FAQ’s & SAQ’s
- How does the rebate program work?
- The program was set up by the State of California as a water savings incentive for homeowners to replace their lawns with drought tolerant native plants. You have to apply to be approved for the rebate. There are certain requirements to meet before you are eligible for the rebate. You want to make sure you are approved before you start your project.
- Am I eligible for a rebate?
- To be eligible for a rebate, customers must:
- Have grass in the proposed project area
- Install a new landscape that meets the terms and conditions for their city. All projects must:
- Not include live turf or turf looking plants
- Include plants (not turf)
- Follow any additional requirements for their city. You can see these requirements by applying for project start approval (instructions below).
- Synthetic turf is eligible for rebates unless stated in your area’s terms and conditions. Click “Estimate your rebate” to see if you qualify.
- Customers are responsible for complying with all applicable local laws, ordinances, and other restrictions.
- Must not have received a turf removal rebate before. Only one turf removal rebate per property.
- How much is the rebate?
- To help with turf removal projects, rebates are available for $2.00 or more per square foot of turf removed. This increased turf removal rebate is being provided in response to Governor Edmund G Brown Jr.’s emergency drought declaration.
- How long does it take to get the rebate money?
- Your rebate application will be reviewed and you will receive an email with the results in 4-5 weeks. After approval, a rebate check will be sent to you. It could be 5-6 weeks before you get your rebate money.
SAQ’s: (Should Ask Questions)
- Can I hire someone to do this for me?
- Yes you can but it does have to be done right and meet the requirements for eligibility or you won’t get the rebate, and you will be out of pocket for any money you spent. You need to make sure all your documentation and pictures meet the requirements.
Landscape Water Savings Program – The Natural Way!
- How can I save 30-50% on my landscape watering?
- By applying the Organic Program and practices. In the Organic Program we use compost and mulch to cover any bare soil areas. This adds organic matter to the mostly clay soils we have in our area and helps bread down and loosen the clay soils. This allows for water penetration AND retention! The worst thing to do is leave these clay soils bare because the sun beats down on it and dries it out. When clay dries out it gets very hard and doesn’t allow for much water penetration and causes a lot of water runoff.
Adjusting your irrigation devices and watering times helps too. Using drip irrigation and soaker hoses instead of spray heads allows for less water evaporation and more localized watering. Watering early in the morning and setting the amount of watering time right helps to create an efficient water schedule.
- What can I do about the sloped area of my yard? Water just runs off.
- Mulch it! But a 1” layer of mulch isn’t going to do any good. It will just wash away in the first heavy rain. You need to put it on 4”-6” thick. When it does rain, the mulch will act like a sponge and soak up the rain. When it does this it gets very heavy. It won’t go anywhere! It also prevent water from picking up momentum running down hill and washing away soil and mulch…and you don’t get the benefit of capturing that rain water!
- What kind of fertilizers do you use for the Natural Way?
- We use organic fertilizers and amendments, like organic fertilizer for the lawn, and organic amendments like worm castings & rock dust. These ingredients feed and stimulate the soil biology which in turn feed the grass and plants. This soil biology also keeps the soil loose and arable, allowing better water penetration and retention. When you have better water penetration and retention, you can cut back on your watering.
- What do I do about my lawn? How Can I save water on my lawn?
- There are a couple of options for saving water on lawns. One is to have your lawn replaced with drought tolerant plants. The State is offering a rebate program for doing that:http://www.socalwatersmart.com/index.php/qualifyingproducts/turfremoval
The other option is to apply the Organic Program to your lawn maintenance. Here is a checklist for this option:
- Keep your grass mowed high! The grass needs a long blade for photosynthesis to happen, and when it is cut too short the grass has to put all it’s energy into growing the blade instead of using that energy to grow a deeper root system. A higher blade also protects the soil from direct sunlight, which can dry out the soil and cause more water use. Mowing too short can also damage the grass and can cause the grass to go into stress and lead to diseases.
- Schedule 2 deep watering per week (1”) instead of 4-5 shallow watering. A deep watering will encourage to roots to grow deeper chasing the water. Shallow watering keeps the roots shallow and need more frequent watering. If your grass stays too wet it can cause fungal diseases.
- Use only organic fertilizers to feed your lawn. Synthetic/chemical fertilizers are full of salt and other toxic ingredients that will kill the soil biology and kill or drive out earthworms. When this happens, there is no biology there to keep the soil aerated and fertile, which will lead to soil compaction. Water will run off instead of soak in. These chemical fertilizers are less than 10% efficient which means over 90% of it is washed away and ends up in our ground water or ocean. It also means you will have to fertilize more. Organic fertilizers are 60-90% efficient, break down slowly and stay in the soil to feed the grass when it needs it.
- Add worm castings to your lawn. Worm castings (worm poop) are a great source of nutrients and beneficial biology. Adding worm castings will help keep your soil and grass healthy and is also great for water retention. Worm castings hold 8 times their weight in water.
