Need landscaping ideas for our terrible front yard

tblmomSeptember 18, 2013

We saw and bought our new home in the winter, so we didn't see the full extent of what we had inherited. We let everything grow out this spring/summer to see what we had....and it wasn't much. There were random trees planted (or grown from fallen seeds) that we pulled out because they were too close to the house. And a lot of dead azaleas.

We have some mature hostas, which are nice and some sedum (Autumn joy), but the placement is totally random and there are a lot of bare spots from where the young trees used to be. I received 2 golden jubilee agustache's and a clump of liriope from a friend, that I just stuck in the dirt for now until I can figure something out.

It's in dry shade due to the mature maple and pine tree we have near by. We can't cut them down any time soon due to the cost.

There is a walkway on the left, which the garden is supposed to trail, but it just makes the garden seem way too long on the left hand side. We'd like to shorten the left side since our kids play in the front yard a great deal and they currently have to go around the front of the bed to get to the "grass" (that's a whole other topic).

Any idea on how to make the front garden more presentable? I would love to make use of what I have and avoid having to buy too many extra's. The up close picture is the state of the garden right now. We didn't really do anything except remove the young trees and dead shrubs.

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"Any idea on how to make the front garden more presentable?" Just because an object is pretty, in and of itself, it's not necessarily the case that a collection of pretty objects set randomly about will create a pretty scene. In landscaping, one's goal is to bring a complete scene together. Here, I think your yard looks like it it filled with junk ... in spite of the fact that Hosta are pretty plants. The sharply pointed wedge bed (flanking the walk) that points at the viewer is patently unfriendly and hostile looking. I'd get rid of the bed (completely) and place the good plants in better places and in better arrangements. It's not easy now to say where as the photo is very unclear about the spaces at the far right and left side. If you could rake the leaf camouflage away and take a sharp, clear picture in better light, it would help. There need to be some indicators in the photo as to where the lot lines are located.

Your yard would look MUCH better if you just had decent grass instead of the bad bed and bad grass. It's likely that there is not enough light to grow good grass (maybe at all) so, first,analyze the light conditions to determine where it's possible to grow decent grass. Where it's not possible, your only other choices are mulch, paving or groundcover.

It looks like English Ivy growing at the left of the drive. This could end up being your "friend." Keep it sharply edged (mechanically) at the drive. Keep it edged (mechanically or chemically) at the ground along the base of the house. Don't "edge" it on the house itself. You can let it grow on the base of the tree, but don't let it escape up into the tree. Trim it around the trunk at a uniform height a couple times a year.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 10:50PM
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I will try to take a picture, but the lot ends with the tree at the far left and the pine tree on the right. I agree with what you said in your first paragraph. Unfortunately, this is what came with the house...we did not plant this ourselves.

We have enough light for grass, I'm not sure about moisture.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 12:06AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

How do you feel about the driveway and the walkway from the driveway to the front door? (I'm not looking for answers to each question so much as I'm soliciting info about problems you might have.)

Is the current walkway made of pavers or bricks, and could you move them and re-use them?

Is the driveway wide enough for people to get into and out of a car without having to step on the grass? Do you usually have a car parked in the driveway (for example, a second family car)? Is heavy snow an issue (where to put excess snow, snow melting to ice on the driveway or walk, etc.)?

Can people move from a parked car to the front door easily? Is the entrance to the walkway in a good or awkward place?

What's at the street? Sidewalk? Curb? Parking strip (known by various terms in different areas: grass between the curb and the sidewalk)?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 1:33AM
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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

Grass. This will take a lot of effort (not necessarily money) to get the grass going correctly.

But first, let's get into the perennial bed issue. There are too many gardeners who have the desire of saving everything! It just isn't practical. Be judicious in what you save and what you get rid of. You have a good start. Now, you need to decide what to do with all of the hostas, etc. More grass? Less bed? Or the other way? Make your decision, either way, you need to begin the plan now.

Back to the grass. A wise man once told me that if the grass isn't growing properly and you want to fix it - dig down 4" and replace all the soil. Start from that point and work on having an optimum situation for the grass. The kids will have to back off for a while until it gets established, be prepared with a plan for that. Removing that much soil from the yard is a big undertaking, but the results will show in 8 months.

When you post a new picture, please stand in the street so that we can see the entire look. Your first photo still shows the for sale sign, back away from that and then take the picture. OK? OK!


    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 12:55PM
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" Unfortunately, this is what came with the house...we did not plant this ourselves." It will be unfortunate only if you retain it.

I hope you are correct about there being enough light to grow grass as otherwise, it will not be possible. The yard looks suspiciously of low light because of the ivy nearby and the very "thin" state of the existing grass. If moisture is the problem, it is easily correctable with supplemental watering.

@ Jim .... no doubt replacing 4" of so-so soil with good soil will make some kind of difference, but it seems like a drastic, not budget friendly solution.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 10:47PM
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missingtheobvious: I don't love the pathway to the door. It is pavers, so we could move them. We do have 2 cars, and snow in the winters, so we will need the entire driveway. THe driveway is pretty narrow near the garage, but is wide towards the bottom. The tree on the left takes up the higher left side of the driveway, otherwise it would be 2 car widths all the way up. There is no sidewalk. It's just the front lawn, then the street.

Jim: the hostas seem to be doing the best, which is why I would like to save some of them (not necessarily all). I definitely want less bed. I read somewhere that I shouldn't amend the soil since all the tree roots will grow to the richer soil? (I'm not questioning you...just wondering). We have a lot of big roots at the surface which makes digging down pretty difficult.

Yardvaark: the sun hits the front of the house and from the way the shadows of the surrounding trees fall, the very sides and the back 1/4 are in shade. The front portion isn't full sun, but it gets sun from morning until maybe 5-6 in the summers. Our neighbors to either side with similar tree locations have nice lawns! According to them, the previous owners did no lawn or garden care for 7 years aside from just mowing!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 11:37PM
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There is no reason to have to remove any soil if the lawn is not doing just need to 'fix' what you have. The reason the lawn is struggling is due to lack of sunlight and the proximity of the large trees. Large trees have even larger root systems and those widely spreading roots are hogging all the necessary goodies, like soil moisture and nutrients, and starving out the lawn.

And the soil under that sparse lawn looks pretty dry and hard. Removing 4" of soil is just going to damage the existing tree will tilling. And damaged roots can lead to various tree problems including death....much better for you to choose when the trees come down rather than Mother Nature :-) I do recommend aerating and spreading a thin layer (1/2" or so) of screened compost over the area and then overseeding. With a fair amount of shade, overseeding will become almost an annual necessity - lawn grasses just do not want to grow in much shade.

The other option is to skip the lawn altogether and just have the front yard become a combination of planting beds and groundcovers with a generous and attractive walkway leading to the entrance. Let the kids play at the neighbors.....or in the drive or backyard :-)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 3:15PM
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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

I made an oops about the soil removal. I forgot about those trees and their roots. I apologize for my error.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 6:48PM
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