Before this summer began I wrote about the struggle between keeping a lawn alive and cutting back on water use.

Well, with June and July on the books, my family has successfully cut our water use by more than 60 percent. We have saved lots of money. That's the good news. The bad news is that most of my backyard lawn, which gets hit by the harsh summer sun most of the day, is fried. One portion of my front yard is hopeless while the shadier portion is mostly green still.

Luckily, the city has a program through the Zone 7 Water District to offer up to $750 to homeowners who convert lawns to drought-friendly landscaping. I turned in the application form to the city and was approved to proceed with converting my lawn.

I decided to convert about a third of my front lawn to mulch and water-friendly plants. The area is 16 by 30 feet. Instead of tearing up the existing lawn, I am employing a method called sheet mulching. Sheet mulching is a great way to convert lawn because it doesn't require breaking your back removing the old lawn.

Sheet mulching involves layering cardboard or newspapers directly on top of existing lawn. This kills the grass and leaves behind already-rich soil for future planting. Once the lawn is completely covered with cardboard or newspapers, a thick layer of mulch is placed on top of the cardboard. You can place compost, leaves and grass on top of the cardboard and then buy bark or mulch for the top layer.


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40 percent of the rebate is paid when the lawn is removed or layer mulching is complete, then the other 60 percent is paid when the project is complete. The plants must come from a list of water-friendly vegetation approved by Zone 7, and they can't be planted until the fall. This is because freshly planted vegetation requires lots of water in the summer but not as much in the fall. So after I'm finished layer mulching, I'll have plenty of time to pick out my favorite plants from the approved list.

You can't get the rebate for backyard lawn conversions, but I plan on converting a portion of my backyard lawn on my own dime. I love lawn for playing, but the amount our lawn is used for playing doesn't justify the cost to the environment and our bank accounts. We live close to many parks, and even if I downsize our lawn there will be plenty of lawn left for my 4-year-old to play on. For more information on the lawn conversion program, visit http://www.zone7water.com/conservation-rebates/water-conservation or go to http://www.trivalleywaterwise.com for more tips.

Livermore has done a great job conserving water, judging by all the dead lawns, but a more permanent solution is needed. Dead lawns are horrible for property values, but nice drought-friendly landscaping can enhance those values.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@bayareanewsgroup.com.