Front Yard Initiative - Step One

It's raining again here in New Orleans - the kind of heavy, tropical downpour that often leads to street flooding. We get these storms often, especially in the heat of summer. Living here means dealing with water, and not just during a tropical storm or other major weather event. New Orleans gets over 60 inches of rain annually. We're an old city sitting right around sea level, and our city's primary approach to water management has been pumping the water out. In case you don't follow New Orleans news, they aren't very good at this; however, this is not a post about the failings of Sewerage and Water Board. It's about what an individual homeowner can do to address water management at home. The return on investment benefits the home and the neighborhood. Here's how I'm hoping to do my part:

Last weekend, I attended a workshop for the Urban Conservancy's Front Yard Initiative (FYI). FYI is an incentive program that encourages homeowners to go from "gray to green" by removing paving from their lots and incorporating water management strategies into the landscape. Eligible homeowners can receive a reimbursement based on the square footage of paving removed when they complete the program. Their site does a great job of explaining the program, the why, and the how, so check out the link to learn more about the details:

The workshop provided helpful information for any property owner, and I'm excited to see if I will be eligible to participate further in the program. I typically try to crop it out of pictures, but my house has a very unfortunate concrete front yard. There are a few tiny areas for plantings and that gorgeous gardenia, but mostly I have cracked slabs of gray along with a rusty chain link fence beyond my colorful front porch. Beyond the obvious lack of curb appeal, the concrete can't absorb rainwater, which pools in low spots and runs into the street and the storm drains.

That ugly concrete extends down the side of the house all the way to the back yard. When I was under contract, the inspection revealed that a few broken sections of that concrete walkway were likely directing water at the foundation piers and under the house. That is certainly a situation that I hope to remedy before any additional damage can be done. In areas where the concrete is intact, water flows into a channel and down towards the street where it enters a drain. While this might protect the house, it contributes even more water to an already overloaded storm drain and pumping system. (And as you can see, another storm is brewing here in this photo!)

The back yard is a little bit better scene, but there is a badly damaged concrete pad at the very back of the lot where a shed likely once stood. Weeds and vines have broken through and taken over. This (usually) sunny section of the yard is definitely not living up to its potential, and I would love to reclaim that space for gardening.

At the FYI workshop, I received helpful guides for managing water and incorporating permeable surfaces and native plants into the landscape. My next steps are to assess and measure my lot, plot out the current landscaping and concrete, and develop a design for the yard that removes the paving and incorporates the desired elements. My design is due to FYI next month. If approved, I'll be eligible to receive reimbursement when I make my design plan a reality. I'll be sure to provide updates as I move forward with the process. Time to get out the measuring tape and pencils!


  1. So excited to see how your outdoor living space is transformed!

  2. I'm totally down for removing concrete when I'm in town while your at work.


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