Thursday, November 10, 2011

Summer of the Yard

When we moved into our new house in March it was nice to have a bigger yard, but it was 90% weeds - those nasty prickly kind too. So my goal was to have the yard transformed and family friendly before the next winter.

Libby was scared of the lawn at first... stickies! ouch!


Planning the yard seemed nearly as much effort as all the digging and hauling involved. I drove my wife crazy with my obsession with choosing the right trees. I sketched out several drafts, and ultimately tried to balance a few goals:
  • Optimal seasonal shade and trees (I used suncalc.net)
  • Balance of lawn vs low-maintenance/low-water area
  • Variety: a rock garden, flower garden, vegetable garden, play area
An early plan draft

After considering seeding it myself, we opted for sod since the weeds were so pervasive and we wanted things to start quickly. In retrospect that was the right decision, since I only finished the yard with gravel in October. 
Sod was the most expensive step, but what an improvement.

Next, I focused on planting the trees. We got a few from the Sacramento Tree Foundation, which provides free shade trees (for SMUD customers). I chose a red maple to be the central shade tree. We also got a crape myrtle and chinese pistache. We had a pesky 30ft cottonwood tree cut down that was stupidly planted 2ft away from sprinkler valves. While planting I learned quickly that my soil has a lot of river rock, which made every hole to dig painstaking (not to mention my accidentally busting a couple sprinkler lines). The rock came in handy for borders later though.

Tetherball pole? I'm not sure what this was for, but dug it out

Planting the red maple, this sucker grows like a champ.

Next up, the playground. This was simply some leveling, weedblock, and 4 yd3 of playground wood chips from Hasties. The quicker I can get ground covered, the sooner I can stop nearly poisioning myself from Round-Up exposure trying to keep weeds down!

That's a lot of wheelbarrows.

Libby checking out progress.

Now, with more space... I was able to score a sweet deal on this little playset. I edged the playground with some red landscaping logs, then staked and tied them down with durable sisal rope (seems to be holding so far).


Now came preparing the other half of the yard.
  • Flower garden
    I planted the crape myrtle, and purchased a flowering cherry tree (my wife's personal choice). I covered the area in mulch... and my wife plants some bulbs and flowers later.
  • Rock garden
    I planted mostly with varieties of juniper here, aiming to create a oval/semi-circle shape. In the center, I planted a hollywood juniper which I trimmed and bound with wire to train it with some bonsai-style interest.
  • Vegetable planter box
    Nothing but some giant lumber boards from Home Depot nailed together and buried in the ground. Also to be covered this up until planting next spring. 

Placing the junipers

Ready for gravel... planter box, and (soon to be) rock garden.

Finally, the last step... gravel. I started off the edges, then hiring two guys cheap off craigslist made spreading gravel easy-peasy.


That's even more wheelbarrows.

It felt great to get the last square foot of ground covered, and to rest assured those weeds were suffocated underneath a summer of hard work. There's still a lot of growing left for the young trees and bushes, and definitely more finishing touches to come next year... but it's been a great change for the yard. 




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