Central City Green
As winter came to a close and the earliest signs of spring began to show, we sat down with Linda Gielec, one of our early Front Yard Initiative (FYI) participants. It was late in the afternoon as church bells rang, chimes that were most likely more tranquil than the busy sounds of Mardi Gras and parade-goers passing by just a week earlier. We walked past Linda’s front yard, adorned with bright red SunPatiens and the smell of fresh dill, and settled down to talk in the lush backyard of her Central City home. Linda’s yard was not always this way. After the removal of all of the concrete from her front and side yards, Linda was able to create the yard she had always envisioned.
When Linda first moved into her home in December 2014, the first task she wanted to complete was to remove all of the concrete in her front yard, as she’s an avid gardener, but like many new homeowners, other home renovations came first. Still determined to get some gardening done, Linda attempted to remove some concrete to make a small amount of space for her plants. She not only found that the concrete prevented her plants from being able to spread their roots, but also that the soil quality was too poor for them to thrive. To make matters worse, after a hard rain, water would pool around her front porch and remain for days along the side of her house. After two years of trying to manage the water on her property and saving money, Linda decided to apply to the FYI program.
After beginning her project in late 2016, Linda sought out contractors to assist in transforming her yard. Finding the contractors who communicated clearly and shared her vision took longer than she expected but she found what she wanted with Vista Landscaping and Ponseti Landscaping. First, Vista Landscaping removed all of the concrete on the side of her house as well as an entire plot of banana trees that had taken over her side yard. This process took less than a month and came in under budget.
Next, Ponseti Landscaping removed all of the concrete in Linda’s front yard, created the brick path she wanted from the curb to the stairs of her front porch, planted the Little Gem Magnolias she wanted, and recommended an irrigation system that turned out to be one of the most rewarding parts of her project. “ My front yard is an inferno,” explains Linda. I used to come home on my lunch breaks and water my plants, I would have to water them multiple times a day, and now I don’t have to. They water themselves.”
Linda is ecstatic about her finished project. Her overall project cost $12,000, with concrete removal coming in at $5000. She was reimbursed $1250 through the Front Yard Initiative program. She truly believes the cost was well worth it, as the upfront investment has already produced unexpected financial benefits. When she refinanced her house, she was delighted to learn that her improvements resulted in a higher appraised value on her home and better refinancing terms.
Linda and our team at the Front Yard Initiative were amazed and charmed at the overwhelmingly positive response to her project: Linda placed third in the Nola.com’s Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood Garden Contest. Linda shared with us that she was grateful to have been able to transform her yard as it has extended to all these other parts of her life; she even told us that her credit score saw a major improvement because of the loan she took out.
Linda has a few pieces of advice for those looking to transform their yards and homes. She suggests homeowners use St. Augustine sod instead of seeds for long-lasting results and healthy grass because seeds are prone to washing away. And she encourages people to stay on top of the maintenance– the banana trees she dug up in her side yard continue to try to re-establish themselves. She also encourages others to select contractors who are responsive and understand what you are trying to do with your space even if it takes a while. Avid gardener that she is, Linda doesn’t think she will ever be done with making changes to her yard, She is already making plans to include a small garden in her backyard. For now, though, she enjoys sitting on her front porch, taking in her yard, and speaking to neighbors and passersby, a pleasure many of those who complete FYI projects share.
“Other people are buying cars and I’m buying a garden,” jokes Linda. While both are great investments, Linda found that having the choice to invest in her environment was ultimately something she was grateful to have the privilege to do. Linda says many of her neighbors compliment her on her new yard, and Linda is happy to be an example of gray to green improvement in her neighborhood.
Story by Blake Allen