based smart irrigation controller rebates

Rebate is to upgrade conventional controllers to WaterSense certified smart irrigation controllers only.

$20 per active irrigation station (zone) not to exceed 50% of the list price of the controller.

water graphic


East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD)
Note: Due to COVID-19 there will be a delay in responding to and processing mailed-in rebates. For a faster turnaround, please email your rebate application to waterconservation@ebmud.com

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Lawn Conversion rebate

Up to $2,000 (single-family and small multi-family homes)

Irrigation Equipment rebate

Up to $2,000 for equipment that includes:

  • High efficiency nozzles
  • Drip irrigation conversion
  • Pressure regulators
  • Self-adjusting controllers
  • Irrigation sub-meters

COMMERCIAL

Lawn Conversion rebate

Up to 15,000 (commercial and large multi-family properties) 

Irrigation Equipment rebate

Up to $15,000 for commercial or large multi-family properties.

Equipment includes:

  • High efficiency nozzles
  • Drip irrigation conversion
  • Pressure regulators
  • Self-adjusting controllers
  • Irrigation sub-meters

North Marin Water District
North Marin Water District has several rebate programs available including a Cash-for-Grass Turf Rebate, a Water Smart Landscape Rebate, and a Weather Based Irrigation Controller Rebate.

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Cash for Grass

$50 per 100 square feet of lawn area.  Limited to total of $400 for single family dwellings. 

Requirements include:

  • Replace the regularly mowed and automatically irrigated lawn with California native low water use plant material (see District Approved Plant List or Sonoma Marin saving water partnership list).
  • Mulch new landscape to a depth of at least 4 inches.
  • Agree not to re-install irrigated turf in the project area.

Water Smart Landscape Rebates

Rebate amount: 50% of the actual cost of District approved items, up to a maximum of $100 for residential customers.

Equipment that qualifies includes:

  • Drip irrigation systems
  • Water pressure-regulating devices
  • Check valves
  • Multi-stream rotating sprinkler nozzles (for lawn areas only)
  • Rain shut-off devices
  • Mulch

Weather Based Irrigation Controller Rebate*

$100 or $30 per active station up to $1,200 per controller, whichever is greater.

List of eligible controllers includes: Weathermatic, ET Water, Rainmaster, Hunter, Toro, Rainbird.

*Note: does not specify whether it is residential or commercial

MULTI-FAMILY DWELLINGS (they do not have a commercial category for rebates) 

Cash for Grass

$50 per 100 square feet of lawn area.  Limited to total of $100 for townhouses or condominiums, $50 for apartments.

Requirements include:

  • Replace the regularly mowed and automatically irrigated lawn with California native low water use plant material (see District Approved Plant List or Sonoma Marin saving water partnership list).
  • Mulch new landscape to a depth of at least 4 inches.
  • Agree not to re-install irrigated turf in the project area.

MMWD (Marin Municipal Water District)
They offer rebates for either residential or commercial property.

Smart Irrigation Controller Rebate – up to $100 for both residential or commercial

Landscape your lawn – (LYL) Turf Replacement Incentives – for residential or commercial

LYL Option 1: Rebate of $1/square foot of lawn replaced
Customers are reimbursed costs based on receipts submitted for eligible expenses, which include sheet mulching materials, drip irrigation components, and climate-appropriate plants.

LYL Option 2: Free sheet mulch material (cardboard, compost, mulch) and delivery, plus a free irrigation conversion kit
This option provides all the materials necessary to remove your existing lawn using a sheet mulch approach, as well as a component kit to convert existing overhead spray irrigation to high-efficiency drip irrigation.

Solano County Water Agency

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Smart Irrigation Controller Rebates

Rebates from $300, $700, or $1000 depending on the number of stations.

Link above has details or call 855-512-1221 for complete program details and to apply for the rebate. 

