LADWP turf removal rebate

yourmomsart(10b/22)November 19, 2013


My partner and I bought our house in March. We live in Los Angeles (Sunset zone 22, USDA 10b). We want to get rid of the grass in our front and side yard and replace it with natives and drought tolerant plants/trees. I also want some raised beds for veggies. I believe the grass is either bermuda or crab grass. I would like to take advantage of a turf reduction rebate that LADWP and the city are offering. It requires first to apply for the program, then once approved you have 120 days to transform your space (get rid of your grass and plant drought tolerant plants). Then you turn in a second application with pictures of what you have done, plant list, etc and if they approve they send you a check. I mean that's if all goes well and you follow all the other requirements. I'm assuming that most Angelenos who are on GW probably know about it.

I wanted to tackle this project over the summer but got bogged down with some other projects, as well as the bureaucracy that is trying to apply for permits etc through the city. I also want to replace the turf in the parkways around our house, which requires a permit or waver. We live on a corner lot so there is a lot of parkway.

Any who my question boils down to, is it possible to remove bermuda and/or crab grass in only 120 days? If so which process should I use? Lasagna mulching? Clear plastic? Round-up? Vinegar? I have read through many of the grass removal threads and it seems that everyone has a different opinion. I'd rather not use round-up but I really want a clean slate. Also I am guessing I am going to have to wait until summer to tackle this, since rain is just around the corner and the grass seems to love water (at least that is what my water bill is telling me!).

Any advice would greatly be appreciated. Even if it just to say I am lazy and should just start experimenting!

Thanks so much.

P.s. I'm a new home owner and new gardener and this is my first time posting but I am so grateful for these forms. Just doing searches and reading through them has answered so many questions!

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

It would help to know what kind of grass it is for sure. Some grasses are a lot easier to get rid of than others--can you dig some up, place it on the driveway or sidewalk, take a clear in-focus photo and post it here?

Some types of grass are easy to get rid of because their roots are not deep. I removed my Fescue lawn just by pulling it all out, (no chemicals) and it has not come back. Same for an area that was St. Augustine--a bit of the St. Augustine grew back, I pulled that, and it was gone forever. Pulling, or Lasagna mulching, can work for those types. Vinegar would probably need multiple applications, and you need to use horticutural vinegar. The cooking kind isn't strong enough.

Bermuda is a different story because the roots can go very, very deep (6 feet) and can live to grow again, and again. If it is Bermuda--typically you Round Up, wait until the grass is very dead then water like crazy to try to see what grows back. Because some of it will grow back. Then repeat. And repeat again, until it's really dead. It will keep coming back for a while, and you have to water to see where it comes back so you can kill it and make sure you really got it all. However it's best to do this when Bermuda is actively growing, which is spring/summer. It's going dormant now, so it's not the best time of year for that. If you don't get all the Bermuda and start planting other stuff before it is truly gone, you end up with a bunch of Bermuda mixed in with the roots of your new plants and it can be a disaster. You need to be patient and get it all.

Suggestion whatever you decide to do, put up a small sign saying "Landscape Restoration in progress. Thank you for your patience" so your neighbors understand and don't complain.

Another thing, (if you dig it out) dug-out lawn is really, really, really heavy. Be prepared for a huge amount of green waste. Been there, done that.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 12:30AM
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Thanks for the tips hoovb!

I uploaded a picture. Top half is a picture of a longer stalk I broke off. The bottom is what I believe to be its seed "pod/stem/thing". Unfortunately I was trying to quickly do this before I left for work this morning so there are no roots. BUT I can tell you that it is fast growing and spreads and when I dig it up to prevent it from going into some of my flower beds it has long white/yellowish rhizomes.

If I am to go the round-up route, I am guessing I should do the repeated cycles of water, grow, spray, kill, as you have suggested. Do I stop watering and spray at the same time? Should I be removing dead plant and root between killing and watering? How long should I let it grow before spraying again?

