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Killing my yard

December 14 2010 | Ocean friendly garden, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

For the past few weekends I've been killing my backyard. Let me backup a bit and explain. A few years ago, we arguably had the ugliest front yard on our street. Imagine the brownest, most overgrown yard you've ever seen. It grew to such a state because several different forces came together to produce one ugly yard. The first error was made by whomever lived in our house prior. They planted a bunch of plants that should never have been planted in Southern California: water-hungry, fertilizer-craving bushes and a green lawn. The second mistake was clearly my fault. I didn't embrace the suburban 'water-and-fertilize-everything-until-it-becomes-green' mentality. The last element was the fact that my neighbors DID embrace that mentality, which by comparison just made my yard look even uglier than it would have in isolation. So I killed my front yard. I stopped watering everything. Everything died. We pulled it all out. In its place, we planted drought-tolerant plants and the yard was transformed into one of the best looking yards in the neighborhood (in my opinion). I don't have any "before" pictures, but on the left is an "after" shot. The beauty is that this yard works on so many levels. First of all it looks awesome. The yard saves me money because the plants are drought tolerant and require less water. They require no fertilizer and bloom naturally. Lastly the yard attracts wildlife like I've never seen--hummingbirds are always cruising around. Naturally...it's a great yard. And so my attention has turned to my backyard. Here is a photo of my backyard a few years ago. The backyard wasn't nearly as bad as the front yard. In fact it was a nice play area for my kids with many hiding spots for Easter eggs (see left). Yet I found myself reading more and more about Ocean Friendly Gardens (indigenous gardening design to live naturally in the local climate). I also found myself starting to love the natural landscaping our town of Solana Beach implemented a few years ago on its Rail Trail. Ultimately, I wanted to embrace the Ocean Friendly Garden concept at a deeper level which meant I needed to take on our backyard next. And so we killed my backyard. We ripped out everything--two palm trees, countless bushes, the lawn and everything else that really didn't belong. And today my backyard looks like this. It's dirt. All dirt. Actually the more accurate truth is that it's sand. All sand. This is Southern California and we don't have rich soil that regions in the north have. We have sand. And so the question becomes what will we plant in local sand with local rainfall patterns? I'll write a future post to show you the end product. But for now, we have a fair amount of work ahead of me. Stay tuned...
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