When we finish a yard, we create an informal sketch labeling all the plants for the client. If you applied for a rebate with the water district, we provide you the proper information about the plants in your yard to receive the rebate.
We apply a preparation of compost tea, which feeds beneficial soil organisms and helps the plants get settled in their new homes.
Once everything is all set up, it is time to relax, sit back, and watch the plants as they start to fill in!
When the plants are first planted, they look very small and spread out because we use young plants to minimize customer costs.
However, they will fill in when they reach their adult size.
After purchasing the healthiest and most compatible plants from the nursery, we place them around the yard to get a sense of spacing, balance, practicality, and beauty. Even though plants often start out small, we give them a lot of space to grow. Some plants, like Ceanothus, multiply in size several times even in the course of one year!
Once the plants are placed, they are ready to plant. We dig a hole in the mulch to create a pocket which we fill with planting compost. We add beneficial Mycorrhizal fungi to the plant roots to help establish the root system and improve the soil health.
When we install Natural Front Yards, we minimize the amount of large equipment that we use. A major reason people rototill and add compost when planting is to improve drainage. With our program, we allow for proper drainage in our local clay soil by planting high, with the plant crowns about 2″ above the soil surface, in the mulch.
Drip irrigation is routed to each plant from a rough grid of ½” tubing laid on the surface of the soil, but under the top layer of mulch. Smaller tubing with emitters spiral around the plants.
We make sure that your drip system is connected to a controller and that the controller is set to properly water the plants. We install a smart controller that automatically adjusts according to your local weather via the attach weather station that is mounted on your roof. During our final walk-through visit, we go over how to program the controller and how to adjust it as the plants become established.
From here, the yard is basically finished. We just need to add a few finishing touches.
Stay tuned for the last installment of the blog series!
We begin the installation with a process called sheet mulching. This process will keep the grass and other weeds from receiving any sunlight, preventing them from growing back. Mulch also reduces the amount of water that is needed, protects the soil from heat and evaporation, and eventually breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil. In the end, it help to build soil health so that it is looser, it feeds your plants, and it absorbs and holds onto more water, reducing storm water run-off.
We begin by removing unwanted plants and hardscape and mowing down weeds. If there is Bermuda grass, we scalp it with a weed wacker, pick, or tiller.
Next, we dig a trench around the hardscape edges of the yard to make sure that the mulch doesn’t spill onto sidewalks and driveways. The trench is usually 6-8″ deep and wide, but can vary depending on the slope of the yard. The extra soil from the trench is spread throughout the middle area or used to create a natural looking mound.
Our next step is to completely cover the ground with newspapers, builder’s paper, or cardboard and a thick layer of arbor mulch.
Typically the first layer will be “arbor mulch” obtained from an arborist. It is later covered by a 1″ layer of decorative bark.
Now the area is ready for planting, which will be the focus of the next blog post. Stay tuned!
While we specialize in installing environmentally sustainable yards, we are also happy to share the process with others. The process is quite simple, and this blog series will take steps to demystify it.
Whether you are a prospective customer wondering what will happen, or you want to transform your own front yard, this should prove helpful.
Analysis and Planning
When Earthcare Landscaping developed Natural Front Yards, we looked for ways to streamline and simplify the process of installing a yard. We replaced multiple design meetings and a strict set of plans with the Natural Front Yards system. The customers tell us their basic preferences, and we create a flexible plan based on the attributes and requirements of the space.
During our first visit we look at the space to determine if it qualifies for the program and to get an idea of plants that will look good in the yard. We discuss which plants the customer wants to stay, their general plant preferences and if they want any plants for screening. We also discuss whether they would like an add-ons such as boulders, walkways, walls or fruit trees. All plants will be included in the new drip irrigation system that will be installed. Once we have agreed to work together and we have a deposit, the customer is on the schedule and we are good to go.
This is also a good time to see if you qualify for a lawn replacement rebate. To find out, check your local water agency. Where we work, if the customer is in the Santa Clara Valley Water district, then they can move forward with getting a rebate on their Natural Front Yard.
Rather than creating a strict plan, we create a flexible plan that focuses largely on water-wise plants that look best at the nursery at the time. After everything has been installed, the owner receives a plan with all the plants labeled.
From here, we are ready for installation. Stay tuned for the next part of this series!