Horrible Front Yard Help!

wheresmyshovel(7)July 26, 2009

I hope I'm posting this in the correct forum...

We have a weird front yard that slopes down toward our house from the cul-de-sac. I'm at complete loss as to what to plant in the flower bed. There is a nice crape myrtle in the middle of the bed already and I would like to keep it, but I have absolutely no clue what else to do. I would like to try and hide the utility boxes that run along the property line and also our neighbor's plants if possible. I'm looking for things that are relatively easy to care for and that won't break the bank. Anything but knockout roses.. we have a bunch of them in another flower bed and along the front of the house. :P

The area gets constant sun from morning to night. I'll need to plant things that can take the harsh heat and humidity of a Georgia summer.

Right now its just a weed infested eye sore. Any help would be appreciated. I've tried to look on the internet for ideas, but I can't seem to find a yard like mine, so I figured I'd come to the experts! Thanks in advance!

I'll try to figure out how to post a picture here in a second.

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Here is a couple of pictures of the space:

Please let me know if you need different views or anything. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 1:11PM
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A bit more information, please? Sandy soil? Is the bed watered by irrigation system? If so, how many times a week?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 5:31PM
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I tried to respond to this, but it didn't work or the post went somewhere else.

The soil is red clay. Unfortunately, I don't have an irrigation system. I have to use the old hose and sprinkler or hand watering method. I believe we are on an odd/even watering schedule in my area, but I'm willing to sneak in extra watering time if necessary.

Thanks so much for the response! I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to gardening but I'm excited to learn. :)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 6:02PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Will junipers grow for you? I may be sounding like a broken record here, at least for regulars in the forum, but there are some very cool junipers. Or you could look into Microbiota, which is similar - it's cold hardier, no idea how it likes heat.

One of the most eye catching front yards I drive by has an expanse of gravel with one very flat creeping blue juniper - yes, ONE - planted in the middle. If I were doing that I'd prefer mulch, but the idea would be the same.

OK, you could plant a few different junipers, to cover the space faster. Some are flat, some a bit more arching or mounding. But they are all impressive plants that are very effective at covering the ground.

You could put perennials or annuals in between for seasonal colour.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:47AM
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I know it's ugly and you want to fix it fast, but if you're on water restrictions, I'd hold off on planting anything or at least not too much until you've got a bit more water.

I feel your pain. I've been working on landscaping for the past 1.5 yrs, a lot of that during drought. I've held off on a ton of things I want to do because I just can't justify the water use.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 9:20AM
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The first thing I would do would be to Roundup/kill all the weeds. Two applications, 2-3 weeks apart. I would also edge the area to prevent the bermuda from invading so fast. Mow to remove the dead stuff and add a few inches of topsoil. Then a couple inches of mulch of a color that you like and ties in your other beds. It will look 100% better doing just that.
When you plant, you can mix some of the top soil with the clay in the hole and add some Nature's Helper (orgainc material)and some slow release fertilizer for good measure.
It looks like the utility boxes can be blocked from view by plants 3' high. Some mid sized ornamental grasses can do that. The most bulletproof plants I have found are ornamental grasses, black eyed susans, daisies, junipers and iceplant. You can have that area looking very nice quickly if you like those plants. You will have to water for a couple of months to get them established.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:14AM
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From the U of GA College of Agricultural Sciences...

"For hot, dry, sunny sites, consider one of the horizontal or creeping junipers, such as Blue Rug, Prince of Wales or Blue Pacific. Junipers are tough as nails once they're established. They can survive long periods of limited rainfall."

Article goes on to offer...

"Other great choices for dry, sunny sites include yarrow, hardy ice plant, day lily, liriope, mondo grass, sedum."

I like the idea of cleaning the space up and mulching it over initially. I also like creeping junipers - pick a few of the right ones and they can cover the area. Microbiota decussata (Siberian cyprss, Russian arborvitae) has hardiness zones of 3-7 and 2-8 listed, but a couple of sites mention it doesn't do well in heat and humidity.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 11:32AM
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Thank you so much for all of the wonderful ideas and suggestions! I've already began the "weeding" process and when that is finished it looks like I'll be off to buy pine straw (since it is used in the other beds) and a lot of junipers along with many of the other of the other plants mentioned.

Once again, thank you for the responses. I just couldn't figure out what to do with the space and was getting overwhelmed. Junipers never even crossed my mind, but now I have a plan. You guys are the best. :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:24PM
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A few thoughts to add to your plan:

1. Georgia clay contains a fair amount of nutrition. The secret is to figure out how to break it down into soil. Pine needle mulch will not do the job for you as well as pine bark compost. Check around your area for a business that services landscapers with stone and various mulches where you can get a pick-up truck full or fill garbage cans with pine bark mulch purchased in bulk form. It is not very expensive and worth every penny in your situation. Spread this mulch at least 3 inches deep over the bed once weeds are removed. Plan to add additional pine bark mulch every year.

2. To further turn the clay into a friable soil you need to purchase two items. The first is a hose end sprayer available at Lowes, Home Depot or nurseries. The second item is found at Target or Walmart stocked with regular dishwashing products. It is an organic dishwashing liquid named Method Go-Naked. This is a surfactant. Do a search for surfactant to understand what it is. Every other month, summer and winter, you should fill the hose end sprayer about half full with pure strength Method Go-Naked, set the dial on 3 tablespoons per gallon and drench the entire bed. It will not harm any plants growing there.

3. Now, what to plant. The idea of creeping juniper works and I would strongly suggest you plant Shore juniper (Juniperus conferta) which usually is available at box store nurseries You should have no problem locating various colors of Lantana which also do well in drought. Select the color you like and plant these also. They will spread, providing late spring/summer/fall color. In late fall they will die back for the winter and this is a good time to cut them to the ground and go on to phase two of your garden plan.....the winter garden.

4. Winter gardening in GA is just plain fun! During the fall months area nurseries will be stocked with colorful swiss chards and various types of kales, cabbage and herbs for winter growing, pansies, snapdragons. Plant them all. They will need minimal watering during the winter. You can grow a heap of good eating and color in that winter garden. Try your hand at growing from seed many of these varieties. Sow the seeds now in July in pots for the winter garden. As the weather cools be brave and sow lettuce and arugula seed in situ.

5. As the weather warms in the spring the winter crop will die off and be added to the compost pile to be replaced by the resprouting, colorful, drought resistant, perennial Lantana for the hot months. Enjoy the learning process!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 1:53PM
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You already have good ideas. I have admired a hummingbird garden at an Audubon site. It is just a big area with lantana and sage. Seems to just take care of itself.
I also like grasses. They are carefree. I have several. I have a very well drained "ridge" (small hill) in my yard, that I don't water. Yarrow does well there, rosemary, and I have a lime-green barberry (just watch the thorns) that need no care. Also grasses.
I also have had some success with a big circle of wildflowers in my yard. It doesn't always look good but it is carefree. It is a work in progress. There is a special way to establish a wildflower garden, getting rid of the existing vegetation is very important, either tilling several times letting the seeds come up and germinate before re-tilling, or burning, or herbicides. Once the bed is established, I'm told it's easy care. Several wildflower sites and companies could help you if you choose that route.
Have fun either way.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:21PM
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