Wisteria Garden Circle

Tallahassee Garden Club

Project #4: Front Yard Part 10,423,765

   Jul 12

Project #4: Front Yard Part 10,423,765

So, I know we’ll be talking about xeriscaping later this year, but here’s a little preview of what I’ve been working on in my front yard for the past 3 years.

Front Yard, circa 2007. You've come a long way, baby.

As you can see from the before, it was pretty much a blank slate. And, I hate grass. I hate grass like I hate Applebees. I hate mowing. I won’t water. I hate battling weeds. Because of this unadulterated hatred of lawn, my goal for the last three years has been to eliminate most of the grass from my front yard.

For this, I turned to xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is a method of gardening with native or low maintenance/water plants in such a way that it eliminates the need for irrigation, mowing, or generally any hassle (except for an occasional weeding). Little by little, blister by blister, I’ve been working to expand the bed in my front yard.

Normally, I would first remove the top layer of sod to build the bed. In this article, we’ll take a look at the lazy man’s way using newspaper and mulch. Removing the sod is ideal, but it does have its drawbacks–many times removing the sod can also remove the top couple of inches of soil (of which I only have about 3/4″–the rest is clay. Very. Hard. Clay.) Also, it’s hard. Like really hard, back-breaking work. So, this spring when I decided to expand the bed even more, I used the newspaper method.

You ladies probably already know all about this junk, but for those of you who don’t, the newspaper method involves using a layer of newspaper, covered with mulch, to kill the underlying grass. The drawback is that you have to wait a long time until you plant the area. Ideally, you should do this in the fall so you can plant in the spring. You want to wait this long so that you can make sure all of the grass is dead before you start digging holes in your paper. Otherwise, you’ll spend all your time battling the grass that springs up in your bed.

Also, if you decide to use this method, try to pick a day that’s not so windy so you don’t have to go running after your newspaper as you start to lay it out.


  • Newspaper
  • Garden Edging (optional for the lazy folks)
  • Mulch
  • Shovel/Rake
  • Gumption

Step 1: Outline the area for your garden using flour, paint, or a hose.

Step 2: Dig the trench for your border and add in border edging (if you’re doing this).

Digging the trench.

Step 3: Lay the newspaper out onto the ground inside the edging. Be sure not to be stingy. Don’t leave any holes and make it thick if you can (4 to 5 sheets is ideal).

Step 4: You can wet the newspaper if it starts to move around. I covered mine with topsoil, but this may have been a mistake–I think the topsoil makes it a little easier for weeds to grow in the meantime.

Add your newspaper and dirt.

Step 5: Put on a generous layer of mulch. Some people say it doesn’t have to be much, but unless you want to spend a bunch of time weeding, I’d add a couple of inches. I had a really small budget for my project and didn’t really use enough mulch, so I’ve had to spend more time weeding than I’d really like.

Mulch. Mulch like the wind.

Step 6: Put away the hose and lawn equipment and bust out a margarita. Your mowing days are over!

In all seriousness, this method worked out pretty well for me. I was able to add in about 150 square feet of new garden bed in about 3 hours. If I’d had to remove the topsoil, it would have easily taken me the entire weekend (and would’ve required a major back massage). Now, my yard is ready for planting with more low maintenance plants like loripetalum, agapanthus, breeze grass, and dianthus. I don’t currently have any type of irrigation system in the yard, and don’t plan to use one. All of the plants survive strictly on rainfall (which this year hasn’t even been close to being an issue). In addition to being eco- and water-conscious, my yard is by far the best-looking in the neighborhood. For reals. Most of my neighbors’ yards are fugly. You saw their bathroom, right?

The (mostly) finished product.

Until next time, happy xeriscaping!

P.S.–Thanks to Leisa for keeping all that newspaper for me.


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