So remember how we lost all the grass in our front yard a couple of weeks ago, leaving us with nothing but bare dirt and a few wisps of hay like used-to-be-a-lawn?
Well, despite a momentary glimmer of hope when a couple of stalks of new grass appeared to be emerging, the effort & $$ we put into trying to reseed following the great lawn disaster of 2012 appears to be going nowhere. We have a few areas of fine, downy green fuzz, but mostly, nada.
I’ve been a bit bummed out about how heinous the whole space looks because after all the time and work I’ve put into making the surrounding garden beds pretty throughout the spring and summer, it’s letdown for sure to see my flowers and herbs and veggies now set against a swath of ugly dirt at just the time of year they’re taking off.
Our small front yard is not only our public foyer – as is the case for many urban Victorian houses – but it’s also the only outdoor space available to our kids at this point in our ongoing renovation. Our backyard is a mess still. Getting it overhauled is just not a high priority. We did fence it when we bought the house, but it’s basically owned by our two dogs for now, and while it has huge potential, it’s a rocky, weedy mess now.
Also, for some reason our backyard has multiple semi-buried piles of very old detritus, apparently left behind around the time our house was built in 1910 – bits of metal and glass, old nails and even shards of fine china. Since we moved in 6 years ago, Jon has hauled away TRUCKLOADS of this weird vintage junk from the backyard, yet he finds more regularly.
This is how our backyard looks at this point in time. The creek is about 25 feet behind the back fence.
So for all these reasons, the backyard is not yet usable by kids, leaving the small front yard as the only outdoor play space. And now that it’s a swath of dirt and fried grass, the kids don’t want to be out there, and when they are, they become filthy and track dirt everywhere indoors.
After reading up on growing new lawns, I realized that: A – we were likely going to have to shell out the money for actual sod carpet squares to put down over the whole thing to repair the danag, and B – mid-summer is not the smartest time to do that. So I resigned myself to hating what the front of our house looks like ’til next spring.
But then, an aha moment as I was perusing a gardening magazine, where I saw a story on people who had converted their front yards – mostly small, urban yards like ours – from traditional lawn with garden beds around the edges into full-on gardens of various types. The article showcased front yards converted to veggie patches, front yards transformed into formal English knot gardens, front yards morphed into stylishly overstuffed cottage gardens – you name it.
Suddenly, I knew what I wanted to do… And patient man that he is, Jon was cool with me taking a crack at making it happen, especially if it ends up meaning less mowing for him.
So each evening when I’ve gotten home from work, I’ve carefully surveyed our front yard from various angles, and I made a list of what I wanted out of a front yard garden.
My wish list:
- Eclectic, with a cottage garden feel, but with a little more structure & open space than many small front yard cottage garden designs I see.
- Navigable and not so overstuffed with plants that we can’t move around among the plants.
- Builds on the flower beds I’ve already worked so hard on, including my raised beds.
- Have natural stone pathways running through it.
- Make sure there’s still room for the kids to play, and for them to enjoy it as more of an outdoor, fairy-inhabited playroom rather than a “don’t touch!” garden
-Include little “mini spaces” in the garden for sitting.
- Built around mostly easy care perennials that will give 3 seasons of color
Since deciding that the yard will be converted into a real garden instead of being a lawn with a garden, I’ve been clipping photos out of magazines and online, and I’ve sketched out shapes and dimensions on a notepad. I also got input on design from my neighbor S., who is both a keen gardener as well as an architect.
She reminded me not to be impatient because even with my tiny space, the type of garden I envision will be a work in progress for at least several years as I’m able to add elements that I want in the seasons appropriate for adding them. She also suggested starting with only half the yard, and dividing it into quadrants via the stepping stone pathways, and planning for an eventual central focal point, which we decided will likely be a very small pond when I think the time is right to add that. So even though I can’t have the water feature in the center of the garden now, the design will allow that to be added easily later.
I’m excited about this plan!
Obviously, late July is not the best time to plant, well, almost anything. However, on the upside of getting started now, many of the perennials I love the most are majorly on sale now because it’s late in the season. So I decided to start with some bargain basement foundation plants that can happily go into the new garden now, even if they won’t fully hit their stride ’til next year, and then add some easy annuals here and there to make the new garden look a little more “finished” for the last few months of this year. I definitely won’t be able to afford the time or money to fully plant the new garden this summer, but I can get the shape started, and add some things now, and more next year.
So tonight I assembled the plants I’ve bought each evening this week in my late night garden center discount shopping trips, and I dug in.
I will share photos as I slowly make progress on this rather large project, and here are the first baby steps. Remember that it’s all going to look messy, dirty and unfinished for a while as I am in the thick of it. The way it looks as I work isn’t at all the way it will all look when I’m finished
But with that said…
Here are some of the plants I’m putting in in phase one, all lined up on the edge of what’s now a dead lawn but what will soon be my eclectic front yard garden.
Here’s a wider view of the side of the yard to be overhauled. Gotta love that dirt and dead grass.
First stepping stone of pathway in place. All the rocks I will use are ones I am hauling one at a time from our backyard to the front. At one time, someone must have had a real garden back there because under all the weeds and ivy are remnants of stone walls and pathways, so there’s excellent foraging for me to use in my new front garden project.
More progress Saturday morning…