SM AIRPORT — Hoping to encourage more residents to replace their water-sucking lawns with plants that thrive in the natural climate, City Hall is sponsoring a contest to select the designs for three demonstration “sustainable gardens” to be planted at Santa Monica Airport.

Russell Ackerman, City Hall’s water resources manager, said the idea is to create models of sustainable landscapes that residents can re-create at home.

“It’s making sustainable more attainable,” he said. “When you begin to think about re-doing your landscape it can be an overwhelming task, so we’re trying to make that first step a little easier.”

Would-be sustainable landscapers will be able to find the plants and irrigation systems needed to replicate the gardens at local stores, he said.

Putting the designs for the model gardens up for a vote, he said, is another way of getting the public engaged with sustainable design.

In the first-of-its kind program put on by Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, the public is being asked to vote online through City Hall’s website for the best three designs out of nine finalists. A panel culled the nine remaining entries from a field of 27 submitted by professional designers.

Voting on the garden designs runs through this month, and Ackerman said he expects the new gardens, which will be planted in side-by-side, 280-feet-by-42-feet plots at SMO, to be completed by this fall.

City Hall has set aside $30,000 for the project, but Ackerman said the exact cost of the project won’t be known until the final designs are selected and bids for the landscaping work are received.

He said sustainable gardens help conserve water and reduce other environmental impacts. Gardens that consist of native plants use about a sixth of the water that traditional landscapes do, he said, and also cut down on maintenance costs and green waste.

He said the designs that were selected to be among the finalists were judged in part for the ease with which they could be scaled up or down, so that people with big yards or limited space could copy the designs.

For more information on the garden project and to vote, visit and click on the links to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

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