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

Friday, May 17, 2013

I want an oompa loompa NOW.

I have a number of projects that I want to take care of this summer. A lot of them hinge on other projects, like bumping out the fence on the west side of the house. This area, which I call "the lab," has been taunting me.

I'm planning on removing the sod here, possibly edging the plants in stone, then replacing the sod with cedar chips. A couple of times I've even signed into YardRents and ordered a sod cutter, only to cancel it five minutes later. I want to remove the sod from the west side of the house (where the expanded fence is going in) and it makes sense to do that at the same time that I remove it here.

Then I can list the sod on craigslist once and deal with YardRents fees once. That's the smart thing to do but I want to remove it NOW. It's riddled with weeds and it serves no purpose. We don't bag our lawn clippings, so we end up with dead grass scattered all over the driveway and sidewalk, which drives me crazy.

But once we get this removed we'll have almost no lawn in the front yard. Huzzah! I think I'm going to save Greg so much time mowing the lawn that he'll have extra time to rub my back. Back me up on this.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Checking in on the front yard

We're having an unusually sunny spring and the front garden is really appreciating it. Even though the cannas are just starting to poke up and the zauschneria is still pretty tiny, everything looks so much fuller than it did last spring.




My Verbascum bombyciferum is going to bloom, which makes me a bit sad, since the rosette it formed is so, so nice.

I can't wait to see what it will look like when it's actually filled in at the height of summer. If we're being honest, I'm a little fearful too. I have crammed so many plants into this area that I think it's going to be a little nuts. I'm going to be moving some plants in the fall, I think.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bad lines, bad code, bad blogger.

So the other weekend I decided to smother more lawn, resulting in this mess:

After work one day I decided to smooth out my lines by removing some of the surrounding sod, this time with my edger and pick axe. I decided to free hand it, instead of using a hose to guide me to a straight line or a smooth parabola. And it started POURING, so I looked like this.

And my jeans were soaked through and it was getting colder, so I didn't even get everything done.

Blind children could make better lines.

So it still looks stupid. But! I got my little Cistus 'Elma' in the ground and it's very well watered-in.

I ordered some Linaria reticulata 'Flamenco' after seeing it on Kaveh's blog. I love his blog so much.

Photo source: Annie's Annuals

If I put the Linaria here, this is what it will look like with what's already planted there. I need to check back in with Scott (who designed this whole scheme) so I don't get too off-course.

I'd love to incorporate (my new obsession) red tussock grass (Chionochloa rubra), blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracillis 'Blonde Ambition'), and a yellow echinacea cultivar or some sort, which would result in something like this.

I'm not great with color combinations, so I need to tread carefully. Is the Chionochloa going to be out of place? I think it might be out of place. If you're feeling opinionated, would you weigh in in the comments? 

And if you're having trouble commenting, would you shoot me a message? (heather [at] Loree has brought to my attention that she's getting blocked with Chrome and Internet Explorer but I can't reproduce it on my computer. I think I monkeyed with the Disqus code and made everything worse. How surprising.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The plants now control me and my weekends

It all started so innocently with a plan for a daphne purchase. I'd read on Growing Steady about Sean Hogan's plant talk at the Yard, Garden and Patio show, where he mentioned a daphne that flowers for 12 months.

Oh my god, I could smell daphne all year long! That's my version of the American dream.

So two weekends ago I headed out to Cistus where I picked up the most beautiful plant in the world and two Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata Alba'. The only problem is that the daphne Sean mentioned was Daphne x transatlantica 'Everblooming Alba'. So I called up Cistus last week and asked if they had the everblooming version. They told me they were still quite tiny and not yet out on the tables but they would pull a couple for me to buy. So I headed back to Cistus this weekend and picked them up. While I was there I stumbled on a couple of groups of grasses that weren't yet labeled and didn't have prices on them. I knew they probably weren't for general sale but I grabbed some anyway. When I got to the counter the guy was like, "Yeah, those are for a landscaping job and you can't have them."

They were Chionochloa rubra (New Zealand tussock grass) and Carex dipsacea (Autumn sedge) and I want them so badly it hurts.

Look how beautiful!

New Zealand tussock grass. Image source.

I also eyed a chartreuse bear's breeches (Acanthus Mollis 'Hollard's Gold') but decided to wait on buying it. But! I finally had the everblooming daphne in my hot little hands, and you know what? It doesn't smell like daphne. It smells very good but it's closer to honeysuckle. I'm glad I have it and I'm glad I have two standard daphnes to get my fix in the spring.

