Friday, April 22, 2016

Yard Transformation AKA This Is One Massive Post!

This year Michael and I did a lot of chatting about how best to use our tax return. We already knew that some of it was going towards an indoor remodel later this summer, but what should we do with the rest. We knew that part of this years yard goals was to get gravel for around the play structure and that's when we started talking about really focusing on the yard and getting it finished. We have done a little here and a little there, but we've only really finished one bed to the point where we feel it's done. We hardly have to do any maintenance and the plants that are in it just come back every year bigger and better. So we decided to just jump right in for a total yard transformation!  

The first area we decided to focus on was the back. In fact at first we didn't even think we'd be able to do anything much to the front at all. The picture above is the step area that leads from the backyard up to the easement. It's always been on of those places where we just didn't really know what to do with it. We've never truly been happy with it, but it worked for the time being. 

Here's another wider view shot. All that stuff under the deck has been cleared out for a long time. The kids use this area to draw with sidewalk chalk or ride their ride on toys. What we decided to do was turn that whole awkward step area on the left into a completely new garden bed. 

In doing that we will make the only access into the backyard be this weird ramp section. It's another place we really have struggled with how to transition from the easement to the yard. This year after all the changes is the first time I'm actually happy with it. 

Another view further out. The only garden bed that we had completely done is that one under the stairs. It's has some Yuccas and Hostas and they just come back every summer and fill the bed up so nice. Plus we put bark down so there are very few weeds that invade that area and if they do they pull out super easy. 

Here's a close up look at the play area. When we originally put some play toys down here we didn't have the swing set. We did put some pea gravel under the toys that were here, but not nearly enough. The weeds in this area were just atrocious! 

Our main first goal was to get a good layer of pea gravel around the play area. Michael had to use the shovel for hours to scoop up the grass that was in this area before we could bring the gravel in. There was grass from the top edge of the concrete pad at the bottom of the stairs all the way across to the retaining wall on the right. It was a ton of work and he did it in one day! 

We ended up needing 6 yards of gravel from Carpinito's Brothers and around 4 yards of dirt. However you have to order a minimum of 5 yards for them to deliver. So we went ahead and got the extra dirt and figured we'd find a way to use it. That's when Michael started looking at an area in the back yard he has always really disliked. He didn't like how the lawn didn't come to the top of the retaining wall in this above section. I was very against raising the yard to the same height as the wall so Michael came up with a add another garden bed along this edge. So Michael sprayed some lines down to see how it would look and we went for it. 

The kids had spring break during the first week of April so I had scheduled the gravel and dirt to be delivered on Thursday April 7th.

Watching all the action from the safety of the deck! 

I love that they are all old enough now that the noise from the truck doesn't scare them at all. 

This part of the delivery always scares me to death. These guys are good...I mean really good at what they do, but I'm always sure they are going to take out the neighbors chimney or something. 

Of course he did amazing.....twice! Once for the dirt and then the gravel. He actually walked down the easement with me first to check it out and see where we wanted it dumped. Afterwards he told him if the whole easement had been gravel like it is at the top and not concrete he wouldn't have even tried it. He says if you hit the brakes on a hill in a dump truck like that and it's on gravel it just keeps sliding! I'm so happy the homeowners who lived here before use chose to put in concrete. Having the access to the backyard for this type of thing has been so helpful! 


Here comes the wonderfully rich dirt! It's actually 3-way topsoil. Part dirt, steer and sand! 

After he dumped the dirt he had to drive back out to the main road to get the other trailer that had the gravel. Michael wanted to try to keep the dirt separate from the gravel so I covered it the best I could with a tarp. 

Time for gravel! 

Two big piles of a lot of manual labor!!! 

Owen could not wait to climb to the top of the gravel. I told him that his Dad would not be very happy, but I would let him do it ONCE! 

Of course the other kids had to follow suit as well! 

This boy was determined to dig himself a cave! 

Earlier in the day while Michael was at work I had dug the grass up that was next to the edge since that was going to be the part with the thinnest layer of dirt. I tell you doing that made me think that Michael must be super human because he did that whole play area section in one day. This no joke was HARD work! All those roots to get through....I was exhausted! Michael edged the garden area with that black stuff and then started moving wheelbarrow loads into the yard. I helped fill the wheelbarrows too. It was hard work, but I really truly enjoy yard work because it's so productive! 

