Learn how to remove grass for drought tolerant landscaping

Once upon a time, the grounds surrounding the Maryknoll sisters’ home in Monrovia comprised 6.5 acres of lush green lawns and trees.

They’ll never be the same again – not since water is so scarce and expensive these days – but the Maryknoll Sisters of St Dominic’s retired nuns, some 15 former nurses, teachers and social workers in the ’80s and ’90s, work with Grow Monrovia and others Conservation activists to find better uses for their land in this Northeast Los Angeles city.

Their vision is to transform what are mostly dead and dying lawns “into something more environmentally sustainable,said Sister Arlene Trant, 76, coordinator of the Order’s aged care facility. Her goals for the new landscape include meadows with native plants, grasses and trees, and community gardens where food will be grown using methods that conserve water, collect rainfall and rebuild the soil.

However, there is no budget for contractors or workers. Rather, they see the transformation as an ongoing series of water optimization and soil regeneration workshops where people can participate in the transition while learning how it’s done.

Conclusion: This small group of elderly nuns, who have spent most of their lives living and working with people with disabilities and without resources, rely on the kindness and curiosity of volunteers to guide the first part of this transformation through hands-on workshops Complete mulching in lasagna (aka leaf mulching) on ​​July 10 and 24 from 8 am to 12 pm both days at 300 Norumbega Drive in Monrovia.

Sister Arlene Trant, coordinator of the Maryknoll Sisters Nursing Home, was inspired by the work of landscape architect Leigh Adams, who guides volunteers.

(Alisha Jucevic / For the Los Angeles Times)

The free workshops, organized by local non-profit conservation group Grow Monrovia, will be led by landscape architect and activist Leigh Adams of Studio Petrichor, a company focused on reversing climate change by restoring landscapes with healthy soil and native plants .

Adams created the popular Crescent Farm at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in 2015, using leaf mulching and other techniques to transform an old lawn into a low-water garden filled with native plants, fruit trees, and other foods. Her classes on water optimization and replacing lawns with cardboard and wood chips to create healthy soil have inspired Trant and brought new meaning to residents whose community work has been restricted over the past two years due to the pandemic.

“Saint Francis of Assisi spoke about Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” Trant wrote in a statement about the project. “For me, we work here in solidarity with Brother Worm and Sister Microorganisms. Caring for Mother Earth means joining the birds, butterflies, worms, bees and microorganisms, all of which are vital workers in tending our land and tending the soil for future generations.”

It’s a new chapter for the facility the Maryknoll Sisters started in the 1920’s as a tuberculosis sanatorium for Japanese patients that no other medical center would treat. It later became a small hospital for the underserved in the San Gabriel Valley, and in the 1970s it was converted into a nursing home for the nuns of the New York-based order.

Trant, 76, has spent most of her life working with the deaf community and people with disabilities in Hong Kong and Macau. Nothing was green in these densely populated cities, she said, and on her brief visits to Monrovia, the shady, verdant grounds seemed like a miracle.

She loved those “beautiful, water-sucking lawns,” Trant said, but she now sees them as unsustainable in Southern California — and far too expensive for her tight facility to water.

In the spring, with the help of Adams and neighbors Rosemary Gavidia and Michele Brooke, the founders of Grow Monrovia and the Maryknoll Sisters began the first part of their project, requesting reimbursement to remove 20,000 square feet of patchy grass.

Leigh Adams, a laughing woman with silver hair with purple highlights, purple glasses and a purple t-shirt.

Leigh Adams, landscape designer for Studio Petrichor, leads the lasagna mulching workshops at the Maryknoll Sisters facility in Monrovia.

(Alisha Jucevic / For the Los Angeles Times)

Leigh Adams, center, speaks to volunteers during a leaf mulching workshop at the Maryknoll Sisters retirement home.

Landscape architect Leigh Adams (centre) speaks to volunteers during a leaf mulching workshop at the Maryknoll Sisters retirement home. “These are women who have served their communities their entire lives and they need help,” Adams said of the nuns.

(Alisha Jucevic / For the Los Angeles Times)

The rebate money will come in handy, Trant said, “but it’s not about the rebate. It’s about the cry of the earth. We have neglected her for so many years, now let’s tune in to what she is calling us to do.”

Brooke and Gavidia are excited about the opportunity to inspire the public about lawn removal techniques that they can use in their own gardens. They have been growing trees to plant around Monrovia for several years and in 2021, after receiving Trant’s permission, committed to the sisters a small community garden and a to set up a tree nursery.

Gavidia hopes the rebate money can help the sisters continue the project, buy more materials and pay Adams for their landscaping, but Adams is a big supporter of community involvement and she says she’s donating her time, in part, because Catholic nuns kept her alive after that. She was born in Hanford.

When Gavidia Adams opened up about the Maryknoll Sisters’ project, “I knew it was like a cosmic scorecard that I could use to level things out,” Adams said. “These are women who have served their communities all their lives and they need help. I’m not Catholic – I’m not even religious – but 72 years have passed and the reason I’m here and thriving is because some nuns in this hospital took care of me when my mother wasn’t. They have a vision to help the earth and I have a way to organize the community and help them learn.”

Volunteer Ansu John spreads mulch on wet cardboard during a mulching workshop.

Volunteer Ansu John spreads mulch on wet cardboard during a mulching workshop.

(Alisha Jucevic / For the Los Angeles Times)

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