Saving the Yard

Both our front yard and back yard held up fairly well through our first summer, but last summer both of them were looking pretty miserable by the end. The grass was pretty prickly and had given up entirely in quite a few spots. In the front yard this was probably due to the in-ground sprinklers crapping out and my pathetic attempts at buying and using above-ground sprinklers not working so well. But the back yard was doing pretty badly too. I made an uneducated attempt to overseed in the fall, but I didn’t really research it enough and used a warm season seed mix, which unsurprisingly did very little in the way of growing. In my defense, the vast majority of advice and how-tos on lawn care assume you live somewhere where it rains a lot and freezes for part of the year. Sigh.

I hope that I’ll be able to spend a lot of this coming summer enjoying the nice weather outdoors, but if our lawn looks like it did last summer I won’t really want to spend any time on or near it. So after some much more obsessive researching on the topic, I’ve settled on the following plan of action: aerate, topdress with compost, and overseed. Oh and actually figure out how much water our sprinklers produce and adjust accordingly. All of this needs to happen soon if we want a useable yard this summer, and with a baby set to appear at any moment, I kicked it into high gear. For aerating, we already owned this manual tool:

Manual Aerator

In case it’s unclear, you hold the handles at the top, place the hollow spikes on the ground, and give the horizontal bar at the bottom a good stomp. I actually bought this thing last year, but in the fall our lawn was as hard as concrete so I quickly gave up. This time around, with softer soil from the rainy season and an extra 50 lbs of weight to use to my advantage, this actually worked quite well. It took me all of last week working in fairly short sessions each day just to do the front yard, but of course I wasn’t pushing myself, and I was pretty happy to get some sun each day and listen to podcasts as I worked. I’m still working on aerating the back yard, and I finally came up with a method to keep my holes more or less straight. We have these plastic yellow poles that I can move over to the leading edge of holes as I make each new pass down the yard:

Aerating the back yard

The dirt to the far right of the picture above is my attempt to fill in some of the dips in our yard with the most potential to break an ankle. Hopefully when I put grass seed down on the dirt it will actually grow, but non-broken ankles are more important than a pretty lawn. 🙂

Next up, I needed compost. After pacing out the lawn and doing a little math, I figured I needed just about 2 cubic yards to top dress all of the grass with 1/4″ of compost. About a third of it would be for the front lawn, and the rest of it would be for the back. There seem to be quite a few landscaping companies around that sell compost in bulk, with options to bag it ourselves or have it delivered. I ended up going with the company that seemed to be the most friendly to non-professional DIY types, based on the reviews I read. They actually had an option to rent out a dump truck so we could really do IT ALL by ourselves, but we have so many other things going on, so we decided to pay the extra money to have it delivered. And since the delivery price was a flat charge, we also decided to order 3 cubic yards of mulch. We normally end up buying bags upon bags of the stuff from the hardware store anyway, so buying it all in once in bulk should save us some money in the end.

Anyway, the delivery date we picked was supposed to be rain-free, but of course by the evening before, the forecast had changed to “80% chance of rain, chance of thunderstorms”. Being the optimistic sort, I didn’t change the delivery date at the last minute, so this morning the truck arrived, leaving this in our driveway:

Driveway dump

We immediately covered the compost (on the right) with the tarps since we figured we wouldn’t get to it today and we wanted to protect it from the impending rain. Dave had already left for work, so Julie and I hauled out the wheelbarrow and shovels and got to work. Actually the above picture is after Julie had to stop and go to work, so we had already moved maybe a quarter or so of the mulch to the back yard. Actually most of the mulch is going to be used on the “utility” side yard, (where we keep the trash cans and such) which was crazy overrun with weeds. We did manage to start tearing through some of the weeds last weekend, but there are still many tall weeds in the way, so we mostly piled the mulch up for now:

Side yard mulch

The area on the right of the picture is where we already hoed away all of the weeds. Hopefully the rest of this area will look like that soon.

I took a nice nap after Julie went to work and then proceeded to get the rest of the mulch out of the driveway, with still no sign of rain. It did finally rain in the evening, but there wasn’t any thunder to speak of. Ah well.

Oh! and I found some baby snakes hiding under a board. Adorable!!

20130307-212126.jpg

Anyway, the landscaping people recommended that we let the compost “cool off” for a few days. So I guess I’ll get back to aerating and hoeing, and maybe I’ll start working on my topdressing skills sometime next week… If I’m still feeling energetic next week…

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Posted on March 7, 2013, in outdoors and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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