After a while he did it....he had a cave! 

It only lasted for a couple minutes though because we need to get more dirt and it collapsed on itself. 

We moved quite a bit of dirt in one night! 

The new garden bed with all that nice dirt! 

This section was the stairs and there were two layers of these stones. Michael moved them down to just be one so the bed could be taller. He also had to extend the retaining wall that's in the back left so it would completely enclose this. He was a little stumped on how to enclose it on the back right and then figured he'd use some pressure treated 2 X 4's. That worked great! After what felts like a million wheelbarrows full and a lot of manicuring it was finally done! 

Lots of material used, but still lots to go! 

Here's the view of the new bed from the deck. 

On Monday April 4th when I knew we were starting this whole endeavor I had gone shopping at mom had the kids for their first day of spring break....and I just happened to be there at the right time. There were pallets full of bulbs. I called Michael and asked him what I should get and he said just to get a bunch of different stuff. I ended up buying over a hundred dollars in bulbs. I figured if he didn't like some of them I could bring them back. He ended up liking all of them. That's when I decided I should go back because they had some really nice size azaleas and other shrubs and we definitely needs plants to go in those new beds. 

Ella and I headed out for Costco for a little girl time. I ended up getting three azaleas and two other shrubs. I also looked through the bulbs again and found one more I liked. I was SO glad I had bought all the other bulbs just the day before because all of them were gone! On Monday there had been 3 full pallets of bulbs and then by Tuesday night there was just one and it was a very limited selection! 

Here are all the bulbs I bought. I can not wait until they start coming up. Some of them were already sprouting in the bags!

On Saturday April 9th we spent the morning hours shoveling the pea gravel...load after load! You might noticed something else different in this picture than the before picture of this area up at the beginning of the post. The retaining wall on the right used to extend out halfway towards the swings. While I was gone the night before with Jack and Ella at a birthday party (post coming soon) Michael decided to use all the rounds we had laying around from getting our giant tree cut down. He wasn't sure if I'd like them, but I actually almost suggested that he do this, but I thought he wouldn't like it. I LOVE it! I think it just adds another bit of texture to the backyard, it uses the rounds that are hundreds of pounds for an actual use and the kids love jumping from round to round. Also it can be extra seating for when we have lots of kids over.

Michael playing around with plant placement. 

More plant placement and trying to figure out which bulbs should go where depending on sun and shade needs and height. We ended up being able to reuse some plants we already had in our yard. For instance our yucca had made babies so we took those and used them in this new garden bed. We also had a couple azaleas that were being choked out by the hostas so we moved them as well. That definitely helped us not have to spend as much buying more plants. 

Owen wanted to help Daddy with planting the bulbs!

After doing most of the gravel we decided to take a break. We knew we needed to go buy some more plants for our garden that would be there during the winter months. We knew we couldn't have just bulbs! We decided to stop at Lowe's for just a couple things....a watering wand and then we got a Northern Hi-Lights Azalea, a Pink Pincess Escallonia and some grasses, but then it was off to Furney's. We had never been to Furney's before and oh my...I'm in love! I could spend so much money in there. They were so helpful and had such a good selection. We ended up getting a Primrose for the front yard and a beautiful Rhododendron that the flowers are the color of the sunset! We also got a bunch of these cool ground covers for our side garden bed by the driveway. We got out of there under $200, but it was hard! We did end up going back later and spending over $100 more dollars on more plants. 

While I was taking Owen and Jack to a birthday party Michael was busy working. 

Here's this bed all finished. There are TONS of bulbs in here so I can't wait to see them come up. After a few days we felt like we might just need to get one more plant for the very center since there was a significant gap. 

Then on April 21st Owen's teacher gave me a Lavender plant as a thank you for volunteering so much in her class this year. So it's new home is right in the middle of this bed. 

We ended up moving all 6 yards of gravel on Saturday April 9th....all but 3 wheelbarrows full that Michael had moved the night before. 

