Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bye-Bye Lawn!!

Phase One of the "Tackling the Front Yard" project is almost complete. We only have the lower path to mulch and some more plants to install. Thanks to Guy, Rachel and Ryan I was able to get an amazing amount accomplished this past weekend.  After all these years of avoiding that silly hill, I’m so glad it’s started. It sure is looking good. 

 Here’s a little photo journey through the last few weekend work days.  

April 1st 

Guy and I worked to install some steps up the side of the hill using repurposed grates that we picked up last year at a salvage sale.  The plan is to plant them with creeping Thyme and other herbs along the side.

I'm finding out Guy has a good eye for design.
Guy was able to figure out a nice spacing for the grates. I like the angle a lot.

Guy also used his engineering ability to make a very professional looking a-frame for laying out the contours on the hill the next weekend. 

By the end of the day I felt ready to tackle the biggest job the following weekend when I wouldn't have Guy's help. 

April 7th 

The big day. I started alone, but I soon got a lot of help from Ryan and Rachel.  Guy had a tree climbing event all day. 

First I finished the a-frame by adding the string and weight to determine when the frame was level as I worked my way across the slope. That's my experimental strawberry patch in the background. I planted it last year to see how strawberries do in the front yard.  They are doing well. I think I might plant the whole side yard in strawberries...yum.

Any old weight will do.

Each step of the a-frame required a flag to mark the spot. I decided to do two swales across the hill. I was alone at this point, so I couldn't get a picture of me working the frame. However, I will say it was a lot of fun. I sure would have never guessed that these lines are level. Thank goodness for simple tools like this a-frame.  

Next I dug the swales and placed the soil in front of each swale to make a berm. This made a surprising difference in the slope of the hill, it doesn't look nearly as steep any more. The swales will help to keep water on my property, which will reduce the runoff into the sewers and our urban streams. Of course it will also reduce the amount of watering I will have to do. The plants I selected for the hill should be able to survive just fine without any watering from me after they are established. This year I'll have to water regularly. 

We then filled the swales full of straw. I didn't want to be able to see the swales quite so clearly. I was looking for a more terraced look and I hope this will help that. You can also see that we have placed the plants on the hill.  Initially I had thought I would lay the paper down first and then plant the plants by cutting holes in the paper. After thinking about this and discussing it with Ryan, who had arrived by now, we decided it would be easier to plant first and then lay the paper. 

So that's what we did!

 After the plants were in, we placed the newspaper around them and stood back to take a break.  Rachel and Ryan made the job go fast.  After a short break we started hauling mulch.  We didn't have enough mulch to finish the job this day...

but an early Easter morning run to get more mulch and some time spent adding cardboard to the upper part of the hill that wasn't part of this planting and this is what we have!!!! Now I just need to get more herbs for the steps and figure out what to plant under the dogwood.

I put flags by the plants for now so I make sure I see everyone when I'm watering. The plants on the hill include prairie dropseed, a native Missouri grass, and lavender.  Both plants tolerate hot, dry places and crappy soil. I think they will enjoy living on this hill.

THANKS GUY, RYAN and RACHEL for all your help!!!! Permie community is great!


  1. Looks great! I bet some of your neighbors were wondering what the heck you were doing.

  2. wow. what a change! Can't wait to see it mature!

  3. I never thought you would make such a dramatic change. Maybe you can start an urban revolution. I am looking forward to seeing it. Keep sending pictures as it progresses. Dad

  4. Wow, what a beautiful job. I never liked the steps to front door and preferred the hill. Now you have made it easier. Keep pictures as to progress of planting. MOM

  5. Would love to see how this looks now after 2.5 years!!! Please update with more photos!

    1. Thanks for asking. You inspired me to get it together and post again. Please see the most recent post, November 2014 Update.