Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yard Project

This spring and summer was the year of our yard!  Last year was our first spring in the new house.  We knew the yard potentially needed a lot of work, but our focus last year was unpacking and getting organized inside.  While we knew it was a daunting tasks (aren't all lawn projects somewhat daunting?), we were anxious to get started so we could enjoy a new lawn this summer.

We started in late March by ripping out these bushes in the front yard.  We are not big bush people.  We prefer plants that bloom with some sort of colorful flower.  And the landscaping in the front yard was making the actual lawn portion look tiny.  We prefer more grass to boring landscaping.

The lawn itself was a mess- patchy and just yuck.

Aunt Bethany was in town that weekend and willingly helped us rip out those big ol' bushes.  Thanks Beth!

Livy (6 months old) hung out in her exersaucer that day, watching all the commotion.

This picture shows our smaller chunk of front lawn.  When we moved in, that dirt pile on the right had a tree planted there.  The tree died shortly after we moved in, so we dug it out.  Again, we prefer more grass, so our plan was to take out the dirt hill and plant grass seed there.

The next weekend, Ben power washed our terribly dirty and mossy front porch and driveway.  And it was pouring rain that day.

He left me a sweet little message that stayed on the driveway for months.

Mid April, the next step was to install a French drain in our front yard.  The water that collects in our driveway needs a way to escape, or it just pools up an never goes away.  Ben had to tear up a strip of the grass, put gravel underneath and relaid the grass over top.  Putting the gravel underneath the grass allowed for water to drain out.  With just mud and grass, it would get clogged and wouldn't flow at all.

Leah was a great helper!

Testing it out before he relaid the sod- it worked!

Next up was getting top soil delivered.  Our plan was to completely cover all the existing grass (the sparse, spotty mess that it was) with top soil, then reseed the entire lawn areas. 

Our first mistake was not asking around for a reputable company that sold quality top soil.  We will never make that mistake again.

At the end of April, we had 5 yards of top soil delivered.  When Ben inspected it, he could tell immediately that it was not good.  It had so much gravel in it- it was terrible.  We didn't want to go through all the work to redo our yard and have it not work due to bad soil.  We called the company back to tell them we were not satisfied and were pretty much told there wasn't a whole lot they could do about it.  They told us that with the weather conditions this year, that was just how top soil was being made.  They wouldn't give us a refund, but told us we could come and get a yard or two of fertilizer to put on top of the soil and that would make it all perfect.  We were super bummed (out a chunk of money), but didn't dare use this on our lawn.  

Ben found a solution in the end.  Our back yard was tiered- a few random levels all over the yard (so, so weird).  We decided to use the bad soil to fill in the lower spots to level out the entire yard.  The previous owners had made the section that Ben is standing in sunken down/lower by quite a bit.  And they had used cinder blocks right through the middle of the yard.  I think it was their previous dog kennel area (they had several dogs). 

Ben also made use of the dirt by showing the kids how to bike down it.  Yikes!

Ben spent hours and hours and hours shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow and hauling it to the back yard.  The kids loved to help him.  Leah and Chloe were the best, long-winded helpers. 

The down side to so much dirt in the driveway?  The kids loved playing in it.  And every time they played with it, they tracked it all over the house.  My floors were so dirty!  Their pockets were full of dirt and when they'd take them off, that dirt became one with the floors.  I was sweeping constantly and had to mop the floor way more often than I normally do.  It was yucky.  Ben had to power wash the driveway many times over to rid all of the dirt/mud residue.

At the beginning of May, we were ready to plant our garden!  We met Ben at Lowe's one evening after work to shop for seeds to plant.

Livy got to ride in the car cart for the first time.  She loved it.

While the rest of the kids looked for stuff to grow, Livy worked on growing her immune system by sucking on what I'm sure was a germ infested seat belt. 

Dad, explaining the rules on what to pick out.

The kid each got to pick two things they wanted to plant.

Lexi: carrots and cantaloupe.

Leah: green beans and cucumbers

Chloe: snow peas and watermelon

Mitch: corn and cucumbers

Back at home, Ben had finally gotten the bad top soil all hauled to the back yard and leveled out the yard (minus the portion in the back where the dog kennel is.  Leveling that portion off will be for another year!)  It took the entire 5 yards to fill in that area.  We would love a bigger yard someday but when a yard this small takes so much work, the thought of anything bigger seems overwhelming!

With the seeds bought, it was time to build some garden boxes!  Ben spent countless hours buying supplies, building and painting these garden boxes, inspired by a good friend in our ward who is a master gardener.  Thanks for the tips, Jared!  He even installed a drip system underneath the boxes for easy watering.  He put copper tape around the edges to keep the slugs out.

The kids were so excited to help him plant all of the seeds we had bought.

Round two of top soil: we asked our master gardener friend where to get the best top soil, and then we took his advice.  The difference between the two sets of soil was like night and day.  Once again, I had another massive dirt pile in my driveway, which meant more dirt all over the house and loads and loads of dirt-stained clothes to wash. 

Next step was to lay all the dirt all over the front and back yard.  Ben spent hours and hours again doing this.  I wished I would have kept track of all the hours he put into this project.  He would go to work early so he could come home early and put in 7-8 hours outside working.  We used the better soil to fill the garden boxes.

Next was flattening out the dirt to make sure it was level.

Then he raked it all so that it would be conducive to planting seed.  He then planted seed all over the yard and then came the tricky part- keeping that grass wet constantly.  Of course when we want it to rain, it doesn't!  On days when it wouldn't rain, we had to water the yard 2 times a day.  We don't have sprinklers, either.  Darn.

After the seed was planted, we told the kids they had to stay off the lawn.  Ben showed them how to walk around the cinder blocks in the backyard to get to the garden.

Our garden started sprouting quickly.  The kids were always so excited to go and check in its progress.

Ben later built some trellises to help the tomatoes and peas grow upward.

Seed started sprouting up just one week after it was planted.  It was so exciting!

The bad part about it coming up was that the places where the old grass already existed starting pushing through and we had a mismatched, spotty looking lawn.  We couldn't mow it for a few weeks, so it looked very run down and untidy for quite some time.

With time, it thickened up and with some fresh bark for the landscaping, we finally had a front yard we could enjoy and actually use!

We never used the back yard last year.  It was so uninviting and with no grass- it was practically just dirt and garbage.  Now there is room to run around on soft grass and our garden has been so fun!  With no sprinkler system, we are still having to water with sprinklers a few times a week.  But it is worth it to have a yard that is beautiful and useable.  I can't take credit for any of it.  Ben did 95% of it all by himself.  From start to finish, it took over 3 months of sometimes intermittent work, sometimes steady work.  Thank you Ben!


Amanda said...

Wow. That looks amazing. Everything looks so professional and thought out. I wish I had those skills and a green Thumb!

Mike Gurung said...

Wow! The transformation you guys did on your backyard is amazing. The raised beds look awesome. It's also good that the kids were able to help out. You're so lucky to have a hubby, who is handy when it comes to yard work. Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures! I hope everyone is doing well!

Mike Gurung @ Bay Area Tree Specialists