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 and gates, so we removed most of the plants alongside the remaining turf.

After - yard

AFTER - View from Sidewalk
After the fence was built by a contractor, we then hired a certified irrigation specialist to install drip irrigation lines and we planted some ornamental grasses, a Dodonea hedge by the fence, 3 lemon trees between the sidewalk and the fence, and some focal point Agaves as a backbone for the planting. As we find drought tolerant plants we like, we have been filling in with plants such as Gaura and will continue to do so. A thick layer of wood mulch covers the ground and drip lines between the plants.

AFTER - Agave, Mulch, Dodonea, drip irrigation
A note we want to pass onto others planning to convert turf to a more drought tolerant landscape: it is definitely a process that takes time and effort, but is worth the effort to save water.


One Comment

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  1. July 1, 2015

    Reblogged this on Typefiend™ and commented:
    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.


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