Sorry for the nit picky questions I am just trying to figure out if it is worth applying for the rebate, especially because they require you to get rid of your turf and plant your new landscape all in 120 days! It is hard to resist though because they are offering $2 per every square foot of turf replaced and I have over 2,000sq/ft of grass in my front yard and parkways.

Also, it's probably futile to ask this but... are there any other organic processes that will work as well as the round-up route?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Bermuda grass

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:58PM
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I dug out the grass (some grass, mostly weeds) in my parkway! What a chore - it took forever! I planted Agapanthas, three types of fragrant geranium, Erigeron, Catmint, Irises, some creeping thyme and chasmanthe. I've received many compliments! I'm now in the process of converting my front yard - one patch at a time. So far I have Artemesia, California fuschia, Euphorbia, Gaura, Valley lavender, Achillea, Switch grass, Deer grass and Coreopsis Sunray. I'm not part of the DWP rebate, mostly because I couldn't do it in 120 days. My payoff is my much lower water bill!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 12:12AM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

The top photo looks like St Augustine, but the bottom one looks like Bermuda. You may have a mixture.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 8:24AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

bermuda, and there is nothing that works as well as roundup. But it is going dormant and roundup only works while the grass is actively growing,so you'll have to wait until spring. You can probably get 2 grow/kill cycles and plants in in 120 days. I usually like to do 4 grow/kill cycles with bermuda though.

Trying to remove bermuda grass with a shovel or sheet mulching just isn't going to happen.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 4:20PM
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Thanks for the tips folks.

I probably have a mix but definitely some bermuda in there. I heard because bermuda goes dormant in the winter that it turns brown, but my grass is very green right now, which leads me to believe I have at least two types of grass.

I am definitely going to wait until the spring. I'm thinking I might use a sod cutter to remove the top layer after the first kill. Similar to the process in the link, except I will be skipping the tilling part.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 5:06PM
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We're in the same zones as you (in LA, near Culver City). Don't do Roundup on the whole yard. It's terrible for the microbes, bugs, birds, bees, etc.

Rent a sod cutter from home depot or Lowe's. I'd say we only had about 1800 square feet to remove, but it wasn't THAT difficult (yeah, hard work, and yes, rolling the sod up is heavy, but it's good exercise).

Our grass looked like yours and you could tell the lawn was there for decades. Some of it actually pulled up in sheets by HAND.

We hand-dug out with a weed tool and used Roundup on a couple of stubborn spots that came back after hand-digging VERY SPARINGLY. Definitely no need to go crazy on all of your yard.

Then we got lots of beautiful free mulch from a tree trimming company that had trimmed sycamore trees in our neighborhood and mulched the entire dirt plot with that. It's worked VERY well! I don't know how to load a before and after, but I'll try!

PS We did it when the rebate was less and we got about $1,500 back I think. We did it in one weekend.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 8:25PM
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and after, this spring (2 years after turf removal).

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 8:27PM
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Very nice Lynne! Love what you did and definitely agree about the Roundup!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 8:54PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The first photo is augustine and the 2nd is bermuda.

Sod cutter, great idea for fescue, but bermuda has a high probability of returning.

The kill/water method is spray the round up and after the lawn looks really dead, then start watering it.

If the bermuda is isolated you could spot treat and just pull all the augustine.

I'm no fan of round-up, but using it to remove bermuda and then never using it again is a reasonable choice. A limited use isn't going to destroy your soil, all the living creatures in it, or all the birds in the neighborhood.

You could dig up as much as you can, plant anew, and just be extremely vigilent about digging out what comes up afterwards. With largely Augustine most of it should be okay. If there are isolated patches of Bermuda you could leave those areas empty and only plant them when you are sure the bermuda isn't going to return.

Great job lynne3450. I would get rid of the Agave americana though and put in a better-behaved Agave. If you think Bermuda grass is a weed, wait until A. americana starts popping up everywhere.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Oh wow! lynne3450, your yard is so beautiful! Thank you for posting the pictures. Did you plant with mostly natives? If so I would love to see your plant list if you have one. The only things I recognize are the succulent and the agave. Clearly I'm new to gardening...

