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5 Money-Saving Tips for Your Yard or Garden: An Interview with Nancy Knapp of Weeds Garden & Interior Design

By Nancy Knapp

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

My company, Weeds, aims to create beautiful, functional, water-thrifty gardens and outdoor living spaces.

What are some of the most common concerns that Southern California homeowners have when it comes to their yards?

Well, that would be pretty simple to answer these days - most people are concerned about two things: how can I use less water and how can I do it in a way that is attractive but not high maintenance? I think everyone is afraid that by taking out their lawn and replacing it with climate appropriate plants they are going to be increasing their garden maintenance or else having a garden full of gravel and cactus. Well, surprise, there is no magic, no-maintenance yard that involves plants.

By putting in a garden that is low water you are still going to have to take care of it. I usually tell people that it's a different kind of maintenance, because while you aren't out there every week mowing and weeding and fertilizing and applying pesticides and watering and watering, you are still going to have to weed a non-lawn garden, periodically cut back plants, replenish mulch and generally keep an eye on things. Drip irrigation does tend to be far less of a headache than sprinklers, especially in tandem with a smart controller and weather based sensor.

So, all in all, when you factor in the time, energy and resources it takes to keep a lawn lush and green, putting in a sustainable garden will definitely require some work, but as it gets established, less and less.

Can you briefly explain how people are benefiting from the Cash for Grass program?

The Cash for Grass program, which is now offered by almost every city/municipality in Southern California, is a fantastic way to do the right thing and get some money for it! Right now, you can get $2-$3.75 per square foot for removing irrigated turf grass and replacing it with more drought tolerant plants, permeable hardscape (non-planted areas that allow the water to permeate down and help replenish our aquifers) and drip or water-conserving irrigation.

Just keep in mind that if the grass is to be replaced with plants, irrigation, pavers, gravel or decomposed granite, it's going to cost more than the $2-$3 per square foot. However, especially now that the rebate cap has been removed, you can easily end up with a nice chunk of cash to apply to your new outdoor space. I've had clients be approved for $12,000 in rebates by taking out their front and back lawns.

What are some common questions (and the answers) that people ask you about designing and installing a garden?

How much and how long? The scope of the project determines both the cost and the length of time it will take to complete. For a fully designed and installed garden, from plain and simple, to the addition of an outdoor kitchen, water feature, built-in fire pit or other element, it can take anywhere from $15,000-$20,000 and upwards and from a couple of weeks to 6-8 weeks. That said, I'm also willing to work with folks who have smaller spaces/budgets. Every now and then, a homeowner may just want to add one element to their garden or only need help with the design and/or plant selection.

The other question I get a lot: Can my garden be dog or child friendly? The answer is absolutely! We recently created a decomposed granite path/track for an extremely energetic 2-year-old labradoodle, although that would work just as well for an energetic 2-year-old kid. Each project has its own specific set of needs, and we always tailor every garden to the end user.

Do you have any tips on how a Southern California homeowner can save water with a more sustainable garden?

Sure, if you are going to keep some grass, please make sure that you have the most efficient sprinkler heads, such as the MP rotors, which are designed to use water more efficiently. If you have an existing landscape that you are happy with, consider switching over to a drip system for the non-grass areas. And replace your controller with a newer model that will work with a weather sensor. These newer sensors communicate directly with the controller turning the water up or down as they measure the evapo-transpiration rate, or moisture and solar radiation. So if you are having Santa Ana weather it would override the controller to add a little more water, whereas June gloom would prompt less water than normal.

What are two or three of the most popular sustainable plants or features that homeowners can start using/planting on their own yards?

You can't go wrong with succulents. These are some of the toughest plants around. In the extreme prolonged heat we had this summer, especially with new plantings, the plants that came out winners were things like senecios, agaves, aloes, echevarrias, kalanchoes, hesperaloes.

Is there anything I didn't ask about sustainable landscape design that you'd think homeowners should know?

Where to start? One good thing to keep in mind is that we are lucky here in Southern California to have mild winters, so one of the best times to plant is actually in fall or winter. During these months, the plants are less stressed (this goes doubly for California natives) and can take advantage of cooler temperatures and whatever rain we might have to establish a strong root system and explode with growth in the spring.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

Our website and you can also find us on www.Houzz.com. Phone us at 310-600-8750, or email me directly at nancy@weedsbloom.com.

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