Lose Your Lawn – Create Habitat in the City


Santa Rosa | 800 sq. ft. Front Garden

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Landscape design by Sustainable Urban Natives

This small Santa Rosa front yard was transformed from a 1940’s lawn and shrubs to a beautiful habitat garden in a month and with a small budget. First we sheet mulched and created mounds around the focal feature of a large boulder and seasonal dry creek to retain water on site. Steel edging delineates the center of the garden and the mounds provide screening from the neighborhood but don’t cut the client off from her neighbor friends. Then, we planted a full lovely garden with mostly 4-inch plants because they grow faster and stick to a budget.

California native Monkey Flower and Autumn Sage provide tons of food for the hummingbirds while shrub forms of Manzanita and a Giant Buckwheat provide cover and food for many other species of bird and butterfly. The burst of Spring and Summer bloom is a fun feast of color and texture. Groundcover California Lilac creates a soothing mass in the center of the garden while native Live forever and Iris give it a spectacular pop of interest. The garden is ringed by the part hybrid Strawberry Tree that is hard to beat with its beautiful bark and multi-trunk form. This young garden is well worth a visit to see how full a small garden can be.

Landscape Designer April Owens designs and builds California Gardens. To create them she uses primarily California native plants that are adapted to our State’s summer dry climate and have evolved with our native fauna. April believes the best way to use these beautiful plants in the residential garden is to reflect the natural plant community that would have existed before development.  Design with nature not in conflict with it.

Plant List

A printable plant list is available to download for this garden.


Sheet Mulching

sheetmulchingSheet mulching is a simple technique for converting lawn to a low water use garden and nurturing the soil. It is a way to remove your lawn without having to dig it out or use chemicals to kill it. Sheet mulching can:

  • Suppress weed growth
  • Reduce labor and maintenance costs since grass is composted in place
  • Improve nutrient and water retention in the soil
  • Encourage favorable soil microbial activity and increase the number of worms in the soil
  • Enhance soil structure
  • Improve plant vigor and health, often leading to improved resistance to pests and diseases

Download a sheet mulching how-to guide here.