When I moved to my new place in Pasadena, the property offered a typical Southern California St. Augustine grass front lawn. Great for playing badminton or having barbeques, but I wanted to grow something more useful. As an incentive, the City of Pasadena was offering a tempting rebate–for every square foot of lawn removed, they would pay $1.

From the City of Pasadena’s website:

Lawns typically use 50 percent more water than other plants. That’s why more and more Pasadenans are replacing their thirsty lawns with colorful water-smart landscaping that attracts birds and butterflies. PWP’s Turf Replacement Program can help you make the switch to a water- and money-saving landscape. Now ALL Customer Types may qualify for the program, including commercial, institutional, residential and multi-family water customers.

The property had over 800 square feet of water-guzzling grass. No brainer–out with the grass!

I am incredibly privileged to have the help of homesteading neighbor, Jules Dervaes, who transformed his front lawn twenty years ago. He drew up an amazing edible landscape plan to submit to the City for the program application, which was approved on the spot! Then, he and his son, Justin, with occasional help from his daughter, Jordanne, undertook the hot, dirty, heavy work of removing, not only turf, but also tree-sized hedge stumps (grisly photos to be shown in a later blog post).

So, if you live in Pasadena and want a cash reward for removing your lawn, check out the Turf Removal Program. A new round of funding recently opened up for the Fall. (Here is a list of other agencies in the Southern California area that offer similar programs.)

If your city or county services district is not as forward-thinking as Pasadena, let the officials know about these programs–maybe they will be prodded to put in place a similar incentive for saving water and supporting lawn alternatives.


Delicious, convenient, beautiful homegrown produce…plus $810!

What innovative programs does your municipal or county government offer? What’s growing in your front yard?


  1. Florence says:

    Would you please post the planting diagram and a picture of the finished yard? I would love to see how it looks now.

    • Treechild says:

      We are working out how to make the information available. Stay tuned!

  2. mia says:

    I bet people would buy the diagram for their own yard. But, then, it may not work for just any yard but this one.

    • Amanda says:

      I agree! Our yard is mostly dead old weeds(other than the garden I’ve started and two flower beds) and the only reason I haven’t done anything with it so far is because it’s so overwhelming. I’d love for it to be a jungle of useful and edible plants, and be a beautiful oasis for people to walk through. I just don’t know where to start!

      • Treechild says:

        But you have started a garden and two flower beds! A good resource is the photo gallery here. (It’s still under construction.) You’ll notice at the beginning the Dervaeses used a lot of containers, which are easy to move around so that you can try out different things without actually planting them. Also, they were able to grow food on top of a concrete slab. Only later was the concrete removed and raised beds installed. (But they still use containers in other parts of the yard.) The front yard, too, has undergone many reconfigurations.

        • Amanda says:

          Thanks! I keep having to remind myself that a beautiful yard on a very limited budget isn’t going to happen overnight. I have some plans to expand once I get the garden going.

    • Treechild says:

      Yes, one size does not fit all, and what works on paper has to be adjusted once it’s on the ground. The plan was an overall guide, but Mr. Dervaes was adapting it as he went along.

  3. The Weekend Homesteader says:

    That Turf Removal Program is a great idea. Over the past few years, we have removed quite a bit of grass from our property. I would have loved to be paid for doing so!

    • Treechild says:

      The grass would have been removed, regardless, but the program sure was a nice bonus!

  4. Nancy R says:

    I let my front lawn die of de-hydration. I live in Florida. I’ve since been putting in beds and mulched pathways. It’s taking me along time, but I enjoy it so much. I have been planting native plants, plants to attrack butterflies, and some fruit trees. My side yard is devoted to growing food, and I don’t have a backyard.

    My husband and I figured out we were spending $200 per month to maintain our lawn, which brought us no enjoyment whatsoever. Now when I’m out there, there’s butterflies flying around, birds singing, and the other day I saw my first hummingbird. There are also some harmless snakes, tree frogs and a couple of rabbits. I smile whenever I look at it. I still have a ways to go to finish it, but that’s ok. It gets better and better all the time.

    • Treechild says:

      The enjoyment factor is the best bonus but the savings are nothing to sneeze at!

  5. Joyness Sparkles says:

    Sadly, I have no yard yet. We have a balcony and a community garden plot. Someday I hope to be able to do something amazing like this. I wish you the best!

    • Treechild says:

      Thank you for the good wishes! Jules Dervaes, paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, encourages people to “do what they can, where they are, with what they have—right now.” Sounds like you’re doing just that!

  6. Christie says:

    Proving yet again how awesome California is! (I used to live there… and I miss it a bit). That is just fantastic. Way to go, Pasadena. I’d love to see more shots of your front yard, too. We have been thinking of incorporating more edibles into our landscape (and removing more grass), and I’d love to see how you all have done it.

    • Treechild says:

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, we plan to offer more photos and information along the way.

  7. KJ says:

    We are fortunate to live in an area that has not been affected by the drought and since we live rurally with our own well, we are able to have a nice lawn area. However, we have converted a sizeable area into gardens. We have a 10×150′, a 3×20′ and an area approximatey 30×50′ with hopes of expanding even more over the next few years. Even though we have not had drought this year, we have in the past, so to conserve on watering for the garden we used wood chips from a local tree removal business. (The majority of the trees are non-sprayed so we do not have the chemical issue). We put down 2″ of compost, topped with 4-6″ of chips and put in our drip lines. Our watering was easily cut in half and the weeding has become virtually non-existent (which has saved hours of my time!) This was the first year of gardening this way and we love the results! Healthy, productive plants, no weeding, less watering and the chips compost in producing healthier soil for the next season. If anyone is interested, there is a free video on-line called “Back to Eden” which explains the method.

    • Treechild says:

      Thank you for your detailed comment–which I’m sure will be of interest to those stopping by here. Mulch is (one of) the answer(s)!

  8. Mama Goose says:

    It is nice to see a city that is encouraging and even compensating residents for this type of thing, rather than incarcerating them. So many places could use a little info-sharing! So many homeowners are being fined and even given jail time for planting gardens. How sad!

    • Treechild says:

      We are fortunate that Pasadena has some forward-looking programs to help its residents–and the environment.

  9. Erica says:

    I also live in Pasadena and intend on taking full advantage of this program to grow my own food! Do you have any tips/suggestions for design or layout?

  10. Steve says:

    I hope you don’t live next door to me. You’ve turned the beautiful lawn into something so ugly.

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