Front Yard “Before” Pics

This is our 1950’s-style front yard. I like to think of these fine photos as the “Before” pics. I want to turn this yard into the garden in my imagination! My imaginary garden has a variety of succulents, aloes, cacti, salvias, lavender, natives, phormiums, wildflowers, pathways…and non-mowable grasses.

Front yard. April 2010.

I am new to garden blogging. And new to WordPress, so please bear with me. I hope to use this blog to collect comments, ideas, inspiration, and knowledge to turn this traditional suburban front yard into a drought-resistent, non-lawn, succulent sanctuary. I’m sure this style of front yard was all the rage when the house was built in 1950. Lush green lawn all the way to the sidewalk (with strip of lawn between sidewalk and street too!) and hardy camellias and other shrubs along the foundation. But this is 2010! And despite this Winter’s rains, we are still in a drought. Putting the sprinkler on everyday during the dry summer months is not an option. And I love the look of wild, spiky, aloe/succulent gardens.

But where do we start? Hire a crew? Do it ourselves (after work and on weekends)? Hire a landscape designer? I definitely would if I had the money! But then again, in my mind, I am a landscape designer (much like George Costanza was a Marine Biologist, right?). But I do know what I like, and I do know what I want. I just need some help getting started. So if you have any ideas, suggestions, links, words of encouragement, please leave us a comment!

Left side of front yard.

Right side of front yard.

This weekend we had a gardener/landscaper come over to check out the yard and discuss my ideas about reducing the lawn and preparing certain areas of the yard for succulent plantings. He recommended putting in a “nicer” lawn. (No.) I explained that I’m looking for drought-resistant alternatives to the traditional lawn. I think he thought that I do not “like” to water the lawn (because I’m lazy). His suggestion was to put down plastic and cover it with lava rock. “Easy!” (No, thanks.) He also motioned to our neighbors’ yards and suggested juniper. (No!)  We’re thinking of hiring him and his crew to remove some grass and prepare the edges and other areas, but if we can swing that, I’m afraid we won’t have any dough left to buy the plants to put in the yard!

Gophers galore.

P.S. We also have a serious gopher problem.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Wow, deja vu! My journey started when a sprinkler head broke in my lawn and I decided not to replace it. If your lawn has ANY Bermuda or Crab Grass in it you MUST kill it thoroughly before planting anything else. The organic way is sheet mulching (google it) and the inorganic way is Roundup, usually in several applications. I confess that I did use Roundup once on my lawn before making the decision to forgo chemicals. You can also remove the sod, but again, any bits of perennial lawn grass left will haunt you FOREVER! Do use a landscape contractor when needed, but please find one that doesn’t suggest weed barrier and lava rock, OK?! Good luck; I’ve written quite a few posts about my garden transformation over the last year if you need more inspiration!


  2. Laura, thank you! I will definitely be reading your garden transformation posts! Very helpful!


  3. Hi Kelly! We ripped the sod out of our front garden and put in gravel and plants. Well, “we” didn’t actually take the sod out ourselves, we hired a couple of guys that did it. I called around until I found someone cheap. I didn’t want to go the chemical route and we just didn’t have time to do it ourselves. We did turn around 2 yrs later and do it ourselves in the back garden. It’s a lot of work! Here are a couple of links to pictures and posts.


    • Loree, thanks so much for the support and for the links to your garden project!! I was ooh-ing and ah-ing at every photo, especially the “spoiler after” pic. Love the color contrasts. Great transformation.


  4. Posted by Megan on May 2, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Interesting! Matti experimented making a succulent ‘lawn’ with a little corner of our yard and it turned out great:
    It’s looking even better right now. We have gophermania 2010 going on right now too, and they’ve never touched a succulent.


    • Hi Megan, thank you! I love your succulent “lawn” and corners. The gopher community over here ate two of my agaves and a flax! They are terrible! I think I’ll have to wrap my new plantings in wire. We’ve tried a lot of gopher deterrents, but they are so tenacious. My favorite thing is watching neighborhood cats come over and park themselves next to fresh gopher holes in full hunter mode. Only ONE time did we see a successful catch. It was glorious! The little tabby cat had an enormous gopher in its mouth and bounded off across the street and over a fence with its prize. We were cheering!


  5. That’s great you want to lose the lawn. You don’t need to actually take it out, though. You just need to smother it with cardboard or newspaper covered with some compost and a thick layer of mulch. You can then plant right through the cardboard or newspaper, and the plants do great. We do it several times a year. If you google lasagna gardening you should see info on the technique. Taking out the lawn is counter-productive; you’re just taking away organic matter.
    Gophers are a nuisance. Some plants are actually resistant. Planting in cages not fun and works better with some plants than others, but it works pretty well if you make the caged area big enough for the eventual size of the roots.


  6. Posted by mattisalomaki on May 21, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Hey Kelly, I would just keep plugging at it. Gardening does not just happen in a weekend, and it is done…well at least for me…It is the enjoyment of the process that I love. Matti


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