FAQ

General
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    What do I need to know before my bid meeting?

    Natural Front Yards is very different from a traditional landscaping job.

    1. We do not do custom designs. If you have specific ideas about what you would like in your front yard, then you may be more interested in our custom design program. You can read about the differences in the next question.
    2. We provide plans or plant lists after (not before) the project has been installed. We are able to offer Natural Front Yards at a lower cost by reducing the design and revision costs.  You are welcome to share your general preferences (such as needing screening and color preference) with us during the bid meeting, and we will do our best to work them in. For those applying for a rebate, we have a special relationship with the Santa Clara Valley Water District allowing clients to submit plant information after the installation.
    3. Our minimum cost is $5-$7 per sq ft. The additional cost of your yard will be estimated by looking at its size, needs, and history.
    4. The bid meeting cost is $100, which is deducted from the total cost of your Natural Front Yard installation.
    5. In order to qualify for our program, you need to be able to answer “yes” to the following statements:
    • I have a front yard lawn I want to replace with drought-tolerant plantings.
    • I want to replace all of my front lawn.
    • I do not have specific plants in mind.
    • I do not have strong plant allergies that need to be designed around.
    • Deer or gophers do not visit my property.
    • I do not live on a slope.
    • I do not have a serious Oxalis or Bermuda Grass problem.
    • My yard does not have large trees whose roots can actively compete with new plants.
    • I live within EarthCare’s service areas.

    If this sounds like you, then we are excited to get started! Please give us a call if you have any specific questions about your eligibility: 408-871-2792

     

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    How far will you travel to install Natural Front Yards?

    We mainly serve the mid-Peninsula area. This is from around Brittan Avenue in San Carlos-Redwood City, down through San Jose.  This includes San Carlos, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mt View, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino, San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos, Emerald Hills, Alviso, and Milpitas.  We don’t typically service Morgan Hill southward, nor Milpitas and northward.

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    What is the difference between NFY and EarthCare's custom jobs program?

    In the Natural Front Yards program, we minimize cost and time by simplifying the design process, minimizing the use of expensive, heavy equipment, and starting with smaller plants. The main differences between the Natural Front Yards Program, and EarthCare’s custom jobs are these:

    • Meetings
      • Custom jobs include multiple meetings to make sure that the exact choices of the client are implemented.
      • NFY jobs have one main meeting to get the general preferences of the client. From the client’s interests, we will design and implement the plan for the yard.
    • Plant choices
      • Custom jobs can include many specific plant choices made by the client about what will be installed in their yard.
      • Once the client has expressed their general preferences and add-on options, the Natural Front Yard plants will be chosen by our designer.
    • Design
      • The Custom jobs have a firm design once they are installed. When replacements are made, the design will not be changed unless the client specifically requests that it will be.
      • Once a Natural Front Yard job has been installed, we will occasionally change the plants that need to be replaced if there are healthier, or better suited plants available.
    • Warranty
      • Both Custom and Natural Front Yards have a four-month warranty.

    EarthCare will perform the same high quality professional installation and back it up with a guarantee. This program is not meant for intensive gardeners as much as it is for those that are interested in low-maintenance, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly yards.

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    How long will the installation take?

    This depends on the size of your front yard and any additional options you might choose. For example, if your lawn area is 1000 sq ft, it will take approximately 3-4 days to install a Natural Front Yard.

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    Is there a minimum or maximum size for this service?

    No, but there is a base price. For areas smaller than 1000 sq ft, the cost will increase from the base cost of about $5-$7 per sq ft.

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    How will the size of my yard affect the price of installing a Natural Front Yard?

    Regardless of the size of the yard, we always have to invest the same resources to start the projects. This includes installing an irrigation system, gathering materials, and preparing the site for installation. While our base cost is$5-$7 per sq ft, smaller yards will tend to be a bit more expensive per square foot.

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    Can this service be combined with other parts of a more traditional landscape job?

    Yes, though it is not encouraged because it is essentially involving two different divisions of the company and therefore may not be as cost competitive.

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    Can this program be implemented on a backyard or any area other than a front yard?

    This service does not apply to backyards.

    However, Natural Front Yards is appropriate for commercial, multi-residential, or any other site where the area to be landscaped is an existing lawn and the primary function is to look attractive.

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    What is the bid and installation process like?

    We actually have a blog series explaining all of this.  Click here to read about it!

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    What types of plants do you have in your palettes?

    We have used over 50 different cultivars to create our selection of palettes. In yards that have both sunny and shady areas, we will use a mixture of sun and shade palettes.