The play area all finished! We were only going to do the gravel 3 inches thick, but we actually had enough to do 4 inches and in some places more. We sprayed ground clear on to the weeds and then laid Cazaron down prior to the gravel in hopes that the weeds won't come back. I know that we will get some of course, but with the gravel being so thick it should be drastically less and the ones that do come through shouldn't be that difficult to pull. 

On to the front yard! Like I said before we didn't think we'd be able to do the front yard this year. However, with having to order the extra yard of dirt we needed a place for it to go. Also I purchased so many bulbs and they needed a place to go. It really only ended up costing a little bit in regards to a few more plants, some containers and a fun surprise at the end. 

Here's a before picture of the area we were going to focus on the most. This is the area where we had our tree cut down this last fall. That juniper was just straight up ugly and we had been wanted to get rid of it for a long time so we were happy to see it go. Michael took Friday the 15th off so we could tackle the rest of the yard.

 We wanted to move the rocks that were in this bed so we could create a new garden space. I also wanted to actually extend the yard a little because I felt this area was a bit too deep. 

Let me tell you....getting those rocks out was a pain in the butt! There were so many layers and they were so shoved in the dirt. Michael actually built this's leaning against the fence in the above picture. It was three pieces of wood and a piece of plastic chicken wire stapled together. He used it to separate the dirt from the rocks...think panning for gold style! It definitely made the whole process go faster. After extending the yard we needed to bring in grass. We decided to go get the chunks of grass that Michael had dug up a few days before from the play area. I love getting to reuse things! We also built the rocks up over by the stump so my pretty bench has a place to sit. 

All planted! My primrose bush is behind my bench and it smells SO good! I can't wait for it to be a few feet higher so it will provide me with a little bit of shade when I sit on my bench. There are a ton of bulbs in this bed as well....Gladiolus and pretty! 

This area of dirt has always been so under-utilized. The dirt here is really only a few inches no more than 6 probably! We decided to fill it with some pretty ground cover and we put a bunch of Phlox bulbs in there as well. 

This is the bed where we planted our Japanese Maple that we bought a couple years ago....sadly it didn't make it! I was so sad it was our first really expensive purchase that we made plant wise. I'm not sure if the summer was just too brutal on it or if the soil wasn't the right kind for it. But we ended up replacing it with a Purple Bayou Hydrangea from Furney's. We also put a ton of ground cover in here. Those grasses and tulips are pretty, but when they are gone this bed looked a bit bare. 

Here's a view of my primrose from the front of the driveway. 

We thought the front by the fence seemed a bit bare, but we didn't have enough dirt to turn this area into a new bed. Also we wouldn't have anywhere to put all that rock so we did the next best thing and bought a few plastic containers and put some perennials...the one on the left is a gardenia and it's going to smell so yummy. The other two are going to be pretty too, but Michael threw the tags away so I have no idea what they are. I think the one on the far right is a dwarf purple something. 

On Monday April 11th my plans for the day got altered a little so Zeke and I headed to Home Depot to pick up mulch. We got 25 bags and actually ended up having to get 2 more later in the week. 

Here's the bed with the fresh mulch and my fun surprise! 

Meet Penelope! Oh my I fell in love when I saw her at Lowe's. She was just so cute! We were trying to figure out what to do in this corner with the stump and then I saw her. Michael ran an extension all around the yard and covered it with rocks! I love sitting in my bench and listening to the water trickle out! 

Here's a closer look at her. At first Owen wanted to name her Stealth! I put a stop to that right away. I told the kids she is mine....I don't buy things for myself very much so it's about time I claim something. I also informed them that they can call her Penelope or Penny, but nothing else! :) Later on that night I wanted to go sit on my bench and enjoy my fountain and I told the kids I was going outside and then Zeke said he wanted to go and I said, "No....I want it to be peaceful!" No worries he's gotten to come out since then. He loves to sit with me on the bench and rock. I just wanted to sit out there for the first time by myself! 

I love the way fresh mulch makes everything look!

Plants in planters! 

