Today we’re sharing the before + after of our urban front yard landscaping project. Keep reading for what we hired out, what we DIY-ed and how much it all cost.
It’s official, we’ve nixed all the green grass from our front and back yards, and it feels… like a relief? Magical? One less thing on the to-do list every Saturday morning? Yes, yes, and yes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a grassy lawn (see exhibit A right here), but the yard we’d worked hard to manicure for years was no longer working for us. It’s a pass through to the backyard, and sometimes, we’d lay down a picnic blanket and eat takeout on the small patch of lawn.
More than anything, it was feeling untidy after months of construction work on our home’s exterior, and the juniper trees we planted 7 years ago were unruly – beautiful, but unruly nonetheless. We craved a landscape that would provide more interest, more color and more to explore, and so, we came up with a plan:
Front Yard | Before
Front Yard | Today!
We don’t miss that tight + tidy manicured lawn for a second. We’re thrilled with how this all came together! This feel much more like ‘us,’ and considering that this is only year one, we cannot wait to see all our plantings form into one cohesive, natural living thing. With the help of our landscape consultation, we’ll have varying heights, blooms and ground cover that’ll take us from spring through fall – and you can see we still kept one of our evergreens for winter color, too.
The Starting Point
Below, you can see a glimpse of our completed front porch, which included taking down the lattice and adding a for-looks-only support in the center. This opened everything up and gave us a starting point. From there, we went to Lurvey’s Garden Center and picked up every plant on our list. When we got home, we followed the design sketch to lay out the plants and see our plan take shape:
Not long after plant shopping, you might remember that we added an Underground Downspout to the far corner of the front yard. We also hired a contractor to knock out part of our concrete sidewalk that would soon be replaced with pavers. That brings me to…
Laying the Pavers
… laying the pavers! And wow. Wow, laying pavers is no small feat. We shared in real time our struggles with the paver layout, and we ultimately had a friend (thank you, Toby!) help us finalize the pattern. But I would say the hardest part of the job is moving each paver, digging into hard soil, moving the pavers again, grading, and moving the pavers yet again (and probably one. more. time. after that). Pavers are heavy, but hey, we got a little buff in the process!
Speaking of which, the process was straight forward, but time consuming. I have so much respect for anyone who does this for a living! Here’s a simple breakdown of each step:
- Remove the grass and grade the soil | For our small lawn, we used a shovel to remove and dispose of the grass, but a larger yard would benefit from using a tiller.
- Dig down 4″ along the paver path | This sets the stage for 1-2″ of paver base + our 2″ thick pavers. Below, you can see that we used string to ensure level from front to back. To dig down, Scott and I both picked up our shovels and got to work!
- Lay the paver base | Laying paver base makes for a more level surface and prevents pavers from sinking into the earth. We used about 1″ of crushed limestone on the bottom, followed by 1″ of paver base sand to fill the cracks. If you’re local, we purchased the limestone and base from Chicago Land Materials, and we had an awesome experience with them!
- Lay the pavers and level, level, level! | Then it was time to lay the pavers! We used these 12″ x 24″ Unilock Arcana pavers in the color Lugano, and we ordered them through Lurvey’s Garden Center. Despite all the grading and leveling we’d already done with the soil and paver base, we still measured and leveled each paver as we set them down.
- Back fill and mulch | With the pavers in place, we back filled around them with soil, put our plants in the ground and mulched. Whew, we did it!
Here’s another before and after, because they’re so fun! You’ll notice that the row of hostas lining the fence are missing in the ‘after’ photo, because we’d already cut them back for the season. We can’t wait to see them fill in next spring!
Front Yard | Before
Front Yard | Today!
The pavers really helped us achieve a proper path from the front of our home, around to our back patio. Our back patio is a gathering hub for most of our block, whereas the front yard sets the tone for how we want our home to feel. Manicured, but layered. For the first time ever, the pavers guide our friends around the back, down our Chicago gangway and into our backyard oasis.
Before + After
Let’s Talk About the Plants!
We’re big plant lovers, and over the years, we have a mostly green thumb. But one thing we’re not good at – at all! – is understanding when a plant blooms, how long we should expect blooms to last, and how tall + wide each plant will be at maturity. This is why we hired a landscape designer to consult with us! We described our style as quirky and whimsical, and we let him know that we prefer white and purple flowers. I mean, give us whimsy, but we still want a little bit of control, haha!
There are a few plants that have dropped leaves since planting, but our landscape designer assured us that if we scratch the stem and see green, they will be just fine. (We did, and they’re green, phew.) Perhaps the plant I’m most excited to see take off is a Syringa, aka “Miss Kim,’ and no, not just because we share a name, ha. It’s a form of lilac that produces the prettiest purple blooms, and I have dreams of hoarding fresh clippings for our dining room.
And above, do you see that reddish ground cover near the Cheyenne Sky grass? That’s sedum we had in our garden that we saved and dispersed throughout the landscaping. It has a reputation of taking off quickly, and the hope is that the sedum will cover most of the mulch in a year or two!
A Place for Coffee and Sandwiches
In sharing our beautiful bench being delivered on Instagram, I made the offhand comment that it will be the perfect place for ‘morning coffee and sandwiches.’ Scott hasn’t let me forget it, and now anytime I make myself a sandwich, he asks if I’d like to sit on the garden bench. Very funny, Scott! Joke’s on him, because why yes, who wouldn’t want to eat a sandwich on this bench?
Now for the final tally of how far we could stretch our garden funds! I’m breaking down how and where each dollar was spent, in case it’s helpful as you make your own plans. All costs include delivery of heavy items, such as the limestone and paver base.
- Landscape Designer consultation + plans = $350
- Underground Downspouts + materials = $100
- Plants = $470
- Crushed limestone + paver base = $320
- Pavers for a 15′ path = $350
- Mulch = $40
TOTAL = $1,630
What the total above does not include is landscape lighting! We can’t decide which route to take. Path lighting? Solar powered? Wired? Smart lighting? This is a project we’d like to tackle by spring.
Thank you for following along as we shared the process on the blog and in real time on Instagram! I’m looking forward to sharing the progress of the yard as it grows year after year. Is there anything we didn’t answer? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think! xx