Water Efficient Landscape Rebate (program has been cancelled until further notice)

COMMERCIAL  

Smart Irrigation Controller Rebates

Rebates from $300, $700, or $1000 depending on the number of stations.

Link above has details or call 855-512-1221 for complete program details and to apply for the rebate.

LISTED BY CITY

Many Bay Area cities offer landscaping water conservation rebates. Below is a list of cities that offer these rebates:

Santa Rosa Water District
Both residential rebates and commercial rebates for turf replacement, irrigation efficiency improvement, and rainwater harvesting.

HOMES  

Cash for Grass

$0.50/sq. ft. up to max of 500 sq. ft. or $250.00

For more information and requirements. 

Irrigation Efficiency

up to $100.00 max for pre-qualified equipment/hardware

Equipment includes water conserving controllers.

For more information and requirements. 

COMMERCIAL  

Cash for Grass

$0.50/sq.ft.up to max of 5,000 sq.ft. or $2,500.00

For more information and requirements.

Irrigation Efficiency

up to $1,000.00 max per meter for pre-qualified equipment/hardware

Equipment includes water conserving controllers.

For more information and requirements.

City of Petaluma
The city of Petaluma provides Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional accounts as well as Multi-Family Residential accounts.  (No commercial rebates listed on the website)

Homes

Smart Irrigation Controller Rebates.

up to a $900 rebate for the purchase of a Smart Irrigation controller.


Download the Report

 

 

Sifting through a long list of 2018 trends in landscaping and gardening, we extracted ones more closely pertaining to the San Francisco Bay Area.

These important trends reflect our changing climate and how/ what people are planting this year. 
Plus there’s a brief, but inspiring case study about an old-fashioned practice made new again.

Thank you to our sources:
Sunset
Garden Design Magazine
Gardenista
Turf Magazine
Houzz
Land8.com
San Jose Mercury News

Container Gardening
A growing population millennials and retirees are moving into multi-family and tiny housing.  They want to garden. The answer to their small space challenge is containers.
They provide color, texture and structure.
There are a myriad of choices you can find from classic to modern.  Rustic to formal. Balcony boxes.
See below.

Do’s and Don’t’s on Containers
Say no to dark colors or clay pots
Dark colors get too hot; clay dries out in summer.
Best is fiberglass, plastic or glazed pottery.
Make sure they have drainage holes.

Succulents in glazed pottery

Low Water Container Perennials
Succulents are great. Hardy. They usually need full sun.
California Poppies are native, hardy and cheerful.
Lavender – Depending on your space you might try dwarf varieties.  They need full sun.

Kale

Kale

Edible Container Plants
Among the easiest to grow are –
Lettuces, kale and herbs. Shallow-rooted, they need a container with a 9-12″ depth.
Tomato plants are larger and need a container with a 12-14″ depth.
Consider dwarf varieties as well.

What You Need
Good soil.
Know your plant sunlight and water needs. Most edibles will need four-five hours of sun.
Mulching will help your soil hold water.
Feed the soil with: compost; worm castings.
(Gardeners’ Guild has great success with worm castings.  It is odorless, natural and improves soil health). There are also natural products you can purchase at your local nursery.

Acclimating Landscapes to Climate Change
More people are taking action to prepare for the effects of extreme weather such as drought, wind, severe heat, cold and rain.  Adapting a landscape for a changing climate involves components such as design, plant types, maintenance that includes consistent and correct pruning. 
Water management is also critical in acclimating our landscapes.
Below are tips on how to prepare for these trends, what you can do and why.

High Wind Resistance
Plants, trees and retaining walls are used as wind blocks
In large areas – plants are installed in a series of staggered rows that re-direct wind around and above.
For small areas – a similar concept referred to as a wind screen.
Wind isn’t completely blocked but tempered somewhat.
Wind Resistant Plant Attributes
More flexible stems.  Examples: Escalonia, Ornamental grasses.

