Thursday, April 26, 2012

{DIY} New Lawn & Landscape

After multiple failed attempts to get on HGTV's Curb Appeal, we finally conceded that we were gonna have to get our hands dirty and fix up the front of our place ourselves. 

This is a pretty slow process since we're learning as we go, and, well, with a toddler and a newborn, and all our pets, and full time jobs, we've got a lot on our plate already.  But as slow as it is, it's also very rewarding to see the improvements come to fruition and know that we CAN do this.

If you remember, this was the front view of our property when we bought it. you can't really tell, but we had a single-car, asphalt driveway, which we had replaced last summer, with a double-car stamped concrete driveway with matching path and flowerbed walls {still in love with our new driveway too!}.  See that project HERE.

After {imagine a tree in the open spot in the curb}


In addition to the driveway, we had new windows put in, and replaced the front fence {necessary since the old fence was so rotted, Domino could break through it}. 

We also dug up the front yard quite a while ago in preparation for a new lawn.  Well, it started with trying to get rid of a few weeds, which turned into digging up the entire yard thanks to years and years of root growth.  And since we weren't quite ready to tackle the lawn project, we had a dirt lawn for almost a year!

It got to the point that a neighbor sent his gardener over to give us a quote on fixing our front yard!! Okay, this neighbor is one of our good friends, but we got the message.

But in reality, we were making progress. 


I'm no landscaper, but I drew out what I thought would be a nice plan for the front yard.  Rather than just a lawn, I thought we should try a border along the front and side which we'd fill with flower bushes.  I was hoping this would look nice and save us some water {and $$}.


Rogér installed the sprinkler system {100% himself} over the winter.  We had to wait for some rain to soften up the ground, and unfortunately, this was the least rainy winter we've ever had here.  We used Rainbird because they have a good reputation and if you send in the dimensions of your yard, they'll send you back a plan with the parts list and recommended sprinkler head locations.

Since we still had a lot of work to do as far as getting tilling the ground, Rogér put the sprinkler pipes almost a foot deep.  That way, when we tilled, we wouldn't hit the lines.

After the sprinkler system was in and tested {it worked beautifully with no leaks!}, we tilled a few times to dig up the remaining weed roots.

We had originally planned to put down grass seed, but our dirt was so rocky that we were worried about the seed growing in evenly.  Plus, many of our friends that have put in lawns recommended sod, so we switched the plan to sod.  Of course, reading up on sod, we realized we were gonna have to get rid of all the rocks anyway!  Ugh!

We read that we had to sift the dirt to remove any rocks bigger than 1/2 inch.  Wow, was this painstaking!  We picked up some wire mesh at Home Depot and used some scrap wood to make sifters.  Foot by foot, we shoveled dirt into the sifters and removed the rocks.  We had done about 1/8th of the yard, which took a couple weeks, when a gardener who works on the house across the street saw me shoveling and sifting {9mos preggo} and came over to tell me that we definitely did NOT need to go through all that work.  He said no landscaper would go through all that trouble, and as long as we got out the BIG rocks, we would be fine.

Taking his advice, we moved really quickly through the rest of the dirt. 

We still had to till a few more times to loosen the ground and remove big rocks and weed roots.  Total, we probably tilled about 5 times, although we had to break it up into multiple sessions due to time and weather constraints.

The gardener also recommended that we mix some redwood mulch into the dirt since our ground was clay rich.  We didn't end up doing that, but we did put in some grass fertilizer that was leftover from a friend's lawn.

Next, we raked and leveled the heck out of the dirt, using a borrowed landscape rake and wheelbarrow, until we were happy with the levelness and pitch of the yard. 

Note: you want a level yard, but with a low pitch down towards the street, so the water will run off towards the street.

We also put in the border so we knew where to stop the sod.  Throughout this process, my mom kept saying things like "THEY might ruin our border when THEY install the sod," and "When are THEY going to do the sod?"  Every time, I reminded her that there is no THEY, only US.  Haha.

4. SOD

We ordered our sod from U-Save Rockery.  It actually came from Sacramento, which was fine since our soil is really good soil.  We've heard that if you have temperamental soil, you will have to get local sod.

Once the sod arrived, it only took a few hours for Rogér and his dad to get it laid in.   This was probably the easiest  and the most rewarding part because we actually had a lawn when it was done!

We read that the best way to lay the sod is so the seems in each row are staggered like bricks.

TIP: For filling in the odd shaped edges, Roger found that cutting the sod from the back {dirt side} worked best.  He used a linoleum knife.

                                                                After laying the sod, Rogér and his dad took turns rolling it out. {U-Save provides a free sod roller for a day with your order}.

And voila!  We have a yard!


I had picked out a few flowers from a local nursery with the help of my mom, and we quickly added those to the border area.  The flowers are all full sun and hearty plants to minimize our water usage and maintenance.  The plants still need to grow and we'll fill in more as we're ready.

We installed a drip system to water the plants in the border area and adjusted some of the sprinkler heads so that they would hit every inch of the new grass.

For about a week afterwards, I was still surprised every time I looked out the window and saw our nice lawn!  We also got a lot of compliments from all the neighbors, who I'm sure are pleased after worrying that we would bring down the neighborhood forever.

This was truly a DIY project, and we are super proud of it! 


  1. Ahhhh! It looks so good! Can't wait till next Friday to hang out with you and Cid! :-)

  2. You guys did a great job in doing your own lawn and landscaping! It looks really nice to add life to your front yard. You have a good team of DIY people! It's always so convenient to have them around in the family.

    Katy Eagles

    1. Thank you Katy! We totally appreciated my mom's and Roger's dad's help :)

  3. You did an amazing job of your front yard! It's quite simple, but it added glamor to the curb appeal of your house. A year’s passed already and I wonder if you still altered your landscape. Did you add some flowering plants there? :)

  4. Hi Geraldine! OMG, a year has passed! I am very behind on the blog. Yes, we planted a rock rose, some daisies, lamb's ear, a couple types of ornamental grasses and a few others that I can't remember the names of. I really should update the photo, but since we are in the middle of a drought, the lawn and plants are not looking their best.


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