We dug down 4-6" and moved probably 60 wheelbarrows full of the worst "dirt" I'd ever seen. It was probably 70% limestone rubble original to when the neighborhood was built in the late 70s. We pulled some of the larger pieces of limestone for borders, but the rest is still in the backyard waiting for some sort of purpose (probably a base layer for a new patio considering the consistency). Filling it back up wasn't as painful as moving the rubble, but it was multiple trips to a local garden supply store and lots of heavy lifting since we don't have a flat bed truck and don't know anyone with one.
My favorite weed barrier has to be old phone books because they're very, very difficult to recycle and there are absolutely tons of them. I rip a few sheets, dunk them in a pail of water, and clobber them on the ground. I did about the same for shredded paper which can't really be recycled around here - there's a special site but this stuff had broken CDs and other crap in it. Laying down the weed barrier probably took 4 hours on its own. Mulch is just regular old pea gravel. I don't want to replace mulch there, and I'm happy to just blow all the leaves out of the bed. It retains a lot of moisture and was the right choice for that bed.
Most of the plants I found on sale and divided. I also rehomed some plants from other garden beds on my property. All are native or well-adapted without being invasive here in Central Texas. There's Swartburg Beauty Iceplant, Purple Sage, Variegated Sage, Silver-and-Gold Chrysanthemum, Trailing Rosemary (forgot the variety), Santolina (forgot the variety), unknown daylilies (maybe Happy Returns), Lamb's Ear, Wavy Prickly Pear, Spineless Prickly Pear, Purple Fountain Grass, Lace Cactus, Thimble Cactus, Bulbine, Gopher Plant, Slipper Plant, and Bluebonnets. I picked plants for their durability in the heat, drought tolerance, mature size, usefulness, beauty/cool factor, and ability to take full, blazing sun.
We're slowly removing cedar trees from the property as they're a threat to Texas water supplies, and they're just plain horrible. We have a lot of trunks and managed to repurpose 2 as the mailbox post and the walkway. All were cut with a chainsaw and carefully installed. The mailbox post is probably 3' below the sidewalk and could kill a car if one hopped the curb.
I'm originally from the Tennessee Valley and have a sad twisted little soft spot in my heart for Rock City. The mailbox took me about 4 days after weeks of procrastination. I coated the entire thing in white spray paint, waited 24 hours, applied the vinyl lettering for the "SEE ROCK CITY" (which you should and be absolutely horrifed) and faux door tape, sprayed on the black spray paint, taped off for the red paint, did a coat of red, and then finally did a couple clear coats. After each paint color, there was a 24 hour waiting period. Someone in my neighborhood is from Northern Alabama and stopped by to congratulate us on our crazy mailbox. It's a conversation piece at the very least and probably cheaper than the large mouth bass mailbox I saw at Cabella's which has another sick twisted little soft spot in my heart...
Hopefully next spring, it will look amazing.
If you are considering doing this yourself, check into your local laws governing this space since many cities do not allow this.