Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

The man in line at the garden center signaled for us to go ahead of him. I only had a can of environmentally friendly slug repellent. He, however, hadhis flat bed cartpiled precariously high with boards and potting soil.

"Building a raised bed?" Rick asked the fellow.

"Keeping my wife happy," he responded.

"I'm three-times happy," I bragged.

"Oh, this is her second one," the stranger replied.

In the car, Rick and I discussed how the raised bedmanmust nothave read "Square Foot Gardening" becausehe wasbuying and notmakinghisown soil mix. But we applauded him (andespecially his wife)for getting on the "grow your own food" bandwagon.

Meanwhile, back at our farm, things had taken a dramatic turn.Frustrated after using up most of my raised beds' gardening space soearly in the season, I knew we had to expand.

Peas, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, onions, garlic, broccoli,soy beans, bush beans and strawberries have pretty much filled ourthree backyard raisedbeds. All but the beans are already up.

But there are more plants to be planted. Where could we put them?

The answer was clear.Theprimenon-shaded space leftin the front yard.

For two years Rick and I havediscussed getting rid of the frontlawn for several reasons. The most obvious is the time (and gasoline)it takes to mow it. It's a thankless job repeated all year long in ourclimate.The lawn was mostly weeds anyway.When I lived in Grants PassI used chemicals and nitrogen fertilizers and tons of water to keep acompetitive lawn on my cul-de-sac. But my priorities have changed.

Thefinal push that drove me topursue removingour front lawn wasthe need forvegetable gardenspace. In front of our homeare littlepockets of sunlight wasted on lawn weeds. So, I enlisted the help ofafriend who has friendswho do landscaping, and a coupleweekends ago weremoved the sod and watched it get hauled away.

At the same time we put down a stone path set in sand leading to ourside patio. Our helpers covered what was once lawn with several inchesof Hambro's "dirty fines" andbark chipsfrom some downed trees fromlast fall.

The result is a lawnless front yard, a blank canvass for"xeroscaping."We will attempt to create a "pleasant outdoorenvironment with a low level of maintenance using a natural approachwith native plants and natural materials," which is how xeroscaping isdefined.

We already have some grasses, artichoke plants and drifts of springbulbs. Now I'm interplanting more vegetables and perennials that willrequire little waterand nocoddling.

Our goal is to grow more food, encourage pollinators, providehabitat for birds, butterflies and good bugs, fertilize with organicmatter and use natural methods of pest control.

The rain storms put a damper on our gardening efforts this week, butthe new space that was once our useless lawn has me pouring overgardening books and making plans. Watch out, back yard, 'cuz next yearI'm coming after your lawn!