Spot treating sounds like a good idea, especially since I seem to have different types of grasses. I will most likely do the sod cutter then kill/water the bermuda areas. Thanks for the tips guys. I would totally prefer not to use round-up but that bermuda is wicked. I spent about four hours today trying to dig up a patch of it that is choking some other plants and I think some of the rhizomes actually went under my house.

lynne3450 also glad to hear you got the rebate! The system does work.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 12:34AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

you know, all that digging up and removal of grass is also damaging to the environment. It causes nitrogen to be released into the atmosphere, decreases the fertility of the soil, and decreases the amount of organic matter in the soil. On top of all that, you are removing valuable organic matter in the form of the grass and its roots from soil that is in desperate need of organic matter. Don't think that tilling up the yard is all win-win from an environmental perspective.

Roundup is a very safe herbicide when not sprayed on food from an airplane. You can kill all the unwanted grass in your yard fairly quickly and easily. By doing multiple cycles, you will destroy most of the surface weed seeds. By not tilling up the whole yard, you won't bring up a whole new bunch of weed seeds to the surface. By not removing the grass and roots, you will be thoroughly amending your soil with dead and decomposing organic mater. You'll need more in the form of mulch, but no reason to get rid of what you have. Each time you break off a piece of bermuda grass you just form new plants. Remove one rhizome, make 2 more. Plus if it has gone to seed as it seems it has, well each one of those inflorescens has millions of seeds.

There is a reason why habitat restoration groups fight for roundup exemptions. Roundup is a critical herbicide for the eradication of invasive species and the restoration of native habitat. Before I started doing roundup grow/kill cycles to prepare a planting area for wildflower seed, the maintenance issues were awful. After talking to John Greenlee, he convinced me that these sorts of native landscapes really benefit from thorough planting area preparation in order to limit competition from invasives.

Oh, and don't worry about the microbes and such. They will get by just fine. You will have some decreases in population, but they bounce back quickly. This is only a concern if you are spraying a lot of it often for a long period of time. So unless you are spraying it from an airplane over a field 3 times a year for a decade, I think you will have a pretty healthy micro population.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 2:16AM
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yourmomsart-- thank you! i'll get the plant list and post this weekend. mostly natives, a few climate appropriate others from south africa/australia/med.

hoovb-- thank you too! and thanks for the convincing words about the agave americana. i hate that thing, now i have evidence to share w DH that it's a pain! thank you :)

