The house we bought in April came with a huge lawn in front and beside the house (it’s a corner lot). In my world, “lawn” and “California” just don’t go together very well. A beautiful, lush lawn needs a lot of water; however, water is very precious in California and not something you waste just for “curb appeal”.
So I decided to get rid of the lawn. I could have rented heavy equipment and get the job done in a weekend. It would have been messy, noisy and very disruptive. However, I was looking for the softer, more organic way. More laborious as well.
One afternoon in the summer, my daughter and I measured the lawn and realized there were almost 1900 square feet that I planned to turn into a bee and bird haven. That was quite an intimidating number. But thanks to my sometimes overwhelming naivety, I kept on working on my project.
The next step was getting enough cardboard to cover those 1900 square feet. We already had a huge amount of cardboard thanks to our recent move, but by far it wasn’t enough. So I developed a new, temporary hobby: dumpster diving. My daughter was deeply embarrassed and wouldn’t get out of the car when I discovered a promising full dumpster next to a big store. My husband, however, joined me in this new kind of how-to-spend-the-evening, and we had several “dumpster dates”, hanging out behind the big box stores. The local bike shop became our new best friend.
When I had enough cardboard, I called the compost company for the delivery of 20 cubic yards of “gardener’s gold”, beautiful smelly compost. Then the “real” work started – I watered the already dead lawn, spread out the cardboard over it (a job of several days) and watered the cardboard thoroughly before, in a final step, I layered the compost on top of it. The cardboard will eventually break down (that should take 2-12 months) and attract earthworms who then will work the soil. I put out a layer of 3-4 inches of compost, a back breaking job. Of course, right after the delivery of the compost we had a heat wave which allowed me to work only in the early morning hours. Usually, I was out there by 6:30, shoveling away and often helped by my daughter, and had to stop by 9:30 at the latest. Besides working on my project, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet the people in my new neighborhood, who jogged and walked their dogs at this time of day. Almost everyone stopped to ask me what I was doing.
Now the compost is evened out and I’m waiting for the rain, already planting in my head – mainly natives and drought tolerant plants. In my mind I see birds picking the seeds of the spent flowers and hear the busy humming of happy bees.
I can’t wait to start planting.