- When mowing your lawn, the best practice is to leave the cut grass on the lawn (a mulching mower helps). By doing this you return nutrients to the soil and the cut grass also acts like a mulch to cover the bare soil and protect it from direct sunlight. This helps hold moisture in the soil and keeps the nutrient cycle going. Removing grass is removing nutrients that will need to eventually be replaced with more fertilizer. Some people say not to do this because it will cause thatch to develop. Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves, and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively growing grass and the soil underneath. It’s only a problem in lawns that don’t use the Organic Program. With the Organic Program, the biology and earthworms quickly break down the cut grass. If you do bag your grass, consider using that cut grass in a compost pile or as mulch around your trees and bushes. It feeds the soil biology and adds vital nutrients back to the soil.
- Another good practice is to add ½” of compost every year. You can do this in 2 ¼” applications. This will add organic matter and good biology that will help keep the soil loose and arable. It also helps to break down any cut grass you leave on the soil.
- What do I do about weeds?
- Using a thick layer of mulch on any bare soil will help suppress weeds from growing. If any weeds do come up, you can easily pick them out by hand because they will have shallow roots that don’t’ get a good hold in the soil. As you are probably aware of, you can’t pull weeds up in this clay soil they grow in. You have to dig them out. Mulch helps prevent that.
For grass, letting your grass grow a taller blade and a deeper thicker root system will crowd out weeds by growing a thicker carpet of grass.
- My landscaper rakes the leaves out from around the bushes and trees. I like the look of that. What’s wrong with that?
- There is a few problems with this. First, removing the leaves exposes the soil to direct sunlight causing water evaporation and soil compaction. Second, those leaves and debris have valuable nutrients and add organic matter to the soil. Trees are like miners: their roots go down deep and mine the minerals and nutrients the surface level plants can’t get to. There nutrients come up through the trunk and out to the leaves where they drop and return to the surface to be broken down and added back to the soil. This is called the Nutrient Cycle. Removing those leaves and other debris breaks the Nutrient Cycle.
SAQ’s: (Should Ask Questions)
- What kind of mulch should I use?
- The kind of mulch you SHOULDN’T use is bark…especially colored bark! Bark is lightweight and can wash away in a heavy rain or blow around in strong winds. It also attracts bugs like termites! Colored bark is colored with toxic chemicals that will eventually leach into your soil. They won’t break down and add beneficial organic matter to your soil, either.
One of the best mulches you can use is shredded cedar or redwood. It looks good, is bug resistant, and stays in place. If you have a small area to cover, Lowe’s sells shredded cedar by the bag. There is a place in Marietta, CA that sells it by the yard. These mulches work great on a slope.
If you have a large area, check with the local landfills (El Corazon & Miramar) for mulch you can buy by the yard. The mulch they use is from yard waste and works fine around bushes and trees.
- How thick should I put it on?
- If you are going to lay down mulch you need to lay it on thick, 3” around shrubs, trees, and bare areas. 1” just isn’t going to be enough because it can move around and expose the soil to the sun. Having a thicker layer holds it in place and prevents water evaporation. The mulch will eventually break down and add organic matter to your soil and help loosen up the soil.
Raised Bed Organic Vegetable Garden
- What kind of soil should I put in my raised bed?
- You want to use a soil blend that is made for raised beds. It will be a amended topsoil (compost, topsoil mixture and may have perlite or pumice) that is a sandy loam texture. Finding a good quality around here is not easy. One type you want to avoid is any blend that has biosolids in it. Biosolids is a very nicely spun term for sewer sludge! It’s full of toxic metals, pharmaceuticals, and all the other toxic stuff we put down the drain. When you are inquiring from a company that sells garden soil and they tell you it comes fully amended, it has biosolids in it. You have to ask question about the soil: what is the basis of it, where do you get your material, what is in the compost, how is it made, did you add any nutrients to it, etc.
- What do I do about gophers?
- When you install the raised bed, staple hardware cloth to the bottom of the bed before you put in the soil. Hardware cloth is a 19 gauge screen that is heavier than chicken wire. Chicken wire isn’t strong enough for gophers.
- What kind of fertilizer do I use in the raised bed?
- You want to use a good organic fertilizer. I recommend getting one at a local nursery. The big box stores have a very small selection or organic products. Local nurseries carry a better selection and know more about the products. You will also be supporting a local business when you buy from them.
- What is the best way to irrigate the vegetables?
- I like using soaker hoses. They are made of a fabric material that is very flexible and allows water to drip out all along the hose. They come in 25’ sections and have a hose end connection on both ends. You can connect multiple hoses together to any length you need. Home Depot sells them. I like them better than the drip emitters because they give a much better coverage when watering. The drip emitters only water where they drip, so you end up with a lot of dry areas. They also clog up or pop off a lot.
- What do I do about critters getting into my garden?