Fire wise plants left to right: Agave, African Iris, Beach Aster

Fire Resistant Landscapes
The Napa and Sonoma fires brought into granular focus three factors:
“Defensible space” – a high priority.  The recommended clearance from a structure is 100′.  (More details on this topic in coming months).
Planting firewise plants in the right place. (see examples above).
Gardeners’ Guild has maintained and planted many of these.

Heat Tolerant Plants
Our micro-climates are changing. Areas that used to stay cool have hot temperatures more frequently.  More people are choosing desert-like gardens.
See photos below for some plants that won’t wilt in the heat.

Heat tolerant plants, left to right: Poppies, Euphorbia and Salvia

Freeze Hardy Plants
This is a partial list of plants that can withstand freezing temperatures.
Correa ‘Ivory Bells’
Verbena Lilacina
Helleborous

Drought Tolerant Landscapes
The drought officially came and went, but it can and will re-occur.
Water bills are rising.
The state of California may reinstate water restrictions making them permanent.
Later this year we will be covering drought tolerant plants and rebates.  Stay tuned.

Multi-Family Housing and its Amenities
It has exploded in the San Francisco Bay Area’s urban areas.  In San Francisco proper, Mission Bay continues to fill in with housing and business.  A breathtaking number of luxury, state of the art buildings have been completed in the last few years.  We highlight trends that are important for Community Managers.

One trend was noted from a recent issue of Bisnow. 
An attractive landscape is a non-negotiable amenity. 
Moreover, it shouldn’t look sparse or overgrown. 
A Multi-Family executive magazine article says that a three-year plan for upgrades that include new fire pits. Or, budgeting for a top of the line grill every few years is a must.

Aside from landscaping, there is a new push for multi-family communities to offer so-called “soft amenities i.e. dog-walking, dry cleaning, packing and concierge services.

A Soil Restoration Brief

David Montgomery, a Geomorphologist and author of books about soil, wants to world to know that organic products’ ability to restore degraded soil has been proven – in his own garden!

Over the years Montgomery had become discouraged that modern agriculture is “stripping the Earth of high quality topsoil.” 

He contends that civilizations throughout history have collapsed due to the depletion of the top three inches of soil.  “The skin of the earth”, Montgomery calls it. While writing a book on the topic, Montgomery’s wife began a project to restore the soil in their backyard.

She massaged in wood chips, fallen leaves, coffee grounds. Also mulch, compost, and a soil inoculant from worm castings. A miraculous transformation took place.  It took several years – but the soil came back.

It’s now flourishing with healthy edibles.  And, Montgomery’s story has become more optimistic.

Story courtesy of Sunset Magazine.

 

 

 

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They probably will need water.

We tell you what to look for – and how – so you know for sure if your plants need water.

A Typical Winter

Irrigation is normally turned off in the winter.
Why?
Plants need less water during that time.
The soil is cool and moisture evaporates more slowly

Moreover, an average rainy season is sufficient for plant needs for moisture

This Warm, Dry Winter Requires a Different Plan

A tenacious high pressure ridge is firmly in place, pushing rain further and further north.
With no probability of wet stuff in the near future, follow the advice below.
It will help you know for sure, which plants will need water.

These Plants Will Need Water First

Young Plants
Their water needs are higher than mature plants. 

Container Plants
Moisture evaporates more quickly when plants are in containers

But don’t guess. Know for sure.

1. Purchase a soil probe

Where to buy one?
Online or at your neighborhood garden center.

Get one with a footstep it will be easier on your body. (see photo below)
How you will know for sure if your plant needs water.
Push the probe from 4-10″ deep into the soil.
Make sure the probe goes all the way down to the plant root.
Otherwise you won’t know for sure
Pull the probe out.
Look at the tip for evidence of moisture.
The moisture or lack of it will tell you if the plant needs water. 

2. Visual Observation

Notice if your plants are drooping. 
This can be misleading because plants that are drooping could also have a different problem. You could have a drainage problem.
That is why a soil probe is important.

That’s it!