    Below is a concise list of plants that help characterize these palettes:

    Zen/ Meditative Garden (shade)

    Iris douglasiana (Douglas Iris)
    Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
    Carex tumulicola (Foothill Sedge)
    Asarum caudatum (Wild Ginger)
    Satureja douglasii (Yerba Buena)

    Mediterranean (sun)

    Salvia species (Sages)
    Heterotheca villosa (Golden Daisy)
    Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
    Eriogonum species (Buckwheats)
    Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass)

    California Coastal (sun)

    Galvezia speciosa (Island Snapdragon)
    Artemisia pycnocephala (Sagebrush)
    Dudleya species (Succulents)
    Erigeron glaucus (Beach Aster)
    Ceanothus species (California Lilac)

    Contemporary (sun)

    Carex tumulicola (Foothill Sedge)
    Juncus patens (California Rush)
    Phormium species (NZ Flax)
    Rhamnus californica (Coffeeberry)
    Arctostaphylos species (Manzanita)

    Woodland (shade)

    Ribes sanguineum (Red-Flowering Currant)
    Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern)
    Woodwardia fimbriata (Giant Chain Fern)
    Heuchera maxima (Alum Root)
    Dicentra formosa (Pacific Bleeding Heart)

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    Why did EarthCare start this program?

    By offering this program, it is our intention to reach a broader audience. We wish to reach those that previously couldn’t afford our services or just didn’t want to spend that much on their landscape, but are interested in quality service and protecting the environment.

Maintenance, Warranty, and Rebates
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    How does the warranty work?

    We want your yard to be a success right away; therefore all Natural Front Yards include a four-month warranty on all plants.

    We warranty against excessive weeds, with the exception of Oxalis (Creeping Wood Sorrel) and Bermuda grass. During the time of warranty, we will replace any plants except if it has obviously been damaged due to a human or pet “accident.” Unless it is a specific tree or larger plant custom ordered, we reserve the right to replace with a different type or size of plant.

    Once established, your Natural Front Yard will need minimal maintenance. However, if you are still interested in maintenance, you can contact EarthCare about its quarterly maintenance program.

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    How do I get my rebate?

    Depending on where you live, and if you will be replacing a lawn, you are likely to be eligible for a rebate of $1-$2 per square foot.


    If your water comes from the Santa Clara Valley Water Distict:

    1. Contact Santa Clara Valley Water District to set up the pre-inspection meeting.
    2. They will measure your existing lawn to determine your rebate.
    3. If you are working with us, then fill out the next part of the application with information about your yard. We have a special relationship with the water district, so you do not need to supply them with a plan or square footage information about the plants. Instead, note that you are working with EarthCare landscaping.
    4. We replace your lawn. This is Natural Front Yards’ specialty!
    5. Contact SCVWD again for the follow-up inspection and fill out their paperwork (we will give you copies of the information you will need by email as well as send a copy to the water district).
    6. Receive your check in the mail within 8-12 weeks after the post-inspection.
    7. This money is available through a limited time grant, which is written to be negotiated with the homeowner directly.

    If you live in an area served by another water district, go to the California Water Service website for rebate information.

Environment, Resources, and Values
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    What are your values in a nutshell?

    We care about saving water and energy.

    We care about the health of our Bay, air, and soil.

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    Why does EarthCare care about using organic methods?

    Herbicides and petroleum-based fertilizers are derived primarily from petroleum and even more energy is required transporting them. The soil is comprised of a rich, complex web of life. When herbicides or petroleum-based fertilizers are added to the soil, they disrupt this intricate process. In addition, these artificial amendments get washed into our local water supplies and watershed during excessive rain and over-irrigation, polluting our streams and Bay.

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    Why is EarthCare concerned about saving water?

    Santa Clara County is a very popular place to live, and as the population increases, supplies will not. Half of our water is imported and already there are some mandatory water restrictions in the Bay Area. Currently over 50% of our urban water is used in the landscape, and a fifth of California’s electricity use is related to water. Natural Front Yards wants to save that water!

    If you replace a 1000 square foot lawn with the Natural Front Yards program, we think over 400 gallons per week can be saved during the dry months, and much more when the plants are more established after two to three years. To put this in perspective, this savings would add up to about 12,000 gallons per year or roughly 12% of the total water used for a single family detached home.

    If 10% of Bay Area homes with front lawns implemented this program, then that would account for over 1.2 billion gallons in water savings per year. This is an amount of water slightly in excess of the full capacity of the Guadalupe Reservoir and would be enough water to service the needs of 30,000 Californians. The savings will be even more dramatic as the plants mature, easily doubling this amount.