I'd been planning to put the daphne to the left of the front door, in a planting bed I'd build sometime this spring. When I moved in there was a rhododendron here with a bunch of buried bricks marking a curve around it.

The weather was really nice on Saturday so I thought I'd start clearing the sod and bricks from this area. The soil level was all over the place and graded toward the house, so I had to fix that.

Then on Sunday I headed down to Oregon Decorative Rock and picked up some edging stones like I used in the agave berm and some quarter-ten crushed basalt. I started leveling everything and laying the stones down . . . and then I got tired and hungry and decided to go plant shopping instead.

This is a tricky spot because very close to the house is almost always in the shade and it gets partial coverage from the eaves, so toward the house is drier. As you get to the outside of bed it gets sunnier and wetter, though it's still in shade for the hottest part of the day.

I ran down to Portland Nursery and picked up a Mahonia x media 'Charity' and three Carex dipsacea. Suck it, Cistus. I got my autumn sedges!

BUT. I had decided that I needed some Acanthus mollis 'Hollard's Gold' here. It tolerates drier conditions than the straight species and it would brighten this dark area up. Portland Nursery didn't have any 'Hollard's Gold' so I went back to Cistus (40 miles round trip). For the third time in two weeks. Global warming? MY FAULT. I'm so sorry.

I planted three because I'm impatient. Anyone who grows Acanthus mollis is tsking right now because they get big and they tend to spread and three is so unnecessary. At some point during the planting of this bed I pulled a muscle in my back, so now I'm miserable and my bed will be buried alive by bear's breeches.

And the daphne? It's so little you can barely see it. The mature size is 5x5 but it may get eaten alive by Acanthus mollis before then. I also tucked in the new hebe I bought at Joy Creek.

I still need to get more rock and finish the base layer, add a second layer, then top everything off with gravel. I also want to reposition the bear's breeches a bit. I was trying to keep them in the shade band, hence them all being squished together. I've since read in a few places that Hollard's Gold can take quite a bit of sun, so I'm not as worried about them getting scorched now.

Then I need to remove more sod because the area adjacent to this bed will be the new pathway to the backyard. But first I need to rest up my back a bit (it's getting better!). Send Advil. And go ahead and chastise me for planting so many bear's breeches. I can take it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What was I thinking?


My front yard looks so DUMB right now.


I'm trying to slowly smother the lawn under my dogwood, in increasing small sections, hoping not to stress out a very old tree. I'd probably be better off using a deep layer of wood chips but I thought that would look weird. So instead I used two smallish cardboard boxes and some yard debris bags to go underneath a layer of compost in this strange pattern. Doesn't that look so much better than a layer of wood chips?

I don't know what I was thinking. I wish I could use a sod cutter but the dogwood roots are just too shallow for it.

That strange half-circle of compost is where a previous owner had put down a circle of bricks to better show off the sewer cleanout that sits in the middle of our lawn. It was planted with daffodils. We removed the bricks and I kept rolling my ankle so I filled it with compost.

In this newly smothered area (from here on out know as "the meadow") I'd like to plant a huge swath of Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition', a grass that I saw at Wind Dancer and I'm still kicking myself for not purchasing.

Image source: High Country Gardens

The good news is that High Country Gardens was purchased by American Meadows so their wonderful stock is still available to us in the event that I can't find this grass locally.

Also in this area (somewhere  . . . ) I'm going to put this baby.

This is a Cistus 'Elma', one of the plants Maurice talked about at the Yard Garden and Patio show. It's evergreen with beautiful red stems and sticky leaves that emit a wonderful fragrance when the sun warms them. So even when it's not covered in beautiful white flowers it still smells good.

Image source: Joy Creek Nursery

It's also drought tolerant and incredibly hardy. And it was $8.50. I'm so excited about this guy.

The bigger picture for this area includes continuing this pathway that goes behind the agave berm . . .

. . . through the meadow, where it will spread out to accommodate a bench or a large boulder or some sort of sitting device under the tree. And the path will continue to the backyard, so you can theoretically do one large loop through both the front and back yards.

The meadow will be expanded with more grasses and drought-tolerant perennials. I want to build up a small hedgerow to the right of the dogwood tree to create a little privacy for the seating area. By the house smaller shrubs and perennials will go in. Behold, my MS Paint skills!

So I have a plan but my neighbors probably can't tell. My hope is that everyone is so distracted by my neighbor's strange burial mounds that they don't even notice my crappy smothering attempts.

I don't know why.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

And then we built a giant litter box

I've been plotting what to do with the left side of the front yard, under the dogwood tree.

