Grow with the Green Landscaper Movement

Many people are becoming aware that traditional landscaping is an environmental nightmare.  Actually, the idea of having a big grassy lawn bordered by shrubs has been attributed to millionaires, most notably Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie because it reminded them of rainy homeland.  Their mansions had huge lawns.  During the housing boom which followed World War II, a big lawn was a status symbol.  Homeowners wanted their tract home to have a big lawn.  It was a status symbol that showed everyone they could afford the land and to pay for the landscaping.  In some developments, developers would advertise the lot size –1/4 acre or 1/2 acre lot–as a valuable feature along with the two car garage and size of the house.  The developers were selling a bigger lawn.  A house in the burbs with a big lawn became part of the American dream.

But can we afford to do this much environmental damage as a society?  If you have ever stayed home on a weekday, you might have thought about how much resources are used to maintain the grass.  A group of three guys drives from Costa Mesa to do the lawn in their big truck.  The first guy runs a gas powered lawnmower for about 15 minutes, the second guy runs a gas powered weed eater for about the same amount of time, and the third guy runs the leaf blower.  And once a month, they sprinkle nitrogen based fertilizer on the lawn.  When the sprinklers go on, a good portion of the nitrogen along with grass clippings are washed down the street along with about 40% of the water.  The problem with this is that storm drain water is not filtered.  The grass clippings and excess fertilizer causes algae blooms that destroy the environment for fish by using up the Oxygen. Along the American coast there are many “dead zones” because of this.  This cycle of waste goes on week after week for every house on the street.

The “islands” in parking lots are even worse because a greater portion of the water seems to end up in the storm drain and they seem to use extra fertilizer on those.  No one really says “can I pay a bit more because I really enjoyed looking at the plants in the parking lot.”  There is a lot of waste.

Water is taken for granted.  According to the City of Huntington Beach Publication 2011 Quarterly Water Report, 58% of the county’s residential water is use for landscaping; and it comes from as far away as Lake Mead in Nevada and lakes in Norther California.  Many of these lakes have been drained and will never be refilled; and there are even dust-mitigation costs associated with these dry lake beds.  If it were considered and agricultural product, “lawn” would be one our states biggest crops.

As people become more environmentally aware, they are rethinking the value of this lush landscaping.  Much of the landscaping in parking lots is mandated by cities so there is not much environmentally concerned business owners can do about that.  Many landlords and homeowners want to be more responsible.  And with increasing water rates, they will have an incentive to take out the plants.  In parts of Arizona and Nevada, people have replaced their lawns to save money on water.  This change in thinking is coming to Southern California, and you can make money helping them and the environment.

The new landscaping: Cutting out the Grass

You can help peoples out by replacing the grass with something that does not require cutting or water.  Rock areas have become popular in other areas and they will become popular here soon.  You can buy rocks in bulk at a place like in Huntington Beach.

Artificial Grass

Many companies are offering franchises/business opportunities installing their product.  The main benefit of these programs seems to be education on how to install and market these products.  An good candidate for this type of business would have access to equipment or have experience hiring a crew to install the artificial grass.  It’s not a one person job. They have training where you would expect it–in Phoenix and Las Vegas.  But it’s not as easy as laying carpet on dirt.  You need to make sure their is proper drainage and a good base to put it on.  They also specialize in backyard putting greens.  Dealerships start at $2,500 that include training.

We found a couple of other companies doing similar things:

Waterless Grass Dealership Dealerships start at $2,500.  They have a training program in Las Vegas. Easy Turf

and Eco Waterless Grass.


Drip Irrigation and Drought Tolerant Plants

It would be a great business to specialize in converting yards from environmental disasters to environmentally responsible.  We could not find any specific pre-packaged businesses doing this.  Maybe this is an opportunity that hasn’t been exploited.  One aspect would be to specialize in install and repair drip irrigation.  You can a decent price on all the stuff you will need at the home center.

We did find some basic books on installing drip irrigation systems and drought tolerant plants.

But sometimes the prices on plants are a bit ridiculous.  We saw some 1 gal water resistant plants going for over $15.  Your best bet will be to search out the wholesale nursery near you.  From what we have been told, often the cheapest ones don’t do websites.  Be sure to ask for the landscaper’s discount.  If you are driving an older model pick-up, they will give it to you.  If you have a fancy BMW, forget about it.  They will have a lot of succulents and other drought tolerant plants, but you need to know what you are buying.  (See books in the Amazon thing above.)


There are some nurseries that cater to environmentally responsible landscaping.  One of the best known is in Irvine the Tree of Life at 33201 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675.   This business has been a leader in this movement.  They have classes to let people know their options.  Click here for more info about workshops


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Highly Rated Books From Amazon


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Government Regulation of the Landscaping Industry

The fact is that the government does not go out of it’s way to enforce the rules on landscapers.  Generally, after a job is done, the landscaper has moved on and nobody knows who they should go after.  We are not encouraging you to skirt the laws, just giving you the facts, and as we have said before if you are getting legal advice from this webpage discussing your business with an attorney might be a good investment.

Contractors Licence.  According to the California State Contractors License Board, you need to have a contractors license in the sub industry you are working in.  Most of your jobs will exceed the $400 maximum value.  In this case, you could get by with a C-27 license and not have to become a General Contractor.  The CSCLB describes the C-27 as A landscape contractor constructs, maintains, repairs, installs, or subcontracts the development of landscape systems and facilities for public and private gardens and other areas which are designed to aesthetically, architecturally, horticulturally, or functionally improve the grounds within or surrounding a structure or a tract or plot of land. In connection therewith, a landscape contractor prepares and grades plots and areas of land for the installation of any architectural, horticultural and decorative treatment or arrangement.  [Click here to see a discussion on whether or not you need a contractors license. ]

City Business Licenses  Technically you will need a city business license for each city you work in.  You can, however,  get a license after you have won a bid for a project, but be sure to call up the city and ask how much a city business licence will cost–and you may not need to renew until you have another job in that city.  The annual cost varies from around $100 to over $400.  And these costs will be going up as every city seems to be having a budget crisis.  If you choose to rent an office, you will also need to get a business permit to operate out of that office.  That’s not a big regulatory deal–around $150/year.  If you run the business out of your home, you are also supposed to have the permit.  If you want to rent a yard to store plants, equipment, supplies… you may have to deal with complicated zoning regulations.

California Resell Permit.  You will have to collect sales tax for the plants, rocks, and materials you sell to your customers.  You cannot just lump them all into the cost of the job.  A resell permit allows you to pay these to the California BOE, and it allows you to buy from your suppliers without paying sales tax on what you buy.  You are just reselling the stuff, and if sales tax is paid when you buy and when you sell your stuff would be double taxed.

Find out where to get all your permits, licenses, what you have to deal with if you hire someone on our regulatory compliance page.

Outdated Regulations  Some cities have regulations in place to keep up property values.  They may require grass or a certain percentage of the yard be grass.  The City of Orange for instance made national headlines when it sued a couple in Superior Court to plant a significant portion of their yard with plants.  [article]  While Rocks, or wood chips might be okay in Nevada or Arizona, people are not used to seeing an environmentally friendly yards in California.

 Associations and Education

California Landscapers Association Orange County Chapter  This group helps promote water wise landscaping.  They are an association that helps landscapers find insurance, buy supplies at group rates, provides education, provides certification and has a magazine.  You must have an active C-27 or C-61 contractors license to join.  This is the website of the state association


© 2011