By Cristian Ponce | Special to the Almanac
Menlo Park resident Ashlee Bentley has redone her front yard on Mills Street, replacing her 1,000-square-foot front lawn with succulents and other drought-tolerant plants. And, she says, she did all the work herself, it took only two days, and it cost just $471.
"Anyone with a little determination and willing to get dirt under their fingernails could do this," she says.
New water restrictions helped her persuade her husband to get rid of the green front lawn, which he loved, but she found "really boring."
Also, there was a fortuitous find. She had driven by the house of a friend who was having construction work done and found a big pile of dirt about to be hauled off to the dump.
"I was really envious of this dirt because I knew I wanted to create mounds in my front yard instead of just a flat yard," she says. "She (her friend) was kind enough to have the guys with her come and dump this mountain of dirt on my front lawn, which was fabulous. It was Christmas for me."
The 5-foot pile of dirt was also a motive for her to act quickly. "I couldn't leave a mountain of dirt on the front yard."
She drove to Recology in San Carlos, where she picked up free bags of compost. She also dropped by Lyngso Garden Material in Redwood City for garden mulch and cobble ($131), Home Depot for succulents and a large bag of potting soil ($189), Golden Nursery in San Mateo for more plants ($56), Walmart for solar lights ($26), and Home Goods for assorted ceramic pots on sale ($69).
The rocks and driftwood she had collected from beaches and the desert.
She dug up the grass and used the the turned-over clumps to create a base for the mounds and berms, added the compost for the plants and woodchips for the ground cover, and used the rocks for borders and a walkway.
"Yes, it took two days to do and I did it myself," she says, admitting that she could barely stand up straight after all the work. "I had a mental idea of what I wanted to do but, honestly, made it up as I went along."
Gardening is a hobby, she says, that she's enjoyed all her life, particularly to reduce stress. "I like whimsical and unique and just can't do ordinary."
By adding colorful rocks and woodchips, she created a vibrant look that she prefers. The neighbors, she says, like it, too.
The drought-tolerant plants include succulents, plants she has been collecting for years with her family and are very easy to grow, she says. What has been a lifelong hobby for her was put to use with this new project.
In addition, she says, the family has cut the water bill in half (she waters the yard just once a week).
Despite advice from landscape consultants that summer may not be the best time to convert a lawn to drought-tolerant plants, she has lost only one plant.
Acknowledging that she's not an expert, she says she's willing to help others make a similar conversion.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to contact her for more information.