Front Yard Initiative - Hardscaping Complete

We've made it through winter here in New Orleans, which means we've survived Mardi Gras and done our fair share of complaining about the hot-cold-hot-cold weather pattern that persists through the shorter days of the year. Now we're in the fleeting, coveted season of spring when it's hard to resist being outside. With the arrival of warmer weather and full garden centers, I'm finally reaching the finish line with my Front Yard Initiative project. As I noted in my last FYI post, I had a year to complete my plan in order to still remain eligible for the rebate. I first attended the FYI workshop in August, so the full process has taken me about eight months so far.

Garden Environments, Inc. started the dirty work of removing the concrete shortly after I received my notice of approval for the FYI program. The concrete pad in the backyard and much of the alley sidewalk was removed by hand with wheelbarrows, but they brought in a mini excavator to assist in the front.

After removing all the broken and slanted concrete from the alley, the team installed a french drain and gravel along the side of the house.

Garden beds with mulch were installed in the front yard along with a walkway of pavers that provide a stable, yet permeable, surface for walking and rolling the trash bins.

The pavers angle around the side to maximize planting space.

We saved the beloved gardenia, of course!

 The trash and recycling bins can now live on the side of the house instead of interrupting the curb appeal in front of the porch.

In the backyard, I had planned to put down mulch where the concrete slab once sat, but Garden Environments had extra gravel after completing the alley. The ground beneath the slab was full of debris, so it would not have been usable space for planting without significant work to clean and replenish the soil. The gravel will provide a nice walking surface and help keep weeds from taking over.

The hardscaping took a few weeks to complete due to some rain delays, but I'm really happy with the results. It was fun coming home from work each day to see the transformation.

I had a few additional features to add before moving on to the planting phase of my plan. Green Light New Orleans installed a gorgeous rain barrel so I can capture rainfall to water my plants. If you aren't familiar with their rain barrel program, you can check out the details here. We get plenty of heavy downpours here, so barrels are a great solution to minimize storm water run off AND lower your water bill. Plus, with Green Light, you get a piece of art installed at your downspout!

Next, with a LOT of help from my handy boyfriend, we built planter boxes for the backyard.

I swear I helped a little and didn't just take photos...

We (he) built two boxes measuring 4 feet by 4 feet by 16 inches high. Here are the finished products lined with landscaping fabric and ready to be filled with a whole lot of soil:

Since I didn't need a full truckload of soil (and delivery fees are exorbitant), we used bags from the garden center and got quite a workout hauling them from the car down the alley to the back of the lot. In case you are curious, one box takes about 10 40-lb bags of topsoil, plus 2 bags each of manure/compost and peat humus/soil conditioner to get to about 10-12 inches of soil depth across the box. At least the weather was still cool for that task!

So that concludes all of the hardscaping for my FYI project. I'm already seeing better drainage on my lot when it rains, and I no longer worry about water running under my house. With the most difficult (and expensive) parts completed, I'm ready to get my hands in the dirt and finish the project with some planting. Once the plants are installed, I'll have a final site visit with the Urban Conservancy FYI team to show them my results. Stay tuned for the garden reveal and final verdict!


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