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Redesigning the front garden

HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
Part 1:
This is what the front of our house looked like when we purchased it.
There were several reasons that change was necessary.
  • Firstly, OH is the one that does all the mowing and we like to limit the area of grass so that we get to enjoy more time with him rather than just watching him push the mower from the window. Our last place had a lot of grass, so we had vowed never to do that again. Plus, we like to grow our own food. We prefer a more agricultural look.

  • We also prefer to use our space and watering efficiently. The front outside tap is broken and won't be repaired until late fall at the earliest, so everything planted has to be reached from a single hose out back-where there is already a huge yard that requires much more attention. Two watering timers are set up on a single tap to cover all the space. OH had to daisy chain the timers.

  • Though the grass looks green in this photo, the following spring there was far more moss than grass. We have a bit of a drainage issue where too much water is flowing down from developments above us. We knew we were going to have to redo the driveway and cement in the garage before we purchased the house. Planning for this, we moved the japanese maple tree (on the right) in November 2018 to our backyard. 

    This is the plan for the driveway:
  • To accomplish the driveway and garage reno we will need to temporarily park a bin for the debri (the maple is thriving in its new location. It would not have been so happy with a rubble bin on top of it, or struggling for water all summer. Not only would it have needed watering, but the runoff from it would just aggravate the drainage issue in the garage.)

    This is the design for the front garden pathway:

We are avid hikers-usually-two toddlers has stunted that a bit of late. The plan is to accumulate more flat rocks in our travels for expanding the pathway to more closely resemble the one above. There were many already in the back paths that got freed up when I redesigned it early this spring-they are the ones laid down to date.


  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    June 19, 2019:

    Our salvation was reading about the use of micro-clover to replace the traditional lawn. We wanted to convert the front into a space full of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, but were not sure how to mulch/fill the pathways around the flat rocks. It will act as a weed suppressant, require less watering once established, feed the bees, and can be trod upon.
    To start the process off, OH ran the sod cutter over the front.

    We used the best sod in the backyard to replace some river rock under our Katsura tree. It needed a better mulch than landscaping fabric, hard packed clay soil and heavy river rock over top of the starving roots. It has since thrived, and provided us with a cool, sheltered are to play in the backyard.
    The remaining sod was laid upside down in five compost bins next to our blueberry hedge on the north end of our backyard. Every layer of sod got a sprinkling of coffee grounds-collected from local coffee shops. The method has worked extremely well for speeding up the decomposition in the past. Our household compost has also been poured in over-top throughout the summer. This includes grey water from boiled vegetables. I have already been able to use compost from the bins when planting perennials purchased this summer and look forward to spreading it over the beds this fall.
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    June 25, 2019:
    As you can see it has been a bit of an unsightly mess, but the ends justify the means, right?

    This was from four days earlier. The neighborhood dubbed him 'OMG!!!' Which pretty much sums up their response to the process. ;) After having so many people stop and stare, we wanted to lighten things up a bit. I figured anybody that was going to be offended, already was.
    A couple compostable starter pots made the eyes, and a deceased solar light made the nose.

    Disclaimer: It was only up for 48 hours at the most. The irony is there are some very run down front lawns in our neighborhood with many, many healthy weeds going to seed.  Plus, when the heat wave kicks in in early spring and then summer, nobody can keep the front meter of their lawn green anyway, so we didn't feel like the grass was a loss. So, we were slightly offended to be drawing so much ire when we were purely trying to improve things for the long term.
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    June 27, 2019:
    You can see from this picture how much the flowerbed is struggling even with a drip line running through it. The north side got more rain water and was brimming with snapdragons, but any additional poppy, sunflower, and even morning glory seeds I sowed didn't take this year. (I am sure they will come back to haunt me next year). Shockingly the pre-existing hostas have managed to survive and bloom. I later found Crocosmia lucifer bulbs hidden next to the Summer Lovin' Hosta at the top of the picture, but they had the bare minimum signs of life. I moved them to the back with some I had purchased from the garden center and they are now in full bloom, if somewhat shorter than normal.
    Word of advice if you are using a sod cutter. If running it after a dry spell, ensure you water well first. It will make the process much easier for you. :/
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    June 29, 2019:Sod is cleared and the pumpkins are going in.
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    July 5, 2019:Soil was purchased from our garden center and spread around the pumpkins. OH raked the excess around and leveled things out in preparation for the clover. 2 packets worth of Nasturtiums (red, orange and yellow) planted between each pumpkin plant and cosmos (red, orange and yellow were planted from seedlings on the edge of the rows (along the central pathway). Later OH and little finch sowed the micro-clover around the rows of pumpkins. (You can see some of the sod peeking out from under the pumpkin plants. Some was laid in rows upside down to provide extra nutrients for the growing plants.)
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    July 8, 2019:
    The flat rock pathway greatly improved the neighborhood outlook of the space. The bare gap on the right is in anticipation for the driveway waste bin. There was no point in planting pumpkins there when we didn't know when the driveway project would be started. There is a row of sunflowers, cosmos and marigolds to fill the front with color for now.
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    July 19, 2019:And the clover is growing-along with some weeds ;) All powered by one lone hose running from the back on a timer. ....And still no poppies.
  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327
    July 30:

  • HouseFinchHouseFinch British Columbia, Canada (Zone 5)Posts: 327

  • EricaheatherEricaheather North West uk Posts: 204
    Fantastic transformation. Well done! 
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