Thursday, May 22, 2014


We've talked about it before, when we got our trees cut down and also when we excavated the sidewalk, but we've sort of danced around a lot of the details. Today will change all of that. 

Today is about what we've done to the yard so far and why, as well as what we plan on doing in the future.

We have some drainage issues. Nothing serious; no pools of water in our crawl space or moats containing crocodiles. Our street is on an incline and we're somewhere in the middle, which means we see a lot of water pass our yard but we also see a lot of it stop and stay a while.

It might not look like it but this is a pond waiting to happen (especially in that bare spot on the right side near the walk).

 Our goal was to put an end to this. It's kind of a long train of thought, but, humor us, hop on board! It goes like this: These giant trees don't allow the yard to get enough sun which means the grass can't thrive, which means when the water sweeps in it erodes the soil. 

So the first step was to get the trees down. Once that was done we thought it best to raise the level of the yard so that the water didn't feel quite as welcome. This meant the sidewalk needed to be removed so it wasn't underground after we added dirt. Once these two projects had been completed we were left with a muddy dreary, wintry, mess of a "yard". 

I didn't edit the coloring of this picture. Even the sun was sad about our yard.


So, in early spring (yes, yes we know that's not when you're supposed to do this. Our timing was less than perfect) we bought a truckload of dirt. It was the biggest truckload they sold and probably ran us about $275. It was actually pretty difficult to acquire because it was so rainy that the dirt sifters couldn't handle the dirt being so wet and we actually had to wait a few weeks before we could get ours. They dumped it in the yard and we got to work.

This picture doesn't do the size of that pile justice. It went on forever.

Initially we had plans of doing it perfectly, but as we shoveled and raked the dirt out and tried to get everything done before summer came we began to let go of visions of getting out there with stakes and twine and levels and bow rakes and transforming it into a perfect zen garden front yard with trowel marks curving gently around awaiting the planting of our grass seed. 

Instead we just spread it out. And eyeballed it. And called it done. 

It's not exactly level. But that's okay. We figured this was more of a phase one deal anyway. We'll come back later and add dirt here, or remove some there.  It's a work in progress. 

After the dirt was spread, I ran around with a tamp pretending I knew what I was doing. Tamping here and there but not exactly everywhere. Then we ran around with a hand crank grass spreader and covered everything in seed, raked a little, and waited. 

And watered. 

And waited. 

And watered. 

And then we got nervous. 

Did we do something wrong? We didn't use straw because the guy at southern states said it wasn't necessary! Should we call them? Did we wait too long? Is this seed defective? The birds didn't eat it all, I can see it right there!

Finally we gave Southern States a call to ask them what was up. You know what was up? Not the ground temperature that's for sure. Apparently, the ground temperature needs to be consistently above 50 degrees for the seed to do anything. All that hurrying didn't amount to a hill of beans with an unexpectedly cold spring. 

So, armed with some other pointers we got back out there and did a little reseeding in a few areas, did a lot of raking to stir up the dirt and make it more habitable for the grass seed, got on a better watering regimen, and as the temperature rose we started to see some baby grass come up.


It was so sparse at first that it was still a tad disheartening but we just kept watering and now we have this:

It's even nice enough for Alice to enjoy it a little, though she seems a tad skeptical.

There are still plenty of bare spots but we knew we'd have to reseed in the fall anyway (which is really when you should be doing all of this). 

We got so jazzed about our grass that we started to work on other things out there as well. 

Meredith painted the well and we planted some boxwoods across the front of the house and redid the mulch beds that we had lost when we resoiled.

Worker man doesn't have time to stand still for a picture. Blurry pictures on your blog are not his concern.

We also temporarily laid some slate for a walk. 

We basically just outlined each slate and then dug up the area underneath (similar to how Young House Love installed their much more precise/professional looking walk). We threw down some more seed around where we dug up but don't expect it to do much over the summer. We sold all of the slate from our first walk so we pulled this slate out of the short bit of sidewalk that we had at the bottom of the stairs on our back porch. 

And what did we find under that walk?

Another sidewalk!

This is me grimacing at the sense this makes.

As far as future plans go we've been throwing around ideas and we think we're going to change things around quite a bit. As you may have noticed we've already gotten rid of the smaller driveway. It just didn't seem necessary and cutting a little extra grass is more appealing than maintaining a useless driveway. This left us with a small unattractive, grass-less section, where the air handler is but we realized that if we move the fence up about six or eight feet all that stuff will get shifted to the back yard and the fencing would then be even with the other side of the house. So that's the plan for over there.


We took down a lot of the short fence bordering the small driveway when we found out it was ours, since it was falling apart anyway. Now we are going to replace it with a cross beam fence that would wrap around the front of the yard to the driveway and then a small section of it on the other side of the driveway to balance it out. 

Rather than redo the sidewalk that went to the street we're just going to have a sidewalk that goes to the driveway. The only thing we used that sidewalk for was to check the mail and if we move the mailbox to the end of the driveway we don't need it at all. This should save us quite a bit of money when we finally lay a more permanent walk (we're thinking brick, to match the steps and foundation) as well as get rid of an unnecessary feature that cuts through the yard.

But for now here we are. One driveway, six scrawny hedges, and eight trees down. Six boxwoods up. A slightly improved well. Dirt. Mulch. Some grass. Temporary mulch bed dividers and a temporary walk. We're feeling pretty confident that we'll actually make something of this yard. One day soon we intend for this to be the most charming yard on the street.

Right now it's in that "awkward phase".


  1. OH MY GOSH you guys are doing such an amazing job! It might be in an awkward phase but it looks fantastic! :D

    1. Oh, thank you! We are so lucky to have kind friends who are supportive even when we make questionable yard decisions.

      Us: "We're going to tear out all our bushes and cover our yard in dirt!"

      You: "You guys are doing great!"

      We could not be more grateful. Though, if you ever really think we're on the house train headed for crazy town, please, don't hesitate to tell us.