Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I made you a gravel wasteland

Sod removal happened this weekend, which is how our side yard went from this . . .


. . . to this.


We used YardRents again, who are great. The YardRents guys showed up promptly and showed us how to use the sod cutter. They knew it wasn't going to take us very long, so they didn't even bother to leave. One of the guys snapped photos of the garden (he was so fired up, which was wonderful) and chatted with me about the evils of Round Up while Greg zipped through removing the sod. It took 30 minutes to remove the area along the driveway and the side yard where we bumped out the fence.

Sod cutters are the best. 


The YardRents guys packed up and were on their way and we got work rolling up the sod and transferring it to a pile in the driveway.




Then Greg leveled and regraded the soil so water will hopefully move away from the house, instead of toward it. We also removed the plastic that had been layed down years ago. A previous owner must have tried to keep water away from the house by laying down plastic sheeting and planting sod on top of it. I don't know why this seemed like a good idea but I'm sure a future homeowner will wonder why I put all this gravel in. Ugh, gravel?! Why not some nice lawn?


I headed down to Oregon Decorative Rock and picked up some gravel. I love gravel pathways. I love the sound they make and their persistence. I love the way your wheelbarrow sinks into the gravel, making it impossible to move, pissing off your boyfriend. (I didn't believe Greg when he warned me that would happen.) I really wanted gravel in this part of the yard but I wasn't sure how to handle the transition from the cedar chip pathway that will run through the front yard, and the transition to lawn in the backyard.


Neither of us are happy with the state of the side yard right now because it's a wasteland of gravel. Grey house, grey A/C unit, an eight feet wide expanse of grey gravel. Ultimately we're going to set up the rain barrel and a stock tank for tomatoes against the house, so it should only feel like five feet of gravel instead of eight. I popped some colorful pots over here (and that stupid wheelbarrow) so we'll have some color. I'm hoping to train a vine along this fence and Greg has plans for a trellis of some sort atop our fence. I'm hoping to find something vigorous enough to cover the fence but restrained enough not to pull it down. Any suggestions?


Currently gravel gives way unceremoniously to lawn. My thought right now is to ease the transitions with rock. I was so tired and sunburned by the end of the day that I couldn't handle a third trip to Oregon Decorative Rock. So I plopped it down and called it good.


But I'm fuzzily thinking something like this. Behold, my amazing MS Paint skills!


Eh, I don't know. Next I need to dig down the soil here (it will go in the bottom of the new stock tank), edge the plants with rock, then put down cedar chips.


And then we still have a fair amount of sod to remove by hand, underneath the dogwood's drip line where I was too nervous to use the sod cutter. But I can see the finish line with sod removal!


24 comments:

  1. Wow! That's so much faster than removing sod by hand...which is what I did. Oh, well. I guess I got a workout each time! I like gravel paths, too. In fact I'm having some 1/4-10 delivered this week. I like your idea of using some stepping stones for a transition.

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  2. Yes, it's so much faster! I've gotten pretty fast at using my pickax to remove it by hand, so I don't dread it the way I used to. Think of the bragging rights you have! No greenhouse gases from your yard. :)

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  3. I thought I just posted, so if I double-post, my apologies!


    I'd love the YardRents guys to come to Philly because my sod removal is taking for-freaking-ever!!


    David Culp, whose garden I just visited a couple of months ago, plants tiny native tulips and other small plants in his gravel driveway as a nice transition between gravel and yard. I think there might be pics on my blog; if not, I can email them to you if you're interested.

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  4. I'd love to see them! That's a great idea--thank you so much!

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  5. Amazing transformations! I agree with you about the crunch and satisfaction of walking on gravel -- I love it. Wheelbarrows do get stuck, but even they make a nice sound when being manhandled thru the gravel. Your whole side area is so much dressier and cleaner looking now, and you'll like it more with some pots and a vine on the fence* and other greenery about.


    To go from where the gravel area empties into the yard you will need edging, either a row of pavers like the sides have, or a metal band sunk in the ground. Otherwise the gravel migrates into the grass something awful. My gravel area has sunken steel edging at the entrance into the grass, and we put it in with a gentle curve to it. It works. I think your best bet is to repeat the pavers tightly abutted at that open edge, but sunk a little lower so they are flat with the lawn. Then do the random big stones placed around in the gravel the way you drew them in. That will look artful and elegant. I'm loving the potential look of the whole space!


