Our front lawn was the least attractive of others on our short cul-de-sac as Bermuda grass and other weeds overtook the original fescue. WE used thousands of gallons of water to keep it looking reasonably green but it was never as nice as the neighbors’. The back yard was no different and I kiddingly suggested we take them up and replace with hydroseeding or ready rolls of sod, but that would not decrease the use of water especially since the long drought called for rationing water and the governor’s suggestion green lawns were a luxury that should not be continued. The water company also had us on a budget and that spurred us to consider xeriscaping. We’d seen rock front yards on a trip to Denver which is said to be the origin of xeriscaping or dry landscaping.
WE scoured the yellow pages for names of licensed landscaping contractors and called three. One came immediately and conviviably chatted about how he’d do it based on our suggestion for a dry creek and even artificial turf might be a consideration. He told my husband how to kill the Bermuda grass and remove the sod. He said he would draw up a plan and send us a bid. “See you in a bit,” he said, but never followed up with a phone call or a letter.
The second contractor who was recommended by the big box building and supply store quickly responded to our call and also arrived to measure the lawns and survey what would be needed. He spoke briefly with my husband and the next week followed up with a diagram and a bid. Although we liked the diagram, we were astounded by the prices he quoted for the front and back yard. especially that the smaller back’s was higher than the front’s. We could not afford his price so I wrote to ask him if he’d lower his price if we did some of the work. He sent us a new abbreviated bid but the total price was still beyond the limit of what we could afford. We had naively thought it would cost just a bit higher than what an E.R. writer had said about what her mother’s had cost.
The third guy never called. WE heard that landscapers had more work than they could handle and were months behind on their projects, but I think a business that advertises should have the courtesy of calling back even if extremely busy, just as the cold calls made when work is slow.
My husband had already stopped watering the lawns and taken the sprinkler heads off assuming that a landscaper would do the xeriscaping for a reasonable price. But when we learned from the bid that we could not afford to hire him or anyone else, we despaired; the lawn had gotten brown from lacking water except for the Bermudas that stubbornly remainded green. Hubby felt he was not up to the work of removing the sod himself although a man in the neighborhood whom we saw doing his own said it was easy and a way to work off stress. Of course he was much younger; just the thought of doing it ourselves seemed formidable. But Hubby had an idea that the equipment rental place could recommend someone who’d do the work and then we could do the rest of the work ourselves.
They recommended a handyman who often rented sod removers and was honest and reliable. The man returned my husband’s call the following day and made an appointment to discuss the work. He quoted a reasonable price to remove the sod and take it away and said he’d spray an herbicide to kill the weeds.
We agreed to both and upon its completion, he said he had landscaping experience and could help to fulfill our desire to xeriscape. By then we’d decided we should change our minds about dry creeks after driving around to look at some. They looked overwhelming to the size and position of those yards and because we had three trees in front and five in the back around which they’d need to be placed dry creeks would be overwhelming and use a lot more rocks that were expensive..
Hubby had seen a picture of a Japanese garden with a path of stones and the handyman said he could copy it. Using orange spray paint and a long piece of rope, he drew how he thought it should be done and we agreed that was the way we’d like it. Besides the path made of white stones, the rest of the lawn was covered with blue gravel and salt and pepper pebbles both front and back. WE paid him for the materials as the work progressed and we went to plant nurseries to learn about perennials that could withstand the Chico summers and drought tolerant. We bought yarrow, sedum, mallow, lavender, a few blue fescues and pansies to give winter color around the trees.
He and his dad did the work in about three weeks, and though his labor cost a bit more than our budget, it was still about one-third of what a contractor would have charged and we are satisfied with the new stone covered lawns that never need to be mowed again.

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