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.





Is location a self-fulfilling destiny?

I’m in the process of buying a house – something I’ve been putting off for quite a while, now, as my partner and I debate where to live.

Sure, we know we want to live in Washington State. But where in Washington?

There are so many possible ecosystems in which to make our home. Do we belong to the sea or the mountains? Given we can only travel so far in a day, we must choose our daily habitat.

Where we live is a framework for the structure of our lives. What is nearby? How long does it take to get to the places I go frequently? Where do I want to spend most of my time?

Is location destiny?

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Finding My Mountain

The Land is Part of Your Identity

In the pepeha, traditional Maori introduction, you introduce yourself with your mountain and your river. Your mountain and river are a part of you, a mark of where your home and heart lie. I’m not Maori, but I embrace this explicit relationship to the land. But what makes a mountain my mountain?

What Makes a Mountain Your Own?

Leaning on a madrone on Mount Tam

Enjoying madrones, my favorite type of tree, while hiking on Mount Tamalpais in California

Each person has different criteria. I want a mountain that holds its own, but isn’t necessarily the biggest or most impressive specimen. I’d prefer a mountain that I can visit frequently. I want to know its name and recognize it from all angles.

I am trying to adopt a new mountain. Four years ago I transplanted myself from California to Washington. Begrudgingly I traded my California driver’s license for a Washington one, my California voter’s registration for a Washington one — but my heart finds it harder to swap my mountain for a new one. Although I’m consciously trying to pick a mountain near my home in Seattle, I feel that choosing your mountain is more emotional than rational.
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