    * a vine for the fence -- clematis Jackmanii will take some shade and is gorgeous and robust and would really dress up all the gray with color.

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  6. I love it...so much! I love gravel underfoot (Norm disagrees), that sound is so satisfying...but yes, I've sworn a few times when the wheelbarrow gets bogged down...nothing is perfect, right? I love the idea of dressing up the area with pots, like you've already done...plus, then you can change the whole feel of the area on a whim (well, if the pots are small enough).


    You could totally plant right into the gravel as well...perhaps with some re-seeding plants (Knautia, Verbena bonariensis, Stipa or Poppies?). For a vine that can take sun and shade, my pick is Parthenocissus. It's vigorous (bordering on thuggish, but not destructive), it has gorgeous leaves and bonus amazing fall color (practically the best fall color of any vine). You could also do Jasmine...there are quite a few to choose from...AND they are scented, which is a huge plus.

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  7. The first three pics here: http://phillygarden.blogspot.com/2013/05/visit-to-david-culps-garden-special.html

    And from his website: http://www.davidlculp.com/gallery_driveway.htm

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  8. Obviously, you have city grass. Out here, the roots of the scruffy country grass go to China. They would look at that sod cutter and sigh "Ah, a nice little haircut. Now we will grow twice as fast!"

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  9. City grass, sown atop a plastic sheet. Easy peasy!

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  10. There is something very satisfying about walking on gravel paths-and not having to spend hours mowing and trimming. Maybe you could lay down some cheap plywood or cardboard in a pinch when you need to use the wheelbarrow a lot just to get across a little more quickly. I did that once when I had a lot of crap to haul up and down a hill in my yard after a hard rain storm and I didn't want to tear up the grass. Looks great so far. For some reason I am envisioning some hostas back there...then again I envision hostas everywhere because I love them.

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  11. Those are excellent ideas, both the board and the hostas. Thanks!

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  12. Wow, why didn't I think of a sodcutter? My lower back would be so much happier. As to a vine, my favorite is trumpet honeysuckle. Not too aggressive, takes some shade, but gets to a good size. Nice flowers, beloved by hummingbirds. You can cut it to the ground every spring if you want.

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  13. Sod cutters are amazing! But they take all of spontaneity out of randomly increasing the size of your beds. I love honeysuckle--thanks for the suggestion! Do you have a cultivar you love?

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  14. As always, you are so full of good ideas. Thank you! And holy smokes, that clematis is beautiful! I'm having a love affair with purple right now, so your timing is perfect.

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  15. I love the idea of Parthenocissus because I wouldn't need to put up a trellis. I think we need to go shopping . . .

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  16. As we played "rock the Rhody" on Sunday (you know: dig, rock to the left, dig, rock to the right, repeat) I thought of you guys with your sod cutter/removal project. I think we had it better...but your end result looks fabulous!

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  17. Oh man, I think we had it better too. I do not envy you that task. I can't wait to see that area transformed!

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  18. Jane / MulchMaidJune 12, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    It's so exciting to see this kind of instant reward! I resisted (still resist) Ben's gravel walkways, partly because they aren't the kind that pack down (Is it the quarter 10 or the quarter-minus? I can never remember.) But I have to say it adds great order to the paths and is way better than grass.


    Trachelospermum jasminoides is a beautiful evergreen vine that smells good when it blooms, but it wants a good bit of sun. I can endorse Parthenocissus tricuspidata: just one plant has covered 15 feet of our wall and fence in five years.

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  19. I love star jasmine! I think I'll probably end up going with the Virginia creeper, since I'm impatient and it can climb without a trellis.

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  20. Actually, I really like the straight species, but John Clayton is also nice.

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  21. Fabulous! You'll just have to feed your pot addiction and buy lots more for back there!

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  22. I'm pretty sure what you're doing is called "enabling," Peter. :)

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  23. You say that like it's a bad thing.

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