Showing posts with label sod removal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sod removal. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We are officially no-mow in the front yard

In the list of Things I've Spent the Majority of My Life Doing, removal of sod is quickly catching up to sleeping, reading, and perusing the Annie's Annuals website. For the record, those latter three things are way more fun than sod removal.

Despite the fact that everyone I know loves smothering, I have not had good results with it. The neighborhood cats dig up my newspaper, things never properly decompose, and the sod always seems to come back to life. I've read reports online from people who claim that, within six weeks of applying the smothering layer of choice, they had lush, crumbly topsoil. I call bullshit.

Anyway. I had very little sod left in the front garden but it needed to be removed very carefully with a pickax, so I wouldn't disturb the roots of the 75 year old dogwood tree. I had this stupid strip along the new pathway just to make mowing awful for Greg. You're welcome, buddy.

I used the same rock I've used throughout the garden and did a terrible job preparing the ground. I want people to know that I DIYed this.

And along the property line . . .

The hope is to give my neighbor a level surface to run his lawnmower along. And I'll have a clear demarcation of where wood chips or mulch should begin.

Now I just need to fill in this area in with dry shade plants. I have three Amsonia hubrichtii planted around the dogwood, along with Geranium macrorrhizzum, which will hopefully disguise the abrupt transition from fine hemlock mulch to cedar chips.

I planted a tiny variegated flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum 'Variegata') in this area (just to the left of the pouty Sesleria autumnalis), since that native can take an awful lot of abuse. I've also got a smattering of random hellebores and volunteers like Persicaria 'Lance Corporal,' Phlomis russeliana, and Parahebe perfoliata. Anybody have a favored 3-4 foot dry shade subshrub or evergreen plant? I need some variation in height.

I also need a bench or comfy chair so I can sit under the dogwood with a glass of wine in the evening. And groundcovers. I need something to knit this mess together.


Who needs lawn? The whole front garden was designed to be watered twice a month or less. It's crazy but it's fun and we have zillions of pollinators.

June of this year

We don't miss mowing at all.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You'll never guess what I've been doing

When we last left off in the front yard, Greg and I had rented a sod cutter and removed grass up to this point. I wanted to stay outside of the drip line of the dogwood tree, hence this abrupt halt. Because I had things to do, like buying pots and going to Disneyland, it's sat like this for over six weeks.

The weeds decided to have a rager while we were gone. Just wait until their father hears about this.

I had to dig down the soil here because it was sloping toward the house. Back when we removed the cement slab in the backyard, the bobcat was driven through this area, badly compacting the soil in the worst way. So I had to dig down several inches and grade everything away from the house.

Then I had to remove the sod by hand from the rest of the areas where the pathway would go. For the record, I'm sick of removing sod.

Then I had to grade the soil away from the house there, too. For the record, I'm sick of regrading soil.

Faced with yet another large pile of dirt, my first thought was, "I should just buy a bunch of pots." That's more fun than transporting the dirt to the truck, then to the soil recycler.

One yard of cedar chips filled the area perfectly.

I still need to install rock edging on the other side of the pathway and figure out how I'm going to plant the area between my yard and my neighbor's lawn (if anyone has ideas, I'm all ears). The whole thing looks kind of haphazard right now but at least it smells nice. It doesn't help that we're still missing a board from the gate and the posts still need to be cut down, and the rock wall got knocked askew when the sod cutter went through here . . .

Because I'm an awful person, I left this strip of sod that will be impossible to mow (have fun, Greg!). I could've removed it but I was tired and hot and the debris bin was full.

All of these details need to wait because it's supposed to be in the 90s this week, which means I'll be crouching inside by the A/C register, whining about being hot. It's hard being this much of a weather wimp.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I made you a cedar chip wasteland

I have officially spent two weekends putting out a lot of effort to make a pathway, a pretty simple one at that. Apologies for how many crappy phone pics there are here, I was chugging along and couldn't be bothered to do anything beyond grabbing my phone out of my back pocket.

After we removed the sod along the driveway I needed to dig down a bit so it could hold the cedar chips I wanted here. I was hoping to soften up the ground before I had to dig, so I thought about how to make it rain. A ha, I thought, I'll put out yard debris bags! You know the bags--the ones that get heavy so easily and turn to mush and break if it rains even a little? We put four of those, filled with sod removal scraps, out on the street and of course the heavens opened up. But it made digging easier.

I found buried stuff because I always find buried stuff.

The oil tank that we knew was here.

A pretty large cavity, probably from a critter long ago (I hope long ago).

