A New “Bed” for our Plants

The great curb appeal upgrade continues!  For those of you who are my "facebook fans", you already know that Friday was a 2-cart kind of day.  (Also known as the day that you stand in the loading zone looking at the Toyota Matrix asking yourself "will all of this fit?"). Spoiler alert: it did fit!  It was kind of a miracle.  We've actually had much more difficult times getting plywood to fit in there, so the plants were kind of easy by comparison. Anyway, we have had this ugly patch of dirt/grass on the right side of our walkway that's sat untouched for quite some time. We did have "The Great Daisy Incident of 2010" when we first moved in.  We tried planting a bunch of gerber daisies out front.  They lived for 2 days.  The nice man who mows our lawn and takes care of our grass said that we probably "shocked" the plants.  Oops.  So, since said "incident", we haven't even tried planting anything over there. But, since we now have the pretty red door to welcome us every time we come home, and we've kept the backyard plants alive for over a month, we thought we'd give it another try.  This time, with drought resistant succulents and a raised bed with new soil.  Sounds a lot easier for people with black thumbs, right? I started out by purchasing 5 cedar pickets, which are naturally rot resistant, and cutting off the "dog ear" top.  Then, I basically created a perimeter using the pickets, screwing them together using my Kreg Jig.  I thought that I would need to screw them into stakes them into the ground, but since the area was a a bit of a box anyway it seemed to stand by itself just fine.  Since the area by the house was just the concrete foundation, I didn't need to add any wood back there as there was no wood siding that would need protecting from rot. Once the boards were in surrounding the area, I put down some landscape fabric to keep out existing weeds and also to hopefully kill all of the grass and whatever else was growing down there. They sell these pretty sweet little metal pieces that look a lot like giant staples to keep the landscape fabric in place.  You just poke them through the fabric and pound them into the ground with a hammer. Once the fabric was down, it was already time for plants!  Brad joined me at this point and helped me put the plants where we thought they should go.  We wanted to make sure we had a "plan" before we begun planting.  We bought 20 succulents, 10 larger and 10 smaller, and alternated between sizes all the way down the row. Then, we started pouring in the soil and planting.  We used a special soil that was specially made for cactus and succulents.  I guess it drains quicker and therefore is less likely to kill your plants?  Somehow?  I think?  Anything that could keep them alive with zero maintenance is worth purchasing in my mind.  I'm the only person I know that can easily kill a cactus. I realized as I was taking final pictures that there was no good angle to really see the whole finished product, but here are some partial images that you can put together.  It looks WAