Front yard renovation

Since we looked at photos of the house that we ended up buying online, I have hated the junipers out front.  Like enough to almost not go see it.  Strangely, the two things that I hated the most about the house, I have lived with for nearly 3 years.  Those are the kitchen floor (you’ve seen photos, it’s terrible) and the junipers out front. They are nearly 40 years old and have been feeding on the yard ever since they were planted.

overgrown junipers and dead lawn
overgrown junipers and dead lawn
overgrown junipers and dead lawn
overgrown junipers eating lawn
The first summer that we lived in the house, we were under the impression that the grass would go dormant, and then when autumn came, it would grow back.  So we did not water it.  That was not the best decision that we could have made.  It turns out that not watering your lawn during a record breaking hot summer in the PNW makes your lawn die instead of going dormant.  Like…. All the way dead.  We learned our lesson the hard way.  Ever since that summer, the state of the “lawn” has been a point of contention.  I really have no interest in having a front lawn, but I also don’t feel up to figuring out a non-lawn landscaping solution financially. 
totally dead lawn
This summer (2 summers after the lawn had died!) the issue finally came to a head.  It wasn’t something that I was interested in dealing with, but knew that I needed to, and Craig was sick of having the house look like meth addicts live here, so we agreed to replant the grass (le sigh) and TEAR OUT THE FREAKING JUNIPERS!!!!!  Craig got his grass, and I got the juniper removal.  It seemed like an ideal compromise.  Especially because I can take the grass out in 2-3 years and the junipers will still be gone!
tearing out a lawn using a dethatcher
The agreement was to replant the grass, because once the junipers came out, the totally dead grass would be a lot more visible to passers-by.  So I posted on the lawn subforum of the gardening forum I’m on, and got a reasonable plan to fix our problem.  The solution:  Spray round up, water for a week, spray round up, water for another week, rent a lawn dethatcher, set it on lowest setting, destroy structure of dead grass, spread some real soil (over the pure sand and rock base we have!), rent a lawn roller, and seed.  Then water 3x/day every day for 3+ weeks.  OK!  I can handle that.
lawn dethatcher
So we got started.  And it was easy.  But we had all of this dead grass that needed to come off of the lawn, and we didn’t want to pay to remove it, then pay to have more dirt delivered when the junipers eventually came out, so we figured we’d open up  a small gap in the back(house side) of the junipers.  But then Craig’s best friend, Ian, got a little carried away with the chainsaw, and the plan quickly became “open up the whole back of the junipers to make the lawn project easier.”  And then when that got done, it became “let’s just take the whole front side of those junipers out too.”  So we did.  chainsawing some junipers
pulling out juniper branches
pulling out juniper branches
Craig was not amused. 
cutting out juniper bushes
in the process of removing junipers
juniper pile
juniper pile
The next day I rented a uhaul truck and took the brush to the local yard waste recycling center.  The uhaul rental and recycling fees were the best money we have EVER spent on the house.  There were 9 stumps left over.  They were about 4 feet apart each.  Awesome.  Good planning old people who landscaped the house.  After spending 2+ hours digging out 2 stumps, I determined that there were only 6 of the 9 that REALLY needed to come out.  We’d bury the others!  Oh yeah, we have power lines running directly under those stumps, so no pulling them out with the jeep!  The 6 stumps that I dug out took me 8-10 hours in the evenings over the course of the work week.
juniper pile
empty naked front yard
naked front yard
juniper stumps
Saturday morning we had 10 yards of compost delivered.  About 2-3 yards went in a thin layer over the new lawn area. The remainder went into building up a berm where those hellspawn bushes once lived.
landscaping design
freshly planted grass seed
Now let me tell you about my rock.  For years, I have wanted to get a big rock and put our address numbers on it, and put it on the corner by the driveway.  Craig tends to have negative responses to things and then eventually warms up to them.  But every time I mentioned it, he always had a negative response, generally “they are only seen on nice houses” and “sounds like it costs a lot of money.”  But I was pretty confident on how great a rock would look there, and I don’t tend to make bad landscape design decisions (if I may toot my own horn a wee bit!).  Part of the agreement that we reached when removing the first half of the junipers was that we plant the first portion of the berm (next to the driveway – where I wanted my rock!) so it didn’t look like we just had a huge dirt berm.  Since I KNEW that I wanted my rock there, I was going to have it.  But I had to figure out a way to make it work.  The most reasonable method that I had was to track down a sheet of interestingly shaped slate (that I could move (and hide!) by myself), then a rock to prop it up on.  Luckily the day that I hit the stone yard, found a great black, mountain-shaped piece of slate, and stuck it in the back of my car, Craig was not feeling well, and went to sleep at about 6:30.  So I pulled the sheet of slate out of my car, and tucked it into a corner of the house, behind a bush, and then set about trying to find a rock big enough to prop it up.  I found that rock in the far corner of our back yard.  So I stealthily rolled it up the hill, tediously, and into the front yard to check to see how it would look with my slate, and it looked PERFECT.  So I tucked the slate away and went about my business.  A couple days later, Craig spotted the slate and asked about it.  I dismissed it as “oh, I just got it for the yard, it’ll look good, promise.”
new drought tolerant planting

When we got the soil spread out, we leveled and rolled the soil out in the lawn area.  Then Craig took off for the store and I rushed to get my rock into place and place the potted plants around it before he got back home!  Did you know I decided to go with all drought-resistant plants?  I don’t want to be out watering a few times a week all summer long.  I can handle that for a year for the plants to get established, but not long term.  Everything but the lawn will be drought tolerant in the front of the house.  Regardless, when he came back, he finally saw how awesome our rock looked, and understood my vision.  After picking up a few more plants that afternoon, we got everything in the ground and have had a great response to the landscaping.  About 1/3 of all the cars that drive by have been slowing way down to take a big look at how great things look!
new drought tolerant planting
We can’t wait for the lawn to grow and the plants to fill in a bit.  We are SO pleased with how it has turned out.
Cost breakdown (after tax):
Lawn thatcher rental – $127
Grass seed and water timer – $60
Lawn fertilizer, new plants, more gloves, etc – $75
Uhaul rental – $50
Yard Waste Recycling – $150
10 yards of compost – $315
Lawn rolly compactor $20
My rock – $21
More plants – $75
New chainsaw chain – $26
More plants that were needing to be moved from the back yard – $0
= $899  total
new drought tolerant planting

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