- If you have critters like squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etc. you will have to look at getting some type of fencing to go either on top of your raised bed or around the bed area. It will need to be at least 3’ high to keep rabbits from jumping over it and also buried 6-12” to keep critters from digging under it.
SAQ’s: (Should Ask Questions)
- What kind of wood should I use to build a raised bed?
- The only wood you should be using is either cedar of redwood. They are bug resistant, rot resistant, and will last a long time. Pressure treated wood has chemicals in that will eventually leach into the soil. Railroad ties are even worse! They are soaked in creosote, which has a lot of arsenic in it. Soft woods like pine just won’t last very long.
- What other organic amendments should I use in my raise bed?
- Worm castings, rock dust, and kelp meal are great additives to use. They feed the soil biology and help with plant growth and health. Whole ground cornmeal is another good ingredient to use. Cornmeal is a sugar that feeds the soil microbes. It also has anti-fungal properties to it (but not harmful to the beneficial fungi).
- How do I treat pests and diseases?
- It depends on the pest or disease. But, there is always an organic solution. Don’t ever allow anyone to talk you into using a toxic chemical. There’s no reason for it. They cause problems, not prevent them. Using a toxic pesticide kills the beneficial/predator insects as well as the pest insects. The predator insects feed on the pest insects. If there are no predators around, the pest insects will cause a major infestation. If you do have pest bugs, like aphids, first check to see if you have any ladybugs or their larvae before you spray anything. The pest bugs are food sources for predator bugs. If no food source is around, the predators won’t be around either. Pollen is also a food source for some of the beneficial insects.
- How do I attract beneficial insects?
- The best way is to plant flowering plants that attract these insects for the pollen or nectar. You can plant flowers and flowering herbs in and around your garden to attract
these beneficial insects. The idea is to create a balanced environment by planting plants and flowers that will attract beneficial insects. You will have both pest and predator insects, but Mother Nature has designed a balanced system and all we have to do is not interfere with that.
- What is a Edible Landscape?
- It’s a landscape that has incorporated edible plants into the landscape. Leafy plants like Swiss Chard, Kale, Mustards, and lettuces. Fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, squashes, eggplant, berries and fruit trees. Root crops like carrots, beets, garlic, and turnips. And herbs like oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint. Not only are these plants edible, they look nice in the landscape. Having an edible landscape creates a whole different kind of landscape. Instead of plants filling in space that you don’t pay attention to, you will have a landscape that you enjoy working in and harvesting from.
- What kind of plants will you plant?
- We consult with you to find out what you and your family likes to eat. From there we can design a “menu” for you to choose from.
SAQ’s: (Should Ask Questions)
- I have lousy soil in my landscape. Will that be a problem for edible plants?
- The soil around here is generally pretty lousy and will require amending. We amend your soil by adding organic compost and mixing it in your existing soil. This will add good organic matter as well as good biology. We then add worm castings, rock dust, kelp meal, and an organic fertilizer to add fertility to your soil. This will create better conditions for edible plants to grow healthier and more nutrient dense. We can also do a Compost Tea treatment to really kick-start the soil biology. Adding all these ingredients will help break down the clay soil for better water penetration and retention.
- I had a raised bed installed with soil over a year ago and now I can’t get anything to grow. Why won’t any plants grow in my garden?
- It could be a number of reasons: the soil that is used, lack of nutrients, or the watering system. You will need to have someone who knows all about organic gardening come in and assess your situation. We have done jobs where we had to replace the soil entirely because of the low quality soil that was put in. Others just needed some new soil and amendments to recharge it. We always educate our customers on how to maintain it after that.
- I just bought a house that has raised beds. They don’t look like they have been used in a while. I would like to have a vegetable garden but don’t know anything about it. Can I hire someone to take care of it for me?
- Yes, you can but they will only do what you pay them to do. In other words, they are only going to put the time into that they are paid for. They probably won’t give it the love and attention that you could give it because you are there every day. If they only come once a week, there may be an issue that comes up that needs to be addressed right away and if they aren’t there to take care of it, it can become a problem. There are “Garden Coaches” available to hire that can come in and show you how to take care of your garden. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on the therapeutic value your garden will provide!
SAQ’s: (Should Ask Questions)
- I’m let my garden go and now I’m ready to get it going again. What kind of soil do I need to add to my raised bed?
- You want to use a soil blend that is made for raised beds. It will be a amended topsoil (compost, topsoil mixture and may have perlite or pumice) that is a sandy loam texture. Finding a good quality around here is not easy. One type you want to avoid is any blend that has biosolids in it. Biosolids is a very nicely spun term for sewer sludge! It’s full of toxic metals, pharmaceuticals, and all the other toxic stuff we put down the drain. When you are inquiring from a company that sells garden soil and they tell you it comes fully amended, it has biosolids in it. You have to ask question about the soil: what is the basis of it, where do you get your material, what is in the compost, how is it made, did you add any nutrients to it, etc. San Pasqual Valley Soils has a garden box blend that works very well.