When we were house-hunting, I still remember walking around our now-current (but then-prospective) house, and being impressed with the flowers and manicured flowering bushes. Coming from an apartment, the whole idea of a house of our own, a garden, all of that, was pretty heady.
Fast-forward through the next several years, and the reality of managing a young family presents some stark reality. My wife and I managed raising two young children, and taking care of them (and managing our own careers) took precedence. Second priority was managing the interior of the house, while the exterior was a distant third.
As a result, I’m embarrassed to admit, the front, back, and sides started to look rather unkept. Sure, we made small attempts at gardening here and there, but we never could dedicate enough time and money for proper upkeep. Add in the limited gardening green thumb knowledge and experience, and that resulted in us doing the bare minimum. The bare minimum means cleaning up here occasionally, a few hanging flower baskets that die in the heat, a backyard patio that was in a losing battle against the encroaching weeds, and finally a largely ignored front yard.
Sad, isn’t it? Well, it was reality, and I’m not one to sugarcoat it. Time for the good news. If you’ve been keeping up on our doings and happenings, the past two years have seen many much-needed updates and welcome changes around here. The kids have gotten easier to manage, and monthly childcare costs have decreased. Also, we felt a strong urge to make the big fixes.
In the past few years, we made many updates to the kitchen, the living room, and many other parts of the house interior. This year, we started looking askance at the exterior, and we declared it “Not good.” Again, we’ve done the mulching thing, the few planted/hanging flowers here and there over the years, but the whole exterior area needed work. In my mind, I recall the beautiful grounds that the previous owners cultivated, and I personally grit my teeth in consternation. We drew a line in the weeds, and said, “This far and no further!”
We wanted to start in the spring, but this year it rained an awful lot, so that didn’t work out. Better late than never, I say. In the past two weeks, I’ve personally made four (or is it five?) trips to Home Depot for new gardening tools, mulch and garden/potting soil galore, flowers and seeds. Sometimes it was the whole family, sometimes it was just me making a quick run after work. We’ve had top soil delivered, replanted plants, and arrived at a stalemate with the almighty underground tree root. We’ve done a lot, and now we are waiting and cultivating the fruits of our labor. Shall I recap the work performed? Are you still reading?
After a brief flirtation with some hanging baskets we bought through a church fundraiser, those flowers burned in the direct sunlight. My wife did research, and she found some hardier plants. During our first Home Depot trip, we picked up new flowering hanging baskets, flowers for planting, and the first in many bags of mulch and gardening soil. After much effort, the backyard looks pretty good. I keep spraying the weeds, but they keep sprouting new ones like a many-headed hydra. Next year, we want to redo the backyard patio with pavers, ones that don’t allow gaps for weeds to spring forth anew.
Ah, the front yard. We never go out here, except to get the mail. The original owners had some sort of plant ground covering instead of grass, a bush, and two trees. The extent of our gardening was placing a new hanging basket and occasionally remembering to water out here. Sadly, we were remiss last year, and the basket and the ground covering died an ignominious death.
Two weeks ago, Josh and I raked up all the dead plant matter. We Ipes did some hedge trimming, put out a new hanging basket, and planted three new hardy ground plants.
Namita and I wanted grass, but it turned out that the entire front yard was covered in tree roots. No wonder the previous owners had a ground covering — there was no top soil for grass to grow. I bought a tiller and a shovel, but there was no way we could grow a lawn in this situation.
After much discussion internally and with friends, we decided on a plan. We ordered 3 yards (a total of 300 square feet) of top soil to cover our yard with at least two inches deep of soil. Namita read up on how to best grow grass. I borrowed a wheelbarrow from my friend Doug. The top soil arrived yesterday, and my neighbor and I shoveled and transferred it to the front yard in the wheelbarrow. Today, I leveled the soil as best I could, spread around the Miracle-Gro garden soil and grass seeds, and Namita did a helluva lot more tilling. We’ll have to put down more mulch around the trees in a week or two. Next year, pavers to make a raised area next to the house, and we’ll plant some flowering bushes.
The side of the house along the sidewalk is our responsibility. We had a lot of dead and dying plants here, due to years of not taking care of them. In the past week, starting last Sunday and in the evenings this week, we ripped out the dead plants, dug out many roots, and planted new perennials and seeds for a new flower bed. Of course, don’t forget the mulching.
So here we are. Two weeks of gardening, and we’ve attacked the grounds with gusto. We are now in a waiting and cultivating stage. Continuously watering, pruning, and weeding. 30 days until we see if the front yard grows some grass. If the flower bed starts to bloom. If the backyard flowers survive or burn in the sun. I never did so much gardening in my life, and yes I’m sore and tired. I’ve also gotten a lot of good exercise, learned more about gardening, and now I own my very first tiller and shovel.