Installing a Front-Yard Garden

Last fall, I marked off the area for a front-yard garden, something I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of years. Our front yard faces east and south and while we have planted some big trees, the corner in question gets baked by sun, and consequently, required watering all the time, and still the grass looked brown. Minnesota doesn’t really have the right climate for growing turf grass, even under better conditions.

I used the smother method to kill the grass and was only semi-pleased with the results. As the photo shows, not all the grass was as dead as it should have been. Next time, I’ll used the method described at the Minnesota site, lesslawn.com, which calls for a minimum of 10 sheets of newspaper and then a heavy load of mulch on top. To finish killing the grass, I did a judicious spritzing with Round-up, which kills pretty much any plant it touches, but disperses rapidly. I’s a good choice for this kind of job. During the week or so I had to wait for the Round-up to wear off, I took care of a couple of other pre-planting jobs.

First, call Gopher State One-Call (or use their web site, if you can figure it out) to have the utility lines marked. As I suspected, wires were under my bed. This meant hand-digging very carefully in those areas. Second job: Go buy your plants!! That’s the fun part. I had an idea of what I wanted because I’d had Kristin from Knecht’s visit last fall. I swamped out a couple of the choices Kristin suggested for similar plants that were more to my liking. (As great as they are, I refuse to plant even one more purple coneflower in my yard.)

Once I had all the plants selected, I started arranging them–in their pots–on the garden site. My daughters said it looked like aliens were staging an invasion of our yard. In placing them, I thought about the ultimate size of each plant, the various types of foliage, and the bloom time of each plant.

Placing plants is tricky, but as Don Engebretson says, “It’s not rocket science!” You want variety in foliage, plants with different textures and shapes. You also want to have something in bloom all season long. Finally, you want to plant in swaths or drifts. This has long been my downfall, since I tend to pick a plant and just put it in the ground. For more on how to create interesting perennial gardens, check out this article on Don’s web site or look at the pictures of Terry Yockey’s Red Wing garden on her web site.

Once I was satisfied with the foliage, the bloom times, and the drifts, I let it sit for a couple of days. Remember, it’s easy to move pots, not so easy plants that are in the ground. I made a few adjustments, then Monday afternoon started planting.

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