Our front yard design

Original landscape ©Janet Allen
Our original landscape about 30 years ago

This is what our front landscape looked like when we moved in—the typical suburban landscape.

Front yard(Enlarge)  ©Janet Allen
Our landscape just a few years before converting to a habitat garden

We changed it somewhat through the years, but it was still very conventional. When we decided to create a habitat garden, all that lawn had to go!

Killing the grass with plastic  ©Janet Allen

Not knowing any better, we tried to kill the grass with plastic over the winter. You might know that it was to be one of the very few winters with almost no snow (we live in Syracuse, after all), so this ugly plastic all over the yard was visible all winter.

But that wasn't the biggest problem. It turns out that this isn't the best way to kill the grass after all. Layering mulch on top of a very thick layer of newspapers seems to be the recommended approach. The next spring, I pretty much dug out the now-weakened grass by hand. Not easy, but it did get the job done (and I was younger then).

Our side front yard(Enlarge)  ©Janet Allen
Our side front yard paths

Unfortunately, we also put a layer of landscape cloth over all the paths. Another mistake. This landscape fabric isn't very effective, and we had roots spreading very easily under, over, and sometimes through the fabric. In the last few years, we've been pulling it out—not as easy as laying it down.

Front yard in summer(Enlarge)  ©Janet Allen
Front yard in summer

I love the cool-ness and the forest-y feeling, especially on a hot summer day. It is literally (we checked with a thermometer) many degrees cooler in our little "forest" than it is in the sun. Our lawn-less landscape feels so full of life, and I love walking the paths. Our yard is definitely (and unfortunately) still an anomaly in the neighborhood.

Our front yard in fall  ©Janet Allen
Our front yard path in fall

Of course, there's a difference between style and substance. We could have used the same plants in a more conventional design and it would have similar ecological value, but we like the more natural look. (And, conversely, some "English" or "cottage" gardens have a natural landscaping style, but unfortunately use non-native plants.)

Front sitting area  ©Janet AllenFront sitting area

This is our only lawn. It's a good opportunity to humanize it with some chairs, which we enjoy sitting in on hot summer days.

A woodland under the redbud tree  ©Janet Allen
A woodland under the redbud tree

The redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) at the right is at the end of its useful life, and we hope to replace it with perhaps a hawthorn.

Path from front ©Janet AllenPath from front

This is the path from the front lawn—the only lawn we have. It meets up with the path leading to the driveway.