Lawns can be a soothing, oasis of green. However, lawns can be a water hog and a time usurper (mowing, fertilizing, weeding). And time is something we all could use a bit more of. And frankly, if one has a large lawn, why not remove one-third of it and put it to a better purpose, while reducing water use and increasing free time?
This was our goal for 2009. And by Memorial Day weekend of 2010, Mission Accomplished! Here's what we did:
June-July 2009: Kill off 1600 square feet of our 5000 square foot lawn, an area dominated by every gardener's perennial nemesis, bermudagrass. Because of the surrounding trees and shrubs, as well as possible adverse health effects using an herbicide weed killer such as glyphosate (Roundup), we chose to organically rid ourselves of that lawn, using soil solarization (complete instructions at that website).
A piece of advice, learned the hard way: yes, you could purchase a clear plastic drop cloth from the paint aisle at the big box store, and it would work...for a couple of weeks. After that, it deteriorates in the sun to the point where it becomes confetti-like, ripping and flying in the slightest breeze. Choose a clear plastic that has been treated to withstand UV rays.
September 2009 (hey, I never claimed to be a fast worker): After much discussion asking ourselves the question, "now what?", we bring in the professionals for design ideas. We would choose our own plants; design, though, is not our strong suit. Landscape Designer Colleen Hamilton from Bloomin' Landscape Designs drew up the plan, along with landscape contractor Dave Rhodes from Rhodes Landscape Design, who did the installation.
November 2009: The destruction/construction process begins. The crew from Rhodes Landscaping used a sod cutter to remove the root area of the bermudagrass. The pathways, brick patio, lighting and garden fountain are installed.
After the crews left, we wheelbarrowed in 15 yards of compost, and topped that with 10 yards of an organic mulch, walk-on bark. And then we wait to see how the area drains after a heavy rainstorm.
February 2010: Glad we waited before planting. There were a couple of puddles still standing in the area, 24 hours after several days of heavy rain. Digging a sump (a deep hole, lined and filled with river rock) in those two small areas solved that dilemma.
March-April 2010: Retrofit the sprinkler irrigation system, and convert it to a drip irrigation system. Cap off three of the five sprinkler heads in the area; convert the remaining two with drip irrigation adapters. Lay half-inch drip line in the area where we plan to plant.
April-May 2010: Choose plants! Mostly edible ornamentals. An excellent resource for this information is Rosalind Creasy, who has written several books on the topic. For the blueberries, which required excellent drainage and very acidic soil, we brought in three cattle watering troughs, with large holes drilled in the bottoms of the containers. Several varieties of citrus were planted directly into the ground. Ground cover along the pool walkway included varieties of oregano.
June 2010: We watch it grow, while using a lot less water! Best of all, the bermudagrass hasn't showed its ugly head...yet. Now, about that patio furniture...