The most difficult part of transforming a lawn-based yard to a more sustainable and native variety is being patient. Unlike a single layer lawn, a drought tolerant garden requires some time for plants to settle in, mature, and eventually spread out to fill-in gaps once occupied by grass.

AHBE LAB

Our yard and lawn before we began the yard transformation for drought tolerance. Our yard and lawn before we began the yard transformation for drought tolerance.

When my husband and I – both of us landscape architects – purchased our home in Northeast Los Angeles in 2002, it came with a turf lawn with boxwood hedges and iceberg roses running along a white picket fence. Too provincial for our taste. But like the cobbler’s children who don’t have shoes, after buying the new house we were often too busy at work, and without the means, to transform our front yard into something more environmentally responsive and/or useful.

We did piecemeal landscaping in the front yard by pulling out the boxwood hedges and replacing them with New Zealand flax and Dodonea. Then two years ago we made the decision to turn off the irrigation system watering our front yard and purposely kill off the lawn. We also wanted a more substantial wood fence…

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