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Jan 4, 2013 4:00 PM  PST  

GreenPointers: Gardening and Landscaping 

January 2013

Act Now Before
Green Home Label Rebates End

Increased property value, health and environmental benefits are all reasons that Energy Upgrade in Los Angeles County's Green Label Program continues to appeal to homeowners.

Los Angeles County projects that all grant funds allocated for homeowner rebates will be fully committed soon, and has set a program end date of February 1, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

If you've been thinking about working with a contractor to make green upgrades and get a Green Label for your home, you must act soon to qualify for the $2,000 rebate.

See how you can upgrade your home and take advantage of these attractive rebates before the program ends.

New Expanded Rebates for Energy Upgrade California in
Los Angeles County

Energy Upgrade California in Los Angeles County has just made it easier for you to make home improvements that can save energy and make your home more comfortable. You can now receive rebates of up to $4500 for upgrading your home.

Getting an Advanced Upgrade Package also helps you earn 20 of the 25 minimum points required for the Green Point Rated label.

Find out how much you can save today!

Ask Our Experts!

Do you have a green building question? The "Ask an Expert" forum on is an excellent place to get those questions answered.

Our resident green building expert will give you a detailed answer, and other homeowners will have the opportunity to weigh in with their opinions and experiences.

Ask your question now!

Explore our Interactive Green Home

Explore the ins and outs of a green home with this interactive presentation.

Enter here.

Download the GreenPoint Rated Guide to a Green Remodel

Full of pointers on how to make your remodel green, healthier, and more comfortable, this guide will help get you started.

Download now.

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Gardening and Landscaping

Our series of GreenPointers provides helpful tips for a healthier, greener home in a variety of topics. Today's topic is Gardening and Landscaping.

Green Pointers

We tend to think of gardens and yards as healthy places where we can enjoy nature. But the truth is, many conventional gardening and landscaping practices aren't all that healthy or natural. They typically involve a lot of irrigation water, chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, as well as fossil fuels for mowing and trimming. They also produce a lot of plant waste from pruning and can be invasive to native habitats in the area.

Whether you are planning a major landscaping project or just planting a few beds, here are a few easy tips which will help ensure your property looks beautiful and does a world of good.
Step 1


  Before replanting an area of your yard or garden, have the soil quality tested. You can send soil samples to a soil lab that will analyze it for texture, nutrients, organic matter content and pH. If the lab advises soil amendments, ask for their recommendations for organic or environmentally friendly amendments.

Choose plants that require little or no water and that are appropriate for your site's soil and microclimates. In general, these will be California natives and Mediterranean species. Plant a variety of trees, shrubs and other perennials, limit annuals, and don't plant invasives. See the California Invasive Plant Council website at for a list of species considered invasive in your area.

Give plants plenty of room to mature. This will result in healthy plants and reduce the need for pruning and shearing.

Step 2


  Lawns are nice for recreation and relaxation. But keeping them looking good during California's long dry season requires a lot of time, money and resources. To reduce water use, eliminate the use of lawn chemicals, and cut down on maintenance, consider replacing all or some of your lawn with water-conserving California native groundcovers or perennial grasses, shrubs and trees. If you want some lawn, keep it small and locate it in a spot where it's most likely to be used for play and relaxation.

For those small lawn areas you retain, choose plant species that are native or regionally appropriate and don't need a lot of water. Avoid planting grass on slopes greater than 10% or in irregularly shaped areas that cannot be irrigated efficiently. To avoid overspray from sprinklers, don't plant grass in isolated areas such as driveway strips or other areas less than 8 feet wide, unless they are irrigated with subsurface irrigation or micro spray heads.

Step 3


  Shade trees can create a microclimate that is up to 15°F cooler than the surrounding area, and can reduce a home's summer air-conditioning costs by 25% to 40%. Trees provide many other benefits including absorbing carbon dioxide, cleansing the air, creating habitats for birds and other animals, providing play places for children, making the neighborhood more beautiful and increasing property values.

Augment the existing tree cover on your property, particularly to the west of the home, by planting California native or other Mediterranean tree species that are drought tolerant and appropriate for the site's soil and microclimates. Plant trees to shade walls, windows and paved areas. If the home's design includes passive solar heating (see our Major Remodeling and Additions Overview), do not plant trees too close to the home's south side, or choose deciduous species that won't block the sun's warmth in the fall. Avoid planting trees too close to utilities or where they might shade solar panels. Plant a variety of trees and give them plenty of room to mature, reducing the need for pruning and shearing.

Step 3


  Some municipal water suppliers in California offer substantial rebates to homeowners who replace their lawns with water-efficient plants. Check with your water supplier before beginning a lawn conversion project. Also ask about rebates for water-saving products like weather-based irrigation controllers.

Read more tips on sustainable gardening and landscaping

Learn more about the Green Label Rebate Program and find out how you can qualify for a $2,000 rebate to get a green label for your home today!

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Source: Build It Green

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