Showing posts with label Landscaping. Show all posts

Backyard Clean-up + Landscaping Tips

Last weekend we started a project that kind of snowballed quickly. It's something that's on our to-do list but something that's going to require a good deal of time, possibly moolah, and good weather so it's on the bottom end of that list.

Landscaping.  There's a lot of it to be done.  Last weekend though, we worked on the longest plant bed of all that runs along the back of the house.  We started taking out plants touching the house and  cutting back some of the plants along the patio area that just keep growing up and then didn't quit until we had the whole bed cleaned out.  Here's what that bed looked like when we moved in last spring:

And here's what it looks like now, after a few hours of muscle and bent knees (seriously, my hamstrings hurt for three days):

Kitchen? Painted.

apr72012 001apr72012 002apr72012 003   Yes sir, this is what I walk into every morning nowadays, usually to scope out my first breakfast and plan for my second, third, and fourth.  No, it’s not done in the full sense of the word, but the hardest part – painting the cabinets – is.  We have yet to hang the new over-the-range microwave, build the shelf above it, and install a subway tile backsplash until we call it quits with our mini-reno.  Then of course I’ve got a few little things to do to keep me busy until Twin A and B come like taking some paint to a runner that will anchor the floor and hanging a picture collage on the wall between the dining area and the kitchen.  All in slow pregnancy time my friends. 

However, while waiting for Anthony to finish a couple of grad classes so we (more like he and a strong friend) can install the microwave, I’ve been taking advantage of the sweet southern weather and spending a good amount of time outside lounging and even putting in a little sweat equity.  As I mentioned in the twins 23 week post, I had enough energy to sustain a small army last week so I used some of it to improve our love-lacking landscaping.  In particular, one of the beds in the front of our house was looking a little shabby.  You might remember that a few years ago we overhauled our curb appeal, taking it from drab to fab, except since then, a couple of plants we chose had to be replaced.  I was in charge of buying the replacements last year and thought I scored a really good deal when I got a few plants for under five bucks.  So, I planted ‘em, thought they looked good (they always look good at the store) but this year, they grew back looking like weeds.  I should’ve taken a picture but I didn’t.  What I did do was, armed with a little more cash and sense, grabbed a few hibiscus (which are perennials down here) and a few annuals and went to work.

First, I set them in their soon-to-be spots just to make sure I got the spacing right:
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And then I defied the probable wonderment of every passer-by thinking “look, it’s a pregnant lady with a shovel!” and dug, dug, dug until I got here:
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All of the landscaped beds around our casa need a new layer of pine straw (which we use as mulch down here) and some grass seed needs to be sown throughout the yard, but at least our curb appeal isn’t a ‘lack of’ anymore.  And, if I've made the right plant decisions, the only tweaking of landscaped beds we should have to do in the following years is adding some annuals and maybe pine straw.  Fingers crossed. 

 Anyway, I’ve got a rather long list of to-do’s today before Easter that includes making some nips and tucks on some maternity wear, basking in the sun, and possibly some spray paint, so off I go.  I need to keep my mind busy to improve my mood – I found out last night, after finally doing our taxes, that the federal government was bound and determined to swoop in on my parade and take every last cent we had saved up for a new dslr camera.  Lovely.  Sometimes it’s harder to live on a budget than others but, we’ve got blessings galore and for these I am thankful.  :)

  I hope to get some more substantial Saturday posts in the form of tutorials and such on this here blog soon so stay close!  Oh yes, and most importantly, have an incredible Easter!  Thank you Lord Jesus for the sacrifice you made on the cross for us, that we might live and one day be united with you!

Flip It

A few weeks ago, on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday, Anthony and I decided to go on a date in our own back and front yards.  Winter had come and gone and spring left it's mark of leaves (yes, down here, leaves fall in the spring...and fall...and winter) and dried up flowers in our lawn and the once-pristine pine straw beds we built up last fall looked no more like well-groomed landscaping but more like leaf heaven. 
Here's a glimpse of the mess:
I'd been eye-ballin' this mess every time we left the house and passed by it on our way down the driveway, not looking forward to the soon-to-be day we'd have to go out there and hand pick those pesky leaves out of the beds, one by measly one.  We had plenty of pine straw still in the beds, so that wasn't a problem...just the leaves. 
Well, that day came - our yard duty date - as I mentioned above.  Anthony mowed and edged while I put on my gardening gloves, squatted down on my haunches, and began the tedious task of picking and picking and picking and picking and...  After five minutes of that, I was done.  My quads felt like I had just run five miles and I was simply wasn't feeling productive.  So, I switched up my technique.  I thought, "What if I just pick up small sections of pine straw and shake 'em a little?  Would the leaves and dead flowers just fall out leaving the pine straw behind?"  It was worth a try.  So, I picked up the first little section of pine straw, gave it a little shakeroo, and only a few leaves fell out of the bundle...not what I was hoping.  So, thinking I was gonna have to suck it up and start picking again, I threw the pile of pine straw back down and that's when the heaven's opened and angels started singing...well, not really, but I'm sure God was laughing at me.  You see, when I threw down the pile of pine straw I had been holding it landed upside down in it's spot so that the leaves were underneath and all you could see was "fresh" pine straw!  Glorious!  Away I went, picking a section up, flipping it over, and throwing it back down. 
Here's the same bed shown above halfway done:
Sure there were still a few leaves and a little dirt mixed in, but after the first rain the dirt washed down through the straw and I easily picked out the few leaves that were noticeable.  I'm not sure this is the "correct" way to do it but it works!  I convinced myself this way was actually more beneficial to the dirt underneath though because those darn leaves will decompose and leave nutrients in the soil, making healthier dirt for the I off my rocker or is that true?  Anyone know?
So anyway, after about 20 minutes of picking up sections and flipping them over, every bed in our yard could once again be labeled "manicured" and I was drinking a tall glass of ice water, relaxed in our back yard.  I wish every fix was this easy...and free too!