Another view of the bed next to the driveway. One of the best things about this bed is the thing you can't see now. In the picture above of this area you can see one of those ugly metal cable boxes. Michael has always hated that so he finally had it and bought a box just like they use for meters at his work and now the wires are all inside that box and it's buried and covered with a rock. Still easily accessible, but no longer an eyesore! 

Next to the garbage enclosure I got a Confederate Jasmine. I had smelled a regular Jasmine at Lowe's and knew I wanted one for this area, but then we went to Furney's and ended up getting one from them instead. Michael just feels it's worth the extra money to get it from an actual nursery. The sad things on the right of the garbage enclosure are our lilac bushes. Our friends Lance and Rachael had some shoots that came up and they knew I wanted a Lilac bush so Lance dug those up for me. They usually look pretty good in the morning, but after all day in the heat they look pretty sad. After planting all those bulbs we still had one whole bag left with Lilies. Michael planted some in front of the Jasmine, some behind my Primrose and then some in the front of our fence where we have this fun rock. 

Back to the backyard....On Saturday April 16th Lance was so awesome and he took Michael down to Carpinito's to get a load of crushed rock for this funny ramp area. Michael was able to smooth it out so it blends into the easement very nicely. It will be great for foot traffic and taking the lawn mower up and down. We are finally pleased with this area! The only thing I would like to add in the future is an arbor. When my Dad retires later this year I'm hoping he'll schedule some time to built me a beautiful one out of metal with his welding skills. Then I want to get a clematis so it will climb on it! 

Again mulch really makes the whole thing look so pretty and complete! 

Here was the one and only garden bed we were happy with when we started. We ended up taking 3 yucca babies from that big guy on the right and he's still huge! We also moved two azaleas to other beds. It was so fun to be in the yard working day after day. We really got to see our hostas growing. At first they were barely shooting out of the ground and by the time we finished the yard they had one set of leaves open and were working on the next. From start to finish from me buying bulb on April 4th to us being completely finished with the yard was less than 3 weeks

Another splurge that I made was buying these super fun colorful Adirondack chairs. They are from Lowe's and they are only $18 each. I love that they are plastic! They can be hosed off and they are light enough for the kids to move them. Plus the added color is just so fun!  

Michael watering all his hard work! 

For next years project we are going to refinish the deck and I'm going to get nice patio furniture. I want one of those pieces that is a sectional and you can have them all together or separate them so it can be a couch and two chairs if you want. I found one at Lowe's that's $600, We also want to get this cool gas fire pit that has fun rocks around the edges so it doubles as a coffee table. 

And just in case you think we have it all together I thought I'd take pictures of what happens when you pay a lot of attention to your yard for days on end and basically let your kids have free rain on the house! 

Living room....I know it's not that bad actually, but they had just picked it up so it was spotless just that morning. 

Barbie covered stairs! 


More Barbie stuff! 

Sink full of dishes! 

Toys on the table and oh so many crumbs under the table. In fact our floors were down right disgusting! It was pointless trying to keep them clean with all that dirt and rock. We were constantly tracking in dirt or dust....even though we tried not too. I just decided that until we were done I wasn't going to freak out about it. The very next day after I took this picture I spent probably over an hour sweeping and mopping my first floor! 

To celebrate the almost completion of the actually took a few more days for us to plant the last of the bulbs...we decided to have our first fire in the fire pit!

Any day that boys can burn sticks is a good day! 

My handsome Jack! 

This boy loves fire!!!

Maximum comfort for this girl...blanket..check...pillow...check...puppy...check! 

Ella's look says it all....Why would you want to burn a stick when you can roast little smokies and eat? She's definitely the eater in our family! 

As for this man.....he worked so hard to make our yards more functional and ascetically pleasing. One of his complaints was that our yard had no color except green...well now it's full of color and only going to be more full once the bulbs come up. I'm so grateful that he is such a hard worker! He is such a wonderful example to our kids and one of my favorite things to do is work right along side him. Isn't that the definition of marriage...working hard right along side each other....through the hard stuff, the beautiful stuff, the easy stuff and the ugly stuff. I wouldn't want to work through life with anyone else! Love you babe! 

And here's some full shots of the front and back yards to get perspective!


Melody said...