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Weeds to Habitat: Front Yard Renovation | Hastings, NY

There was no shortage of weeds at this property.  The front yard was dominated by them! Sloping down to the road in the front of the house, the site was extremely visible and required a complete renovation and new design for modern curb appeal.

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The first challenge was to remove the invasives while leaving in-tact the existing heirloom perennials. GJL’s design incorporated the heirlooms and added an array of drought resistant, rugged native plants, particularly adapted to poor soil conditions and low fertility.

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The resulting plant palette is a combination of grasses, perennials and flowering shrubs – all designed for permaculture stacked functions, the ability to support beneficial life and to provide season-long interest and color. A true example of natural landscaping that creates habitat and supports biodiversity. 

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As always stone placement was critical. We worked with the existing retaining wall, first by exposing it and then by adding natural stone for landscape effect and to stabilize the slope. 

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While investigating and analyzing the existing site conditions, we determined the soil was extremely well drained, sandy-silt texture, uniform throughout the soil horizon. For optimum performance and resilience, the soil was amended with a lean mix of biochar and premium organic compost, to improve the water-holding capacity and microbial populations. The biochar, in particular, provides a surface to host microbes and fungi – essential players in nutrient exchanges between plants and soil. 

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Once the planting was completed and mulched, we found that water infiltrated throughout the porous subsoil at a rapid rate. This is good for stabilization of the slope and the initial phase of planting but proved challenging in providing critical moisture to the plants during the establishment period. 

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The scope of the work also involved a zen-inspired streamside garden with a Japanese style wooden bridge, and a forest walk leading to a lemon squeezer stone staircase. 

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In the back yard, twenty years of accumulated leaf litter actually produced an excess of leaf mold in an area of poor air circulation, which is not ideal for human respiratory health. We selectively removed second story trees and pruned the existing canopy and upper story, including removal of several invasive Norway Maples, to improve air circulation and air quality in the immediate vicinity of the house.

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