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    How much water do you think can be saved by replacing a 1000 square foot lawn with this program?

    Initially over 400 gallons per week can be saved during the dry months and much more when the plants are more established after two to three years.  To put this in perspective, this savings would from the beginning add up to about 12,000 gallons per year or roughly 12% of the total water used for a single family detached home.

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    Can I turn off the water at some point?

    After 2 or 3 years you should be able to shut off irrigation to most native plants.

    However, since there is a summer dormant period, they will look better with occasional (monthly) summer water.

Add-On Options
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    What are Add-On Options?

    Add-On Options are additional features, such as hardscaping or trees, that can customize your Natural Front Yard.

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    What do these options include?

    • A new path to the side yard or to the street
      • Flagstone stepping-stones, $17 – $20 per linear foot.
      • Contrasting color mulch, no extra charge
    • Trees
      • 15-gallon tree (for shade, beauty, or fruit), $200.
      • Shrub screening, if we start with small plants, no extra charge
    • Rocks or mounding
      • Sonoma fieldstone boulders, $90-$220, depends on size
      • Dry Creek is an additional $8 per square foot of creek bed
      • Mounding costs about $6 per square foot of the mounded area
    • Drainage: Divert your downspouts neatly into a drywell away from the foundation
      • Downspouts, approximately $435 each
    • Lighting: Long-lasting and energy efficient
      • LED lighting, approximately $215 per fixture plus the cost of transformers, about $325
    • Automatic irrigation controller
      • Included, if needed, at no extra charge
      • ET Timers (evapotranspiration) are available. Irrigation is controlled automatically according to local weather via satellite. There is a small monthly fee for this service.
    • Denser planting (NFY can look a bit sparse at first. Denser planting is available if you wish to supplement during the initial growing period.)
      • $50 per flat, $20 for 1 gal plant, $45 for 2 gal plant, $55 for 5 gal plant
    • Benches, pots, arbors, etc.
      • If you have something you own or purchase that you’d like to add into your NFY, let us know; we’ll make a special space in your design for this.  No additional cost.
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    What are LED lights?

    “LED” refers to light emitting diode.  They use a third or less of the energy of an already efficient halogen light bulb.  These LED’s are bright and have a life expectancy of over 10 years without maintenance!

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    What are “downspouts to drywells”?

    We will divert the water from your roof’s downspouts into the ground.  The downspouts will be connected to a buried 3″ rigid, solid drain pipe, and will empty into a drywell usually 10′ to 15′ away from the house.  A drywell is typically 4′ deep and 12″ in diameter and filled with gravel.  The idea is to get rainwater to absorb deep into the soil, but when the ground becomes too saturated, an outlet is provided so the excess water can then flow into the garden, away from the house.  There are two main benefits to this practice.  One is in getting the water away from the foundation of the house and thereby reducing uneven settling of the foundation and the potential of water pooling under the house, causing mold issues.  The other significant benefit is in keeping the rainwater onsite and not contributing to storm water pollution which affects our creeks, wetlands, and Bay.  There are numerous agencies and non-profit organizations dedicated to this cause.

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    What is an “ET” timer?

    The short answer is that it is a timer that is controlled automatically by the local weather.  ET stands for evapotranspiration, which is the amount of water in the soil that is lost to evaporation.  A government service called, CIMIS, keeps a record of this info. These timers use technology that pools information from local weather stations and CIMIS to determine how much and when to water.  When the timer is first installed, it is adjusted for many factors, including plant type, sun vs. shade, slope, soil type, drip vs. sprinkler and more.  Once set up by EarthCare they can be adjusted easily in 5% increments by the client if necessary.

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    What does EarthCare consider a “quality timer”?

    A quality timer is one that is from a reputable company, easy to operate and has multiple programs. The different programs will allow the timer to water a backyard lawn every other day, pots daily and our area as needed. We like the Irritrol Rain Dial.

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    How big are “small, medium, and large” boulders, and what is “Sonoma Fieldstone”?

    Small boulders are usually about 1 ½’ in diameter, medium are 2′ to 2 ½’ in diameter, and large are 2 ½’ to 3′ in diameter. “Sonoma Fieldstone” is a common type of boulder used locally in the Bay Area. It is grey, tan, brown and sometimes a little red in color. It often has moss growing on it. Other types of boulders could be used, but they will be more expensive since most others are not mined locally.