The Big Outdoor Upgrade

For basically as long as we’ve lived here, our yard has been a bit of an embarrassment. I detailed the progression last summer when I was looking for landscapers, but that really didn’t work out because I couldn’t get a company to simply email me back about the job! I did get a few quotes, but the only guy that seemed professional and reliable quoted us just over $2,000 to redo the beds with a retaining wall, good dirt, mulch, and some new plants. OUCH. (You might note in the post linked above we thought we had found a landscaper for a good price, just over $1,000— but he turned out to be a TOTAL FLAKE). We really just were not willing to put several grand into our flower beds.

Which meant our yard last summer stayed looking like this…. I mean, I like polka dots, but this is a bit extreme! lol


This situation led to our getting a bunch of notices from our HOA in mid to late summer about the weeds in our yard. Which annoyed the crap out of me because I didn’t grow up in a community with an HOA and I sort of resent anyone telling me what to do with my own property, even if it does look like crap. Nevertheless, we hired trugreen to come out and treat our lawn and by this year the grass was looking a lot better. But the beds…. were not.

front bed before

Overgrown. Ugly bushes. No edging. It was a hot mess. And yet… we’re lazy. Especially because we really wanted to do a retaining wall (when we did something) because our yard slopes so much that we constantly lose dirt/mulch off the side of the bed. But that seemed really complicated.

So we probably wouldn’t have done anything at all (again) except that about a month ago my mom asked me what weekend her and my dad were coming down to put up a retaining wall and fix our beds. Say what? I guess she got sick of seeing the beds that way so she decided to take action. By forcing me to take action. By just assuming we were doing this. I love my mom haha.

Still, I wasn’t SUPER excited about the work ahead and yard planning is far outside my comfort zone, so I left the planning up to my parents (who actually sort of like planning this stuff out). I sent my dad some pictures of the bed and the length of the outer perimeter and set him on figuring out the wall. Then I told my mom that she could pick whatever plants she thought would look nice.

And this Friday afternoon, they rolled into town and….. well let’s just say that after over 10 hours of hard labor on Saturday my Dad did this…..


And then we all did this…


Who am I kidding? There will be more details than that! So here is how it went down. My dad figured out how many blocks we needed (a rough estimate) and I ordered them from Menards for 89 cents per block. He then found a local place who would deliver good soil and mulch to us. The deliveries came in Friday evening and Saturday morning– and holy crap. 8.7 tons (literally) of raw materials. That were going to be moved by hand. Yowza.

We all got ready, including B in his awesome allergy mask (because he likes breathing, and that is not generally possible when he’s outside for more than an hour in the Spring).


And then we got to work. My dad dug the trench for the first row of blocks, which was definitely the hardest job. In order to make the wall solid, you have to make sure that the ground on which it is built is perfectly level. Once the bottom layer of blocks was laid, building the rest of the wall was shockingly easy— you just stack them on there! They have a little lip at the back that locks behind the block below them, and the dirt holds them all together. As the wall was getting built we were also shoveling out all the crap dirt (aka clay and rocks) and wheelbarrowing in good dirt. Lots and lots of this


And a little of this (starbucks and cliff bar break).


And like magic (or um… like 4 people worked their asses off for 10+ hours…) we got the trench dug, the blocks laid, the bad dirt hauled out, the good dirt hauled in, the plants planted, the beds mulched, and all the extras distributed (let’s just say– we may have ordered a bit too much mulch and our yard is now WELL mulched, as is the neighbor’s side bed and we may have also dropped off 5 huge bags of extra mulch up the street at Amanda’s house lol).

As for plants, my mom came down with a lot of ideas but we just went out the morning of to buy everything. I was very intent to NOT overcrowd the beds. Everything grows so fast and I wanted to give everything space to grow in and be awesome, rather than putting a bunch of stuff in now and having it look crowded in a couple of months. We ended up with this red bush thing that I can’t remember the name of– apparently it has pink flowers but it may be too late in the year for those to come..


Five hostas, which I’ve always loved.


Two hydrangea, which I am ridiculously excited about (I had assumed they were really hard to grow because they’re so pretty, but apparently not!).


And this awesome mini tree, which I also can’t remember the name of (blogger fail).


It won’t get much bigger than this, but it will get bushier. I love the pinky leafy looking flowers on it, and I just think it is super cute.


We also kept the three ginormous spiky bushes that lived right against the house, but we cut them back severely. They grow really fast so they’ll be a bit bushier soon, but we had to cut them back a lot so we could get them dug out and moved (because with all the new dirt and soil, the beds are about 18 inches taller than they were before).


Put them all together and you get…… ta da!

IMG_7982 IMG_7981

A close up of the awesome blocks (can you believe these were less than a buck a piece??)

I really can’t get over how much I LOVE our front yard now. It’s such a weird feeling to go from having an embarrassment of a yard to having one this gorgeous. We actually saw someone come take a picture of it on Sunday when we were eating brunch in the dining room! lol. I think I might actually have yard pride. Which is weird for me. But, I’m vowing to keep things nice this year. Now that the beds are level (no run-off), and everything is growing in good dirt with weed paper down (to prevent weeds), and a nice thick layer of mulch, it should be much easier to keep things looking nice and tidy. And I’m sort of counting the days until my hydrangeas bloom!

And just so you don’t have to scroll back up/down…. here is the dramatic summer 2012/spring 2013/after!


front bed before


(Stew photobomb for the win).

Anyone else doing yard work yet this spring? Anyone suddenly motivated to make a previously ignored area of your home awesome?


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