We recently moved into a new home and are so excited to have our very own yard! For most of our adult lives, Adam and I have lived in apartments or shared spaces so we've never been responsible for maintaining a lawn before. Well we were in for a big surprise when we got our first water bill. Even though we try to live sustainably, it turns out we were water pigs! In our first two months of living in our new home, we used nearly 20,000 gallons of water. That's A LOT. In fact, it's 73% more water than the average user in our neighborhood. As it turns out, we had a sprinkler system that we weren't aware of that was the main culprit in our massive water consumption. We turned it off immediately once we realized what the problem was, and vowed to reduce our water consumption as much as possible.

GOODBYE GRASS
Did you know that having a grass lawn is actually a huge water consumer? It takes 44 gallons of water per square foot per year to maintain a grass lawn. There are many alternative landscaping options to consider using drought resistant and native plants. In fact, San Diego has a rebate program that rewards homeowners for replacing their turf lawns with sustainable landscaping. You can read more about that on www.bewaterwise.com. A lot of our neighbors have really cool looking yards filled with native plants and succulents. The picture below is an example of the kind of beautiful landscaping you can put in place of a boring grass lawn. We're not a fan of the clean-cut grass look anyways, so we were super excited to redesign our lawn. It's definitely still a work in process, but let's see how far we've come!

Image via www.bewaterwise.com
Image via www.bewaterwise.com

BEFORE
We've got a good-sized front lawn, but it's pretty much all grass. Adam planted an Angel's Trumpet tree on each side of the walkway. These were little potted plants at our old apartment, but in a few years they should grow 6-8 feet tall and be filled with pink and yellow flowers.

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NEW PLANT SELECTION
We selected a variety of new plants that will reduce our water consumption and add a lot of new color and texture to our yard. We ordered them from www.plantclearance.com. Here's what we got:

- 13 flats of Purple Iceplant (Lampranthus Productus)
- 10 flats Orange Iceplant
- 4 five gallon Staked Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides)
- 12 one gallon Blue Chalk Sticks (Senecio Mandraliscae)
- 12 one gallon Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa Tenuissima)

Check them out below:

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We also decided to plant a couple fruit trees so we can enjoy cooking and baking with delicious home-grown produce. We got a Santa Rosa plum tree and Bearrs Lime tree from Armstrong Garden Centers. In total, we spent about $1000 on all the different plants for our yard.

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We already had this Meyer lemon tree in our side yard when we moved in, and let me tell you it is truly a gift that keeps on giving. It produces so many beautiful and delicious lemons, and their juice is so sweet and tangy. We use them all the time for cooking and baking. (Check out some of my favorite baking recipes here, including the Best Lemon Cake you'll ever have!)

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There's another good reason to get rid of your grass lawn - so that random animals won't leave poop surprises for you! A lot of neighbors walk their dogs past our house and let them poop in the yard. Adam got a bright yellow sign to deter the poopers. It's not my favorite, to be honest. I think it's a little tacky but Adam and I have an agreement - I'm head interior designer and he's chief landscaper, so it's not my decision. Well despite the sign, we've still been seeing regular poops on the lawn. I was like, "That is so rude! Who does that - just lets their dog poop on someone else's lawn and doesn't clean up after it?". Adam scoured our security footage to find the culprit, and it turns out it was actually a cat! There's a surly orange alleycat that roams our neighborhood (we call him One-Eyed Garfield because he's big and fat and missing an eye), and we caught him on camera leaving little presents for us. Haha!

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Anyways, here is a closer look at some of the ground cover we've selected for our yard. The little flowering ones are called ice plants. We got them in orange and pink, and they should fill in with lots of blooms to bring some color to our yard. The blue chalk sticks are a type of succulent that are drought-tolerant and need minimal watering.

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Before we can plant the new stuff, we have to fully remove the grass lawn. We need to get rid of all the grass so that the new plants can take root. Adam rented a tiller from Ocean Beach Equipment Rentals, and it cost about $40 for 3 hours. Basically, tilling just digs up all the old stuff and roughs up the soil to make it ready for planting. It was a good bit of hard labor, but Adam loves that kind of stuff. Check out some action shots below.

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Now that the lawn has been tilled, it just needs some cleaning up before we will be ready to lay down our new plants.

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Below is a little mock-up that Adam put together to give an idea of how the lawn will look once the new plants are in. The blue chalk sticks will line the sidewalk with the colorful ice plants mixed in behind that. And hopefully in a few years the Angel's Trumpets and plum tree will be well established and producing fruit and flowers. Stay tuned to see how things turn out!

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About the author: Laura Weatherbee
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