And by "I've been plotting" I mean that I emailed Scott and asked him if he'd design a grass/meadowscape for me. And because he is awesome, he agreed. He drew up an incredible plan that incorporated drought tolerant grasses and wildflowers, all in the color scheme I wanted. And then he gave me a bunch of seedlings. And now Greg is concerned because I natter on about Scott all the time. And Scott will probably stop answering my emails after reading this, because I'm bordering on swimfanning here.

Thank goodness I never got an itch to plant this side of the yard before because I was reading a recent issue of Fine Gardening and they mentioned that dogwoods have shallow root systems that resent being disturbed. I won't be able to use a sod cutter, sadly. I'll have to move more slowly than I'd like, slowly smothering the lawn and using very small plants so I don't cause any damage to my 75 year old tree.

I started with the area outside the drip line, where we'd had our giant dirt pile all spring:

It was weedy but still mostly clear of sod. I worked with my half moon edger (that Greg sharpened with his Dremel tool) for an hour or so and made slow progress.

Then Greg came out with the pickax and cleared the whole area in about 15 minutes while I fretted, "Watch for roots!"

We ran into one tiny root so I didn't worry too much about piling the mulch on comically high.

Next Scott and I are going to make a trip to Wind Dancer and do some shopping, then I'll have to carefully start to smother another section of the lawn. I was going to use a method described here where you use 8" of wood chips to smother the sod. It's supposed to be more effective than smothering with cardboard and it supposedly maintains better soil health, BUT. What do I do with all those wood chips afterward? I don't want wood chips in my landscape. I supppose I could keep moving them around as I smother new parts of the lawn but that seems like a pain in the ass.

Any input from anybody who has removed sod under a fussy tree would be welcome.

In the meantime we're enjoying our giant cat toilet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Before and after

Loree just posted an incredible retrospective of what her garden looked like back in 2005 when she purchased her house. She encouraged other bloggers to post photos of what their yards looked like when they moved in and how they look now. I don't have a lot of photos of the yard from the first year I was in the house because I was completely focused on the interior so I'll have to settle for two years ago in most cases.

Looking north from the side yard before:

And now:

Looking across the back yard then:

And now:

Looking at the back of the garage, south toward the side yard before (as we tore off the shed):

And after:

Looking east before:

Looking east after:

The side entrance to the yard before:

And now:

The front yard before:

And the front yard after (the new paint job is the real star here):

I've been going on a lot of garden tours and lamenting that the thing that makes a garden look the best is time. Time for shrubs and trees to mature and for plants to settle in. Looking at the before pictures is a good salve for this impatient mind. Anybody else have any good before and afters of their garden?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Removing sod, six inches at a time

I truly believe that at some point we will have almost no lawn in the backyard. I suspect I'll have removed all of it by hand, small section by small section. It would have taken an hour with a sod cutter to remove it all in one fell swoop but now I have all these muscles, so I shouldn't complain.

Because I'm landscaping as I go, with just a rough idea of what will happen here, we end up with a lack of transition between spaces. To wit:

Does anyone use their recycling bin for recycling?

We plopped down cedar chips when we removed the cement slab and relocated the vegetable beds with the hazy idea that we'll have more pathways filled with cedar chips that take you around the yard, past a small circular lawn we haven't laid, past the deck we have yet to build, and through the gate that doesn't exist on the west side of the house. Some day we'll figure it out but for now we have a weird triangle of grass that wants to encroach on both the rain garden and the cedar pathway.

I needed a hose break right about there, so I wouldn't run over the grasses in the rain garden when I watered the side entrance. My fig tree in a pot has been homeless since we tore out the cement slab, floating around the yard wherever I needed a bit of height. So I removed a bizarrely shaped strip of grass, getting rid of that triangle and creating a wider mulch moat between the lawn and the rain garden.

Now we have a different weird transition.

I didn't have any cedar chips on hand, so there's fine mulch to the left of the fig tree where there should be chips. It looks silly right now but I do like having the tree there. We've always wanted a green screen here so we'd feel tucked in when we sit in our morning coffee/evening Manhattan chairs.

Sorry for the blown out photos--it was actually sunny!

So I think my plan to have a lush greenness pull you into the yard is sort of working. You enter the side yard . . . your eyes are drawn to the nursery pots full of dead hyacinth. What the . . . ?

Then your eyes are drawn to the random rain barrel, in the middle of the lawn. Surely there's a better place for that? And why is there a recycling bin full of empty nursery pots?

As you walk down the pathway to get smacked on the right by rhubarb leaves. One day you'll get smacked on the left by fig leaves.

Planning is for suckers. At least this guy is happy.