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 2:02AM
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Botanical Name Common Name
Front Yard, South Side
Penstemon heterophyllus Penstemon Margarita Bop
Salvia clevelandii Allen Chickering Sage
Monardella villosa 'Russian River' Coyote Mint
Abutilon palmeri Indian Mallow
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens San Miguel Island Buckwheat
Cercidium floridum Blue Palo Verde
Salvia spathacea Hummingbird Sage "Powerline Pink"
Salvia leucophylla Purple Sage
Epilobium canum ssp. canum Hoary fuchsia
Fremontodendron mexicanum Mexican Flannelbush
Agastache urticifolia Horsemint
Prunus andersonii Desert Mallow
Artemisia pycnocephala David's Choice Sandhill Sage
Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans' Blue Jeans Ceanothus
Arctostaphylos edmundsi Little Sur Manzanita
Ceanothus maritimus Frosty Dawn Ceanothus
Linum lewisii Blue Flax
Calliandra californica Red Fairyduster or Zapotillo
Armeria maritima Sea Thrift or Sea Pink
Fallugia paradoxa Apache Plume
Festuca idahoensis 'Siskyiou Blue' Blue Fescue
Festuca californica California Fescue
Artemisia californica 'Canyon Grey' Canyon Grey Sagebrush
Monardella crispa Crisp Dune Mint
Front Yard, North Side
Salvia spathacea Hummingbird Sage "Las Palitas"
Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud
Salvia leucophylla Purple Sage
Epilobium canum California Fuscia
Salvia brandegei 'Pacific Blue' Pacific Blue Brandegee Sage
Erigeron glaucus Seaside Daisy
Arctostaphylos edmundsii 'Big Sur' Big Sur Manzanita
Epilobium 'Roger's UC Hybrid' Roger's UC Hybrid California fuchsia
Lepechinia calycina 'Rocky Point' Rocky Point Pitcher Sage
Juncus patens 'Elk Blue' Elk Blue Wiregrass
Festuca idahoensis 'Siskyiou Blue' Blue Fescue
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Salvia pachyphylla Rose Sage
Hyptis emoryi Desert Lavender
Eschscholzia californica California Poppy
Verbena lilacina 'De la Mina' De la Mina Lilac Verbena
Ceanothus hearstiorum Hearst's Ceanothus
Verbena lilacina 'Paseo Rancho' Paseo Rancho Lilac Verbena
Back Yard
Juncus patens 'Elk Blue' Elk Blue Wiregrass
Festuca idahoensis 'Siskyiou Blue' Blue Fescue
Galvezia speciosa 'Firecracker' Firecracker island Snapdragon
Lepechinia fragrans 'El Tigre' Pitcher Sage "El Tigre"
Heuchera cespitosa Coral Bells
Salvia clevelandii Allen Chickering Sage
Salvia apiana White Sage
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Galvezia juncea Baja bush snapdragon
Eschscholzia californica California Poppy
Verbena lilacina Lilac Verbena
Aster chilensis Coast Aster or California Aster
Iris douglasiana Douglas Iris
Justicia californica Chuparosa or Beloperone
Mimulus cardinalis Scarlet Monkey Flower
Mimulus 'Big Tujunga Orange' Monkey Flower
Mimulus 'Junipero Serra' Monkey Flower
Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Louis Hamilton' Louis Hamilton Apricot Mallow
Mimulus aurantiacus Bush Monkeyflower, Sticky Monkeyflower
Ribes viburnifolium Catalina Currant
Sisyrinchium bellum Blue-eyed Grass
Romneya coulteri Matilija Poppy
Malosma laurina Laurel Sumac
Calystegia macrostegia 'Anacapa Pink' Anacapa Pink Island Morning Glory
Rosa gymnocarpa Wood rose
Aquilegia formosa Red or Scarlet Columbine
Baccharis sarothroides Desert Broom
Sisyrinchium bellum 'Arroyo de la Cruz' Arroyo de la Cruz Blue-Eyed Grass

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 10:37AM
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It's hard to tell from the photo, but some of the stand-outs that have done really well in our front are:
Allen Chickering sage
purple sage
Indian mallow
California fuschia
lilac verbena
horsemint (agastache-- which you can really see popping in that photo!)
canyon gray sagebrush
san miguel island buckwheat

Theodore Payne Foundation nursery in Sunland and Grow Native nursery in Westwood have been our best sources!

Good luck!!!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 10:41AM
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That is quite a plant list! Thank you Lynne for being so thorough. The shortened list is very useful as well. Love the Salvia spathacea, very well placed in your yard. Who needs a hummingbird feeder when you got those babies!

Thanks for the nursery tips too! I definitely want to check out Theodore Payne as I have heard it is wonderful.

Thanks everyone for your words of wisdom! Hopefully in the spring I'll be posting some in progress picture updates.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 5:44PM
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A very nice gift to hummingbirds indeed. It must be nice to sit and watch the birds and butterflies that visit now. A much happier space now and so beautiful.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 9:51PM
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Hi folks. It has been a while since I last posted and I'm not sure if anyone cares, but I wanted to post an update. I was finally able to apply for the turf reduction rebate program offered through LADWP. I received a waiver from the city for the parkways so we are replacing the turf in that area too. Total turf removed will be over 2000 square feet.

We sprayed about three weeks ago, with some spot treatment afterwards. We have not watered since spraying. Our guy is coming tomorrow to start removing the grass. After that we will water and either spray again and/or dig out the pesky shoots and roots.

