DIY Lawn Replacement: Plant Success Report

Front yard in three planting beds

Front yard in three planting beds, September 2015

When I was selecting plants for my front yard, I had a challenging time guessing which plants would do well, especially the natives. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there about which native plants take well to PNW Puget Lowlands gardens (or maybe I was looking in the wrong spots).

I planted between May and July 2015, shopping at multiple nurseries to get everything (and still couldn’t find everything I’d picked out), so I’m reporting back on how the plants I chose did after an extremely hot and dry summer. I think I had higher-than-normal mortality due to the drought, rabbits, and mistakenly thinking one section of my yard was much shadier than reality.

I’ve divided the blend of native, drought-tolerant, and wildlife-friendly plants into categories: favorites, doing well, surprises, meh, dying, dead, and scrapped.

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The Saga of a Puget Sound DIY Native & Pollinator Garden Lawn Replacement

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Over the past two years, I’ve dreamed of replacing my lawn with a native, drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden. As with all major projects, it didn’t go precisely as planned. I’m sharing my successes and misadventures so others in the Puget Lowlands who are considering replacing their lawns with a habitat garden can avoid repeating my mistakes.

I’ll update this post with links as I go.

Phase One: Planning

  • Layout Design
  • Plant Selection

Phase Two: Preparation

  • Removing the Lawn
  • Soil Testing & Amendment
sod cutting lawn

Sod cutting the lawn.

Phase Three: Installation

  • Plant shopping
  • Plant layout & planting
  • Lighting & hardscape

Phase Four: Survival

Phase Five: Future!

  • Replanting
  • Incorporating bulbs
  • Adding more mulch & fixing the soaker hoses

Giving Back to My Bioregion

But people aren’t the only ones we have to thank for our successes. Our community provides, our planet provides. To me, it makes sense for decisions about resources to be made at a bioregional scale, not just a state-wide scale. And why stop at resources – I think of my fellow Cascadians as comrades in decision-making and management, bound by geography and place.

As a homeowner, I appreciate Kirkland’s natural areas and wildlife, from the frogs chorusing in the pond across the street to the many parks that forward-thinking citizens of the past preserved. As a hiker and nature-lover, I benefit from the advocacy and hard work of hiking, outdoor, and recreation groups that fight to preserve and improve access to trails and maintain them.

Donations of cash obviously help local organizations, but there are more involved ways to give back, not just pay it back. What can I do to give back at home? There are tiers of “home” I try to consider: my house, my community, my bioregion.

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Giving Back to the Creative Community

No one is self-made. Everyone benefits from the help of others, whether simply being inspired by their work or creations or getting direct assistance from them. There’s a risk to self-improvement, that we could become so focused on ourselves that we forget about improving the world for others. As I realize more and more clearly the privileges I’ve had in developing my career and life, I think about how I can give back to the people and places that have brought me to the happy space I am now. I’m not formally-trained in graphic design, aside from a few no-credit community college classes – I’m community-trained. What can I do to give back to my fellow creatives?

As a graphic designer, I owe other creatives for their inspiring work, generous free textures and stock photos and typefaces, and helpful tutorials. As a writer, I’m learning from writers who share wisdom about the craft as well as business advice.

Giving back is an active form of gratitude, a way to make my appreciation public. Staying silent about the help I’ve had shaping my skills and lifestyle devalues those contributions. It might go without saying, but don’t make it go without doing.

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Worldbuilding Lessons from Norwescon 2015

Place directly influences both ecology and culture – even people, much as we resist admitting it, are shaped by where we live. Land masses affect climate, leading to rain shadows where the oceanward side of mountain ranges are much wetter than the landward side; oceans moderate temperature. Resources like minerals and plants depend on appropriate geology and climate. Americans traditionally fence our properties because we came to a vast country where wood is easily accessible (whereas Europe logged their forests far earlier). Tribes from Western Washington have cultures far different from Native Americans in the midwest, southwest, and east coast, based on varied climates and resources.

Drawing conclusions from the real world – past and present – helps writers and artists create more realistic science fiction and fantasy universes. I attended Norwescon for the first time this year, and spent the weekend immersed in panels that shared lots of insights about creating realistic worlds.

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