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 lawn replacement, 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.

(Check out the three-year garden update, with lessons learned about plant selection, garden design and the replacement process.)

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

AFTER: My pollinator garden in 2017

For two years, I dreamed of replacing my lawn with a native, drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden. Finally, I removed my old lawn and replaced it with a garden in 2015. Installation and updates during the first three years (2015 through 2017) cost just over $4,000. 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 / Seattle area who are considering replacing their lawns with a pollinator garden can avoid repeating my mistakes. See the three-year garden report!

BEFORE: My uninspiring “lawn” aka clover patch with two anchor shrubs in 2013

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.

Phase One: Planning

  • Layout Design
  • Plant Selection

Phase Two: Preparation

  • Removing the Lawn
  • Soil Testing & Amendment

Phase Three: Installation

  • sod cutting lawn

    Sod cutting the lawn.

    Plant shopping

  • Plant layout & planting
  • Lighting & hardscape

See how much it cost to DIY install our new garden.

Phase Four: Survival

My garden, three years after lawn replacement

Phase Five: Future!

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

Check out the garden after three years here – plus lessons learned on the replacement process, garden design and plant selection.

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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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