Pricing everything out has been a little tricky since we are trying not to go over what we will be receiving back from the rebate. Just to remove the dead grass will be about $1800 because we have to rent a dumpster and it will take our guy and his guys three days.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:13PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Yikes! That's a costly removal. I just removed about 250 square feet of the same mix you have (Bermuda/St.Augustine) and that was a chore! I used a shovel to cut into the lawn and make strips that were roughly 1 foot wide by 3 or 4 feet long. Then, using a flat edge shovel, I went under the lawn about two inches and uprooted the lawn, strip by strip. I ended up with three large trash containers' worth of green waste.

Here's the photo from winter 2013. I bought the house in late summer 2013

And here's my progress as of yesterday. I've only removed one half of the font lawn. The second half will be next, but it would be too big of a project to undertake at once for me. I've tackled this for a couple of hours before and after work for about two weeks. I ran into a lot of tree roots from an old maple that was on the parking strip. The tree succumbed to rot and had to be cut down, but the roots were everywhere and proved to be a trouble.

So far, I haven't had anything come back up except a few rogue pieces of Bermuda that were left behind. Those were easy to dig out though.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:36PM
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Your house looks much better without all the bushes covering it up.

If I had more time and less grass I would have tackled this project totally differently. The rebate program gives you 120 days to remove your turf and replace it with California friendly plants.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:56PM
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Your house looks much better without all the bushes covering it up.

If I had more time and less grass I would have tackled this project totally differently. The rebate program gives you 120 days to remove your turf and replace it with California friendly plants.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:57PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Thank you! You should definitely keep us updated on the progress of your yard. I love that little by little, more homeowners are making the switch from lawn to law-water gardens.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 4:14PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

Congratulations on all your hard work! That's a beautiful house with lots of character and it's good to see it 'out in the open.' I hope you inspire others in your area to do the same thing- grass is such a total waste of precious water. The pollinators will thank you for the new plantings. Be sure to post more photos as the summer goes on- I'm interested! Min

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:35PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

Wow Lynne how beautiful! I will bookmark that as I move along in our landscaping.

I tore out a gnarly mix of bermuda, and just about every other kind of grass in front of our cottage (totally neglected for a long time i.e. weed city!)

One thing I want to mention is that Bermuda's roots do go deep, but that's not where it grows from - it's the rhizomes and runners you have to get - and the rhizomes are only 1 - 6 inches deep. I tore it out by hand - took me two days last summer, our yard is much smaller tho - and handsifted the dirt for all those rhizomes. A few little bits came back but have been easy to yank because they were severed and vulnerable.

I did a lot of research first which mostly made me conclude I shouldn't have bought my house in the first place bermuda was so bad ;) but then found this helpful article:

When the crew is removing the lawn I would show them what to look for if they don't know, and try to sift out those rhizomes - that is the key!! Hard to do, but worth it. Nothing kills them. Except putting them in the green bin. ;)

Good luck - keep us updated!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Bermuda Anatomy and Removal

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:17PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

I also forgot to mention that I solarized afterward for 6 weeks - but not until late July so it was almost too late to do any good since the yard started getting shade as the days got shorter - however, we did get a hot spell that I was grateful for, for the first time.

I think it might be a good idea - for Bermuda but also for everything else - wait till the hottest sunniest time of the year with the longest days - and use clear plastic - not the thinnest (it tears) kind but also not too thick (blocks out heat) - watered underneath to bring up the weeds so they fry in the heat and the humidity makes it even hotter - my soil definitely got too hot to touch!

Edit: Sorry I just reread and see you've started already! Maybe you can skip the solarizing since it's not hot yet - but you do have 4 months - and while the plastic is on, you can do lots of research and visit Theodore Payne and choose your plants...;)

Also - do you have to have everything planted to get the rebate or just some things to show what you're up to? Waiting to plant some of it till fall/winter might be a good idea to get them established...

Carol Bornstein's book has been a good resource for me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Carol Bornstein - California Native Plants for the Garden

This post was edited by slowjane on Sat, Apr 19, 14 at 15:26

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 3:12PM
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