I need help with my front yard (with photos)

keeperofthememoriesFebruary 12, 2007

We have a difficult front yard that I'd like to work on this spring. We are up on a hill and we get a good amount of wind, especially in the winter months. The entire front yard slopes foward making it difficult to mow. I have two areas I'd like to work on:

1. Replace sod on steep slope with flowerbed. Here are some photos:



The house faces south. Currently, this area gets full sun. We planted a flowering pear tree on the east side of the yard which will partially shade some of the slope as it grows up (and hopefully block some of the wind!)

Question: I'd love some suggestions for plants that will do well on this slope. I'd really like to make this an four season garden.

2. Plant a screen on the east side of the yard.

As you can see in the photos below, we have no privacy from the road. The tree you see in the photo is the flowering pear we planted last year and to the left of the tree are lilacs which were cut to the ground last year. We would like something to screen the road to the right of the tree. There are a lot of roots in that area from a tree that our neighbor cut down last fall. We are going to add topsoil to that area but we'll still have the roots to contend with.



Question: Any suggestions for a shrub or tree we can plant in this area for privacy from the road and to block the wind a bit?

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Check the thread on Shrubs for Slopes in this forum as a start.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 4:38PM
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Here is some info I picked up searching around:

Q. Do you have suggestions for native plants I can put in on a sunny slope? I'm trying to plant only mid-Atlantic natives, and I want something affordable. A landscaper I consulted with suggested daylilies (I think in part because of their potential affordability), but I am trying only to put in mid-Atlantic natives. Behind the slope, I'll be seeding the yard with a native wildflower mix.
A. Here are a few of the many possibilities.

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Little Henry') - 2-ft.-tall shrub with white flowers May-June and red fall color; spreads by stolons

St. Andrew's Cross (Hypericum stragulum [hypericoides]) - 2-ft.-tall shrub with yellow flowers, July-August

Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) - deciduous groundcover reaching 8-in. tall with blue or white flowers in May

Canby's mountain lover (Paxistima canbyi) - small 1-ft. evergreen shrub; drought tolerant; inconspicuous flowers.

Three-toothed cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) - short evergreen groundcover with white flowers in June; very drought tolerant.

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) - evergreen groundcover with large yellow flowers in July followed by red fleshy edible fruits; easy to propagate and prickly to touch.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 7:39PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. :)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 8:21AM
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I started my emphasis on natives and naturalizing vegetation when I moved into my current house with its woodlands yard. Then, as friends moved into houses and wanted yards that looked landscaped but took little or no maintance, natives and naturalizing plants fit the bill. However, in the past ten years or so, native plants are now preimer in our area and often less than affordable. What we've found is that there is quite a bit of vegetation available FOR FREE at construction sites!

To discover what will grow well in your location, drive around your neighborhood and extended area looking for healthy looking vegetation living in the same general conditions. - In our area, there can be many different conditions just within a small yard. - It will help to grab a field guide to native vegetation so you know what it is you are looking at. Don't forget to consider native and naturalizing vegetation from the next environment, state, or area beyond yours; sometimes, your specific location may have adequate conditions for not so native vegetation to survive.

Sometimes, a location does best with "same old boring" vegetation or, vegetation that shares many of the same characteristics. In that case, plan for a predominace of that type of vegetation trying to create a canvas of texture differences for visual flow and interest; often you'll find that many of your natives/naturalizing for a given ecosystem all flower at the same general time. Then, sparingly use bits of stand-out color whether it be a 6" flower, 6' shrub, or 60' tree just as the books talk about specimen plantings to draw they eye through the space during the various seasons.

Use "garden decor" whether it be a permenant hardscape type item or a smaller moveable object to provide visual interest while your plantings are growning or to fill in a boring space in the off season. Baskets, or even dug-in pots, of annuals or perennials can be used to provide some color and interest during those first couple of years; or even for that off-season color as needed in the permenant plan. If an area is sunny, I've found that vegetables such tomatoes are a great way to fill in an under construction garden space; the goal being to fill the space and provide some color as opposed to actually growing a crop. Oddly enough, rubarb is an hardy, inexpensive temporary space filler with interesting folliage contrast; it even seems to grow in reasonable shade in a woodlands garden when top dressed with a little bit of bagged, composted, steer manuer every spring.