I was like, how can I make sure I move this soil as many times as humanly possible? I know, I'll dig it up, transport it to a tarp under the dogwood, then transport it back to the driveway and into Greg's truck so it can go to the soil recycling place. My back was not amused.

I used thinner, taller pieces of the same rock I've used to edge the beds elsewhere in the garden. I just wanted a simple line to say "chips here, mulch there."

It looks goofy now because the chips are bright orange. I have a skosh more room (just like Levis) in the beds, so I need to rearrange things a bit. It helps that a few weeks back I removed six or seven of the rose bushes here. All the rain had really softened the ground and they popped out with almost no effort. I got a little carried away and started removing them left and right.



Now I just need something low-growing and drought-tolerant to weave through and unify everything.


The best part is that cedar chips break down and feed the soil, so when a future owner inevitably plants lawn here, they'll find the soil to be rich and loamy. Circle of life and all that.

I finished up by vacuuming the driveway. If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lightning didn't strike twice

The last time we rented a sod cutter was in April of last year and we successfully got rid of the sod we removed by listing it on craigslist. Sadly, I don't think June (an unseasonably warm and dry one at that) is the time to try and get rid of old lawn. No one picked up our discard pile so I had to take it to Wood Waste Management after my dentist appointment yesterday. You'd think a dental cleaning and dealing with a truck full of sod would be a terrible way to spend your afternoon but I had fun (my teeth were super clean and my clothes were so dirty!). It was only $25 to drop it off to be composted, so I can't really complain.

I stopped by Fred Meyer and saw that all of their pots were 25% off. And then I saw a pot with a chip on it and asked the manager if she could come down in price. She agreed to knock off an additional 20% but then we couldn't get the pot dislodged from the larger pot it was sitting in so she said, "Just pick out a different pot and I'll honor the extra 20% off."

So I got this persimmon baby (it's larger than it looks) for $35. I threw some of the enormous stash of High Country Gardens freebies in here (Stachys coccineus 'Mountain Red') along with an agave pup and a Color Guard yucca. I realized that I have a pot addiction, one that's certainly more expensive than the one that comes with illegal transactions at music festivals. I also realized that need more agaves. A lot more. They look good everywhere!

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!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mo' beds, mo' problems.

Last summer Loree gifted me the retaining blocks she removed from her yard during the great Bishops Weed expurgation. They sat in a pile in various areas of the yard, collecting spiders and looking terrible. My ultimate goal is to replace all of the retaining stones in the backyard with the same stone I used on the new shade bed but I spent way too much on plants last month and it's just not in the budget. I should use the free material I already have, right?

I started out a few weeks ago by dry fitting the blocks into roughly the area I wanted. Seeing that this corner was actually incorporated with the rest of the garden made me so happy. All of a sudden I realized how much this corner has been bugging me. But then I realized that I wanted to bring the line out a ways, so I had to remove some sod. And then I accidentally removed too much sod. I think I'm getting too good at it.

Side note: North Portland soil is much sandier than other parts of the city, where they have thick clay. Every time I get a plant from Scott I realize all over again how lucky I am, soil wise. His soil is sticky and unmovable and when it dries out it's hard as a rock. I've been able to see my soil improve dramatically (and quickly) by adding mulch every spring and compost every fall. My soil was badly compacted but I have almost no clay. I'm very lucky. The downside of North and NE Portland is that it was built atop a giant anthill. I could tell you horror stories of friends discovering ant infestations in their water heaters, so huge that grad students were brought in to study it.

Why am I telling you this? Because I discovered that every ant in Portland is living in this bed. I'll poison them if they come inside the house but out here they can do what they want. But, ugh.

Anyway, this area has been looking really good with all the ferns coming up, so good that I'm thinking about moving them.

I'm thinking about moving them forward and tucking another ninebark between the cedar and the pieris. 'Diabolo' grows insanely well in the northwest, sometimes reaching twenty feet (or so says Dan Hinkley). I don't think it would get that tall in a dry shady spot like this, but some height would be appreciated here. Or will the dark foliage just disappear in this area? I'm also considering a Mahonia 'Soft Caress.' Am I missing another shrub that would be good for this spot? Or should I leave it as is?

I'm badly in need of more plants to fill out this bed but I need to stop for a bit and let my wallet recuperate from April's shopping sprees and my trips to Rare Plant Research and Wind Dancer Garden. I thought creating this bed with donated stones would be thrifty but somehow I need to go shopping again.

Get opinionated on me. You all have such good suggestions.