California Native Grasslands Association
Promoting, preserving, and restoring the diversity of California's native grasses and grassland ecosystems through education, advocacy, research, and stewardship.

California's New Front Yard: Creating a Low-Water Landscape Workshop Series

The four information booklets below are materials from our 2015-2016 New Front Yard workshop series. Print copies are available for cost plus shipping. Contact us at admin@cnga.org for details. 

Page Contents:

CNGA has hosted five New Front Yard workshops with the support of the Department of Water Resources and other organizations. These workshops demonstrated how to transform your thirsty lawn into a water-saving landscape featuring drought-tolerant trees, native grasses, perennials, and shrubs. Morning talks were followed by hands-on activities and demonstrations. These workshops are suitable for homeowners and landscape professionals alike, so all are welcome! Each workshop location utilized local instructors, allowing us to personalize the workshop contents to the regional attendees.

September 2014: The first New Front Yard workshop held in Davis, CA at UC Davis. 

October 2015: Workshops held in Fairfield and Sacramento. (Link to Fairfield Workshop Summary.)

February 2016: Santa Cruz workshop held at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. 

March 2016: Merced workshop held at UC Merced. 


Online Learning Module: Coming Soon! 

By utilizing local knowledge for each workshop, we were able to learn much about native and drought tolerant gardening throughout the state. We are currently compiling everything we have learned from all of our workshops to create an online interactive learning module. We hope to have this available via our website in June 2017. 


Grasslands Article about the New Front Yard workshop series, originally published in Spring 2016

PDF Copy Here! Full Text Below. 

California’s New Front Yard Workshops End on a High Note
By: Diana Jeffery, Ph.D., CNGA New Front Yard Workshop Specialist

In front of a sold-out audience at the University of California Merced in March, CNGA recently presented the final workshop in a five-part series entitled California’s New Front Yard: Creating a Low-Water Landscape. This successful event wrapped up a year and a half of workshops funded by the California Department of Water Resources as a direct response to the ongoing drought that has led to regulations severely limiting water available for landscape irrigation.

The pilot New Front Yard workshop was held at UC Davis in September 2014. The event sold out at 120 participants with over 35 people on the waiting list. The success of this workshop was largely due to the exceptional instructors, staff, and partners that all contributed to the event and to the skilled program development talent of CNGA’s Rebecca Green. Building upon the success of the first workshop, DWR agreed to four additional workshops that were held in Fairfield (October 2015), Sacramento (October 2015), Santa Cruz (February 2016) and Merced (March 2016). All were well-attendedwith 85 to 100+ participants at each workshop.

In each geographic area, CNGA formed new partnerships with local water agencies, cities, counties, and universities to put on a high-quality workshop specifically tailored to each region. Our partners provided venues, helped with marketing and sponsorships, and participated in many other tasks. The Santa Cruz and Merced workshops were in communities relatively new to CNGA, and where our organization was largely unknown. Setting up such programs in new areas created unique challenges, but the rewards were many. We made new contacts, forged new relationships, and enlisted local speakers that gave regionally-specific presentations on native landscape design and maintenance

Each one-day workshop consisted of morning classroom sessions, a Q & A panel with the instructors, and afternoon break-out sessions that usually included field tours. Former CNGA board member Andrew Fulks charmed audiences as Master of Ceremonies and panel moderator. Classroom sessions provided participants with detailed, science-based guidelines for converting high-water-use conventional lawns into attractive, native, low-water-use landscapes appropriate for local climates. Four expert instructors presented step-by-step approaches to reimagining and redesigning lawns, including a comprehensive range of options and the advantages and disadvantages for each approach. Each instructor presented on one of four topics: inventory and design, native plant selection and location, lawn removal methods, and long-term care and maintenance including water-efficient irrigation.

After lunch, participants were divided into smaller groups for break-out sessions and walking field tours. At the Sacramento workshop, William Granger, Water Conservation Coordinator for City of Sacramento, took participants on a tour of nearby front yards that were recently redesigned. In Santa Cruz, UCSC Arboretum Director Martin Quigley and California Native Plant Program Director Brett Hall gave a tour of the Arboretum’s plant gardens. Most recently, Monique Kolster, Interim Director and Naturalist Lecturer of the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve, led a walking tour where participants learned about native plants in their natural setting. 

The CNGA New Front Yard Team included board members (J.P. Mari√©, Emily Allen, Billy Krimmel, Jim Hanson, Robert Evans, Jodie Sheffield), former board members (Andrew Fulks and Ingrid Morken), and administrative staff (Liz Cieslak, Diana Jeffery, and Rebecca Green). The hard work of these individuals, as well as that of the instructors, volunteers, and other helpers was widely recognized by workshop participants. Claudia Boulton, owner of Wild Rose Landscape & Garden Design, noted that “As a landscape designer, member of APLD and a Master Gardener, I attend several educational conferences each year. This was one of the most organized, informational and best run seminars I’ve ever attended.”

Now that the workshops have concluded, CNGA will compile and synthesize all of the content into an interactive educational module that will be available online in June 2016. We will also explore opportunities for similar workshops in the future, so keep an eye on our website (www.cnga.org) and our Facebook page for updates. Meanwhile, perhaps you have a lawn or greenspace that would make a good candidate for conversion to a native, low-water landscape?


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