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Converting your Thirsty Lawn into an EcoGarden:
DIY Steps and Resources

For inquiries, please complete the EcoGardens contact form.

EcoGardens InfoOur ServicesMaintenance • DIY Steps & Resources

Below are the steps that SELVA will undertake in converting your lawn to an EcoGarden. This will help you to better understand the process. If you wish to save money and are able to undertake the garden conversion yourself, you may use the below resources to install your own California Friendly Landscape. SELVA's EcoGardens landscaping program is available to help you through any or all of these steps. To request consultation or installation services, fill out this form: Inquiry Form

*The following information is made available through collaboration with LADWP, Surfrider Foundation, and the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance.

1.     Apply for the rebate

Los Angeles and Santa Monica are currently offering rebates for lawn and parkway conversions. Always check their websites to confirm rebate amount and availability. Allow 2-4 weeks for approval.

For LA:

  • Go to SoCalWaterSmart
  • Highlight the Rebates tab at the top of the page then under Available Rebates click on Turf Removal.

For Santa Monica:

  • Go to Santa Monica OSE
  • Highlight the Rebates tab at the top of the page and then choose Downspout Redirect.

2.     Think about your landscape design.

Create your own design or hire someone to help.  Think about how you can capture the water that flows on your property, for example by redirecting downspouts from your roof into a rain garden!

Plan your garden project
How to Build a Rain Garden
The Watershed Approach
Ocean Friendly Gardens
LADWP California Friendly Landscaping Resources



SELVA, working with designers Tricia O’Connell and Elisabeth Weinstein, has created four landscape templates that use California native plants local to Los Angeles.  We are available to help you fit one of these templates to your garden.  You may also download them for your personal use.

Garden Design + Graphic Design by:
Tricia O’Connell Design Studio: www.TriciaOConnell.com
Elisabeth Weinstein | Studio Parti: www.StudioParti.com


If you are interested in capturing rainwater for reuse, read more on rain barrels or cisterns. With cisterns you can capture large quantities of water to reuse in your garden!  

3.     Research your plants.

If you plan to do your design on your own- while you wait for your rebate start thinking about the types of plants you would like.  Choose all California natives if possible, as this will give you wildlife habitat benefits, in addition to water conservation.  We also recommend natives that are local to Los Angeles, as they are best adapted to this climate, and they provide the best habitat for local wildlife and pollinators!


4.     3 weeks prior - Prepare to work.

Once you have received your rebate approval you will need to set a timeline for your project.  

If removing a lawn, you will need to rent a lowboy dumpster for the debris. Plan to have it delivered two days before the start of your project.  Continue to water the area to make removal easier.

Approved haulers for City of Santa Monica

You will need to apply for a permit from the city you live in to have the dumpster parked in the street.

For LA contact Bureau of Street Services >> Choose New Application tab.

For Santa Monica contact Public Works Dept

Start finding friends and family to help you on your work days.  Make it a party!

You may want to do the lawn removal and sheet mulching one day/weekend and the planting a couple weeks later.  It is good for the mulch to start doing its work ahead of time.  

5.    2 weeks prior

Before you dig, you will need to find out where important pipes and utility cables are.  

Contact DigAlert - a free online service that will alert your utilities to come out and flag or mark where you need to be cautious about digging.

Order mulch. Below are a few resources, one free and two pay.  Know where you will want to have it delivered. Driveways are best.

If removing a lawn, you will need to reserve a sod cutter.  You may also need a truck or van to transport it.

If you don’t want mud tracked into your house, you may want to consider renting a port-a-potty.

Finalize your design and plant list.

Check on your permit if it hasn’t been approved.

6.    1 week prior

Order your plants.  Now the fun begins!

  • CNPS Nursery referrals  In LA area, at present time
  • Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants
  • Las Pilitas Nursery: www.LasPilitas.com



Confirm any deliveries (dumpster, mulch, potty).

Shop for food for your workday volunteers.

Keep watering well.

7.    Workday #1

Pick up sod cutter

Cut and haul sod to dumpster

Dig out by hand around edges to be sure to get all the roots

Dig your trenches and swale for your rain garden

Lay your sheet mulch

Install your irrigation (this can also be done after the plants are installed for better placement)

Water, water water the mulch.

8.    Workday #2

Install your plants

How to plant

Install irrigation (if desired)

Unless you have the time and desire to hand water (best choice), you will want to install a drip irrigation system.  It is easy to adapt to a current irrigation system.  We recommend it be installed after the plants so that you can be sure not to have it too close to the base of the plants.  Just pull the mulch back and lay the tubes under the mulch.

Sprinkler to drip retrofit

Converting to drip irrigation video

Resource for product and info - they can probably recommend an installer if you need help.

9.    Enjoy your garden!

Maintaining your garden

Converting your lawn to a beautiful native garden requires thought and planning. We'll take care of all the details for your landscape needs!

For inquiries, please complete the EcoGardens contact form.


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