As a first time home owner, I’m adding a few new skills to my repertoire including landscaping and gardening. I’d definitely classify myself as a novice who has done a lot of homework on this topic. My first project is landscaping our very small front yard that receives full sun all day. Our yard is basically two sections, split in two by a walkway. One section is approximately 16 feet wide by 11 feet deep and the other, smaller, section is 6 feet wide by 14 feet deep. It’s probably a good thing our yard is so small considering my skills are so skimpy!


I did a ton of research on what kinds of plants grow best in our area (zone 10) and won’t require too much water since we’re in our fifth year of drought in Southern California. We also have very rocky soil since we sit at the base of a foothill and it’s incredibly windy at times. (We recently had 55 mph winds; it was crazy!) I’ve picked out a handfull of plants that should do well in these conditions:

  • Tuscan Rosemary
  • Purple fountain grass
  • Silver mound (I’m really hoping these keep the snakes away)
  • Sempervivium (commonly referred to as Hens and chicks)
  • Creeping red fescue (we caved in and picked out some no mow, low water grass)

I’m also including some red lava rock and river rock to fill in around the plants. Using a few techniques that I described in my DIY: Landscaping for Beginners article, I plotted out our yard on graph paper first. I got this idea from Lisa Orgler’s paper gardens. This made it easy for me to see how much space I actually had to work with.

Initial landscaping plan using graph paper. You can see I erased quite a bit before getting to something I liked.

Next, I mocked up a street view in photoshop. I also modified the plan and made it simpler by straightening out the rows of Hens and Chicks and adding fescue to the yard. I could have used the Better Homes and Gardens garden planner, but this way I was able to use my own house and property to figure out what could go where.

Street level mock-up – simplified and edited from the pencil and graph paper version.

After I spent some time in the yard digging out the top layer of rocks and weeds, I put together an aerial view that I have to submit to our community for approval. I edited the plan once again and realized I didn’t have room for two rosemary plants, only one. Hopefully we’ll have the approval in a week or so.

Our aerial view that needs approval.

Finally, Mr. LH and I dug some lines in the yard after it rained to get an idea of where borders and plants would be placed. We made a few tiny edits to the original design, such as adding more fescue to the left side of the yard in a more flowing, organic design to balance out the square-ish shape of fescue on the right side of the yard.

When we actually go to plant, I realize we might end up including a few more plants depending on how the initial look of the landscaping turns out.

Estimating Cost

We are on a budget and hoping to keep costs around $600 for the front yard, especially since we still have to landscape the sides and back yard, too. I started to price out how much each item will cost based on Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowes.

  • Plants and grass seed: $150 – $175. The sempervivium costs the most since I need so many to cover about 33 square feet. I’m also hoping to have some left over to plant on the side yard, too.
  • Weed block fabric for under the rocks: $25
  • 80 feet of border (rolled and straight) plus stakes: $100 (this should also be enough for the side yards, too.)
  • Pea gravel for inside the Hens and Chicks border: $50 (this may be less or nonexistent if I end up not needing it depending on how close together I can plant these)
  • Lava rock: $100 (this is an estimate; I’m not really sure how much I will need. But, I can start slowly with bags from Home Depot)
  • River rock: $80 (this is a more costly rock that we may have to swap out for something less expensive)
  • Two medium Growoyas for watering the fountain grass, silver mound, and rosemary: $60 (this will help conserve water in the long run). If you’re not sure what a Growoya is, their website explains it pretty well. It’s an ancient way of irrigating plants.

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Mr. LH also wants a concrete walkway from the driveway to our steps. This may add another $100 – $150, but even adding on this cost I’m at about $665. Not terrible, but over budget if I include the walkway. However, some of these items will be included in the landscaping of the side yard, too.

Our next step will be pounding in the borders and laying the weed block fabric. Stay tuned for more photos and updates!


  1. Latoya | Life and a Budget Reply

    Can’t wait to see your updates. I know it will look amazing!

    • Little House Reply

      @Latoya – Hopefully I’ll have some progress photos in about a month from now !

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