'Dirt Art'

So there are lots of different kinds of artists out there.  My best friend is an incredible artist who can work wonders with just a piece of paper and a pencil.  My youngest sister's hair is her medium.  Her hair always looks awesome and I revel in the times when I can get her to do mine.  My other sister is also an incredible artist and great at designing almost anything...I'm thinking specifically of her wedding invitations and the design for them she drew out on a loose leaf piece of paper with a pen.  
That brings me to the title of this post, 'Dirt Art'.  If you hand Anthony a pen and paper and tell him to draw a dog, you'll most likely get an two ovals (head and body), four stick legs, and a little tail...which is pretty much the same thing you'd get from me.  But, if you hand him a shovel and give him a little piece of land, you'll get a perfectly manicured bed.  Throw in some trees and flowers and you'll get an outdoor masterpiece.  Such is the case so far...minus the trees and flowers (they're still up and coming.)  Last week I showed y'all the progress we've made turning our 'weed city' into 'pine straw serenity'.  I also wrote about how we wanted to modify the beds a little and add some more appealing curves.  Well, last weekend my artist went at it.
First, he grabbed an can of blue spray paint we had lying around to mark out where exactly he wanted to add some dimension.  Don't worry, no grass was harmed in this project.  :)

    Doing this gives you a line to follow when you're digging out your bed.  Coloring projects always look better when you stay in the lines.  :)

Then he started making the edge.
   Making a sort of 'cliff' for an edge helps keep pine straw or mulch from overflowing into the grass, maintaining a nice, clean line.  This gives a seamless look to the landscaping.  Many people use brick or plastic edging to separate bed from grass and that works too...whatever floats your boat.

Also, the sidewalk up to our porch lands almost down the middle of our landscaping so to create a continuous feeling, my handsome artist designed the beds to look like they flowed one into the other.  It's kind of hard to explain but let me show you:

In the past two weeks our landscaping has gone from weeds and dirt, to pretty beds, to pretty beds with a little more character, and hopefully next week, to a lush conglomeration of color and definition with curb appeal to boot.  :)

Here's the 'Almost' Grand Finale:

Last Weekend's Project: Landscaping

Last weekend I had a burst of energy and decided I would start landscaping in the front of our house.  Anthony had so much reading to do that he really couldn't help but I decided to go ahead anyway, taking what I've learned from watching him landscape, and revamp some of the beds myself.  Unfortunately, when I was uploading the 'after' pictures I took to show y'all the huge transformation, I accidentally saved them over the 'before' pictures I took.  The transformation was so incredible and I'm so sad I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing but I'll try to describe the scene as it was before my landscaping adventure...and use some old pictures that'll help set the stage.
First of all, down here in the south the popular thing to mulch with is pine straw rather than bark chips or other mulching materials.  For most people, pine trees stand tall in their yards so 'recycling' the pine straw that falls from them is easy and free!  In our case, our good friends have over 8 of them growing in their yard which makes for an abundance of straw.  So, because they love us so much they let me rake their yard Saturday morning.  :)  After getting the 7 1/2 bags home, I started on the landscape bed in front of the brick on our house.  

Here's an older picture showing what it looked like before:
     It's a little hard to see the weeds, leaves, and dirt that made up the bed (directly below the brick and two windows) in this picture but hopefully you get the point.  It was hideous and boring.  The first thing I did was dig out all of the weeds.  Then I dug up and out all of the brick edging.  We're more for no edging, just a clean line between the grass and mulch.  Of course, I had pictures to show the entire process from start to finish but they're in recycle bin heaven.  :(  After I got all of the brick edging out, I took a small, square edged shovel and dug a small trench around the perimeter of the bed so that the mulch would stay in the bed and not wander into the grass.  The extra dirt was thrown on the bed to make a sort of slope away from the house...this keeps water from draining towards your house and foundation.  Taking a break from his studies, Anthony helped me spread the pine straw over the bed and, wallah, we were done...for now.  Plants are next on the agenda but won't be in for another month or so.

Here's our finished, but unplanted bed:
   If we have time, we'd like to add some more 'curves' to the edge but already it looks much, much, much better. 

Now we move to the bed in front of the porch.  While I did this bed, Anthony kept me company by sitting on the porch.  I kept wondering what our neighbors thought...yes, he looked like a slave driver, chilling out while his wife did all the hard work.  :)  Little did they know I was born and raised a farm girl...I might not look it but dynamite comes in small packages you know.  So anyways, I did the same thing to this bed only weeding was much worse.  Here's a picture of what it looked like before (only this picture is older and the weeds had grown in really thick and up to my knees):

So after some sweating and shoveling, here's the new, clean, pretty bed:

Just like the other bed, we still have to get some plants in there.  We're also going to extend this bed around the side of the house and add a tree on the corner so keep in touch.

I'm so bummed all of my 'landscaping tutorial' pictures were deleted but if you have any questions, want landscaping ideas, or want to know how to build a basic landscape bed like ours, please email us and we'll share all we know.  Also, stay tuned for the planting and minor modifications to our beds (and for the story on our FREE wicker furniture).  See you next time! 

P.S.  A BIG thank you to the incredible Johnson family without who's pine straw and love, this post would not have been possible!  :)