“We enjoy our outdoors so much more than we did before,” said Ed Wehan, Ventura homeowner and active community member. “Transforming our ‘traditional’ yard for an ocean friendly garden, my wife and I discovered an amazing improvement to our quality of life. Our yard, where my wife and I now sit at the end of the day to enjoy a glass of wine, has become our sanctuary, and literally, an extension of our home. We watch the beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds that come to visit, listen to the bubbling waters in our eco-friendly, water-recycling waterfall, and appreciate and marvel at the varied colors in our native landscape habitat.”
Making the decision to change out their lawn to an ocean friendly garden was a process for the Wehans. They had to seriously grapple with what they really wanted from their landscape. However, after they concluded that they wanted their outdoor space to be a more comfortable and used space, and the fact that a native garden also benefited the environment, there was no turning back.
“There’s no doubt about it,” said Wehan, “sprawling green lawns are major takers – environmentally and cost-wise. They use a lot of water as well as fertilizers and pesticides, and they require a tremendous amount of ongoing maintenance.”
“Most people have grown up with this idea of what a lawn should be,” said Wehan. “However, we don’t have the same climate in Ventura as we have on the East Coast. So, when you install or try to maintain a landscape that requires a lot of water, you run into a host of issues and costs.”
The Wehans found, that after viewing a variety of native gardens, the foliage, as well as opportunities for creative design, made them a much more interesting and sustainable alternative to the traditional yard.
“Native gardens encourage wildlife and they support and thrive beautifully in the natural environment,” said Wehan. “They are also more easy and less costly to maintain. Every day, we find something new to marvel at. What more could you want from your landscape?”
“Taking out your lawn is a major project,” said Wehan. “There’s no way around that fact. However, you can always start small. My wife and I decided that we wanted to do both the front and back landscapes at the same time.”
To remove our lawn, or to not remove our lawn? In order to make an educated decision about removing their lawn for an ocean friendly garden, Ed and his wife talked to friends who had gone through the process. They also walked around their neighborhood and viewed other native gardens to find out what appealed to them in terms of color and design.
“Another great resource for us,” said Wehan, “was taking the “free” water wise class series held by the City.” To find out more about the new water wise series beginning in September 2014, visit: cityofventura.net/water/landscape
After making the plunge to change out their lawn for an ocean friendly garden, the Wehans interviewed native garden professionals and selected Lisa Burton, Nature by Design (nbdgardens.com).
Lisa then met with the Wehans and talked to them about their plant and color preferences as well as their intended use of space.
“I learned that plants installed in my mid-town Ventura home, might not work in another area of town,” said Wehan. “That’s one of the great things about working with a professional, they can guide you in the right direction as well as assist you with customizing your selection of native plants. If it was up to me, I might have gone for a pine tree in my backyard and that definitely wouldn’t have worked!”
After meeting with the Wehans, Burton produced a series of drawings as well as a layout for a distinctive front and backyard palate. The plants suggested were beautiful and drought resistant native plants that would thrive in the Wehan’s landscape.
Saving our Water
In preparation to take out their lawn, the Wehans stopped watering their lawn approximately six months ago. The actual installation of their new yard began two months ago in June 2014.
“In our old yard, we had a pop-up irrigation system,” said Wehan. “We watered our lawn 3 to 4 days a week. In the new yard, we’re saving water with the installation of a new drip irrigation system that’s hooked up to a waterwise timer. That way, only the plants get the water, not areas where water’s not needed.”
Ed also explained that when it rains, water coming off the roof, will now be directed into pipes that lead to the new bioswale in their front yard. In the bioswale, a man-made depression filled with rocks, the water will spread and sink into the front yard where the landscape can benefit vs. draining into the street.
“After about a year,” adds Wehan “We may even be able to cut back on our current water use because these plants are drought tolerant. Once they’re established, they’ll be able to survive off the natural environment.”
The Wehan’s old lawn required weekly maintenance. “Now, once or twice a year, we’ll hire a landscape maintenance individual familiar with ocean friendly and native gardens to come over to do the necessary trimming. It’s that easy,” said Wehan.
The cost to change out your yard for an ocean friendly or native garden depends upon the size of your landscape, the intended design, materials, and other factors. However, according to Wehan, both the process and the cost are well worth it.
“Our yard is now a source of real entertainment for us,” said Wehan. “We spend about 3 to 4 more times outside now enjoying the birds, butterflies and listening to our waterfall that operates on recycled water. The value and the enjoyment we get out of our transformed yard have far exceeded what the project cost. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
For more information on the new California yard and Ocean Friendly Gardens, visit: http://cityofventura.net/water/landscape
–Maryann Ridini Spencer for SustainableVentura.TV