Down and Dirty in the Backyard

There are some things I have an extreme aversion to, like sweating and getting dirty. I’ll put it off as long as possible, until things get bad, real bad. We’ve been back in our house for ten months now and I finally got around to digging in the dirt. I was tired of this scene in the backyard.

Rear Plant Bed

Awful, right? Dirt for a lawn, weeds, and bulbs that no longer flower. Grass growing where we don’t want it and not growing where we want it. So what motivated me to get going on the backyard? As you know, we finally got our new fence complete with functional gates, which helps a lot when going to and fro. We also dropped some mad cash on a new heat pump system for our house. The coils of our old condenser (the unit that sits outside, much like an air conditioner) were badly corroded. Our HVAC tech thought it was due to dog urine. Our tenants had a dog, not to point fingers or anything, and we just adopted our pooch, so some preventive measures were required to keep our investment humming along.

HVAC Before and After

Here sits our new condenser and Buster can walk right up to it to do his business. He’s a little dog, so we don’t need a tall, elaborate barrier, just some pine straw and this little garden fence I picked up at Ace Hardware would do the trick. I bet you are wondering what the cardboard in the middle picture is for. I recently read a tip in This Old House magazine that if you want to reclaim part of your lawn for a garden bed, you should cover the area with cardboard and mulch in the fall and by spring your garden bed will be ready for planting. The cardboard smothers out the turf (and hopefully weeds). I was sold on that idea when I figured out it meant I wouldn’t have to do much digging. I applied that idea to another area I wanted to clean up and claim for a planting bed. Here is the south side of the house.

South Plant Bed

In the middle picture you can see the two berry bushes Jeromy planted. Since we hope to eat berries from those plants, I definitely didn’t want to spray the area to kill off the weeds and grass. To make the bed a little neater, I did get out our edger and use it to dig a tiny trench along the outline of the area. Then I used a shovel and dug up the turf a few inches back from the line. That way the pine straw would hopefully settle down with a nice edge. I’ll keep you posted on how the cardboard trick works out. I used it in a couple of other plant beds too.

The rear plant bed is the area that required the most work. Shortly after we moved back into the house last year, Jeromy limbed up the trees and trimmed down a couple of over grown bushes. This is what the area looked like before we did anything in July 2012.

Backyard at MoveinHere is how it looked a week ago, April 2013.

Rear Bed Before

Here is what it looked like after I decided to play in the dirt.

Rear Bed After

It pretty much looks like I slaughtered that bush with the clippers, doesn’t it? That is just how the thing grew and how I needed to deal with it. I still need to cut a couple of branches, but I also have an aversion to axes and chain saws, so I’ll let hubby do that when he has the time.

Here’s a before picture from a different angle.

Rear Bed Before 2

Josh, my son, and I got down on our hands and knees and pulled the weeds, unwanted grass, and dug up expired bulbs (that is my term, since I’m a novice gardener). So now the area looks like this.

Rear Bed After 2

Lots cleaner and probably very sparse looking to y’all, but since everything I don’t like is gone, it looks fabulous to me. We still have a little area behind the big tree to finish. I left it undone because we have another big project ahead of us. Unfortunately, our yard will be losing three trees in a couple of weeks.


In the top left picture, you can see that the biggest tree is in real trouble. It is rotten from the inside and completely infested with ants. The arborist said it has to go. There is no saving it. Same goes for the two other distressed trees. The top right picture shows a tree that probably should have been cut down when the house was built and fence was originally put up. It should be far greener by now and honestly, it is a nuisance. It drops nuts in the fall and makes lawn care a real pain in the butt. The third tree is shown in the bottom two pictures. It too is hollowed out and dead at the top.

I guess I’m a bad treehugger. I’m really sick to my stomach about losing three trees and I feel guilty about the big one. It has been in bad shape for some time now, probably since we bought the house. Had I paid attention to it sooner, maybe we could have saved it. I don’t know. Y’all do me a favor and check the trees on your property now. See if there are signs of decay or bug infestation. If you aren’t sure, call an arborist for help. Pretty please.

So, we won’t be doing any planting until after the trees come down. Our backyard ecosystem will change quite a bit thanks to losing some shade. We’ll see how it looks then and determine what we want to plant. For now I’m dreaming of a backyard that looks like this . . .

Jeromy is totally down with the paver patio. He wants to do all the work himself! I love the curved edges and how the plants give a nice layered look, but aren’t overgrown. Oh and some green grass would be nice. I’ll give you an update after the trees come down. Has anyone else been heartbroken over losing trees? Have you had to pretty much annihilate your backyard to get it back into shape?

4 thoughts on “Down and Dirty in the Backyard

  1. I think what you’ve done is amazing! It looks great! I love that cardboard idea. Seems like it could save slot of back breaking work! Wow, you have been busy! Can’t wait to see Jeromy’s handiwork with the patio. That looks like it will be quite a retreat!

    • I’m so glad I had before pictures because with projects like this it is easy to forget what we’ve accomplished. Still a long way to go. I’m looking forward to picking out new plants and trees. It might be a long while before we get around to that patio!

  2. Pingback: Lost in the Weeds | rememberwren

  3. Pingback: Timber! | rememberwren

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