Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Castro Valley Lawn Conversion

I try to do one or two posts about lawn-to-garden conversions every spring, sort of an annual contribution to the anti-lawn propaganda movement. So far this is the only one I’ve photographed this year. I don’t have a lot to say about it, just that it seems clear to me how much better the planting looks than the lawn. I guess the previous owner kept the lawn so it would be possible to drive a camper van to the backyard. You can’t drive into the backyard anymore.

During the drought the new owner let the lawn dry out, then we replaced it with this simple little planting — mostly evergreen, some purple flowers and purple foliage, a bit of eye-catching yellow when the Kniphofia blooms, low-water, relatively low-maintenance, plants that are long-lived and can survive the unskilled ministrations of the mow-and-blow gardeners. Like many lawn conversion projects, it needed a low-cost path through the planting and, in this case, a couple of steps made with granite curbstones. Pretty straightforward, and such a huge improvement. These are the kind of ‘before and after’ images that I think about when I get pushback against the idea of removing front yard lawns. I really struggle to understand why people cling to their lawns.


We sheet mulched over the dead lawn, but more to smother weeds than the grass. The grass was pretty well dead by the time I first saw it, and to me the planting brought the space back to life.

In the backyard we put in a basketball court in place of the old lawn. It’s not a true lawn-to-garden, but it makes me smile to see the kiddie hoop next to the adult one.

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