I've found that there are three keys to the surviablility of construction site recoveries whether they be natives/naturalizing or old landscaping plants. The first is to try to get as big a root ball as possible. The second is to try to match the soil conditions/ideal soil conditions for that plant as much as possible in the destination location. (i.e. I always try to plant a piece of rotting wood 4"-6" below any woodland ferns I transplant and duplicate forest litter type soil in the actual hole.) The third is that I water often and well/deep that first year.

Depending upon what and where I'm planting recovered or nursery purchaced plants, I try to soften the eventual "natural" conditions with temporary vegetation. In our area, we were originally primarily forested with forest-edge or forest-recovery vegetation. Or, we had grass plains/meadows surrounded by forest-edge/forest-recovery vegetation. Or, we had wet-lands - also predominately surrounded by forests. Our hardy conifer trees. larger decidous trees, and native shrubs typically grew up and out of other cover vegetation from grasses to full sized trees whose life-span was in the 50 year range. The temporary vegetation is used to serve two purposes: 1) shade the plantings thus reducing moisture loss through through the foliage and protecting delicate new foliage growth. 2) temper the soil conditions for both tempurature and water loss. In a landscaped, neighborhood type yard I tend to use tomatoes plants and/or bulbs (including bulbs, tubers, and corms). In a more natural-setting type yard, I've been know to use the same, naturally ocurring weeds, "native grasses" whether naturally occurring or dug up and planted (while the seed heads can add interest, one has to assess the spring weeding versus deadheading chores), and native or naturalizing annuals and bi-annuals with an actual flower which are more often than not planted with visual interest in mind (just look at your roadsides and vacant lots for ideas but again, consider deadheading any seeds versus weeding any seedlings).

If you are planting with actual, native vegetation you absolutely need to temper any tendancies towards fertilizing. Natives are used to certain types of soil conditions and water conditions as opposed to regular feedings. You may find however, that you need to "soil condition" or ammend the soil that is in your particular spot. In nature, nitrogen is provided by the natural breakdown of organic matter whether it be leaf litter, dead annuals such as grasses and weeds, and a proportionally small amount of animal waste. Most ecosystems also have nitrogen formulating vegetation and/or nemotodes that live on particular vegeation's roots as well as naturally ocurring worm casings. It does not come in the form of gigantic pumpkin forming in-organic fertilizer. Like wize, all of the other required nutrients are formed as a result of naturally occuring events from wild fires to soil microbes doing their decomposition thing; not exactly conditions you would welcome into your living space. Do pay attention to the new growth on your natives with an eye towards missing soil components. In our area, we often need to maintain or generate a forest floor leaf-litter (or conifer needle) soil type. It is not uncommon to have to add some calcium or iron periodically. On the other hand, if an area is planted in grasses the soil may need to be sweetened with some lime.

If you do feed your natives with a fertilizer do try to use a well balanced organic fertilizer. Organics break down and become available to the plant as the soil conditions are equally correct for accepting the nutrients. Typically, this means that your vegetation is also at its best conditions for acceptance of the fertilizer. More importantly, it is the "soil critters" from insects to worms to microbes that make a soil ideal for all plants and especially natives that you can ultimately do little or no maintainance of. Organic fertilizers also tend to promote the growth of "soil critter" populations. In nature, most vegetation goes through a spring growth spurt followed by sun generated, energy and growth spurt and ending in a slow down of new growth towards July-September in preparation for winter. Do take care to reduce all fertilization and even your watering as fall approaches; you want your plants to drift into their winter dormancy.

You mentioned looking at the ODNR site. Do search out the DNR sites of surrounding states, the extention sites of your own and neighboring land-grant or AG schools too. And, since the Mississippi floods (was that the late '80's or early '90's?) there has been a Federal emphasis on farmers protecting water-sheds including soil errosion miles away from a water source, wet-lands, and water-ways. I can't remember if it is the US AG Department of the USDNR but, one of them has a program through which farmers can can get variances to the regulations, with the appropriate paperwork, based upon how they are able to document that their plan will work for them. Typically two projects per state per year are featured and they involve native or naturalizing vegetation to solve a particular concern. Not all are stream sides. The Federal site had project demonstrations/descriptions up and running before many of the States' sites had much.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 2:39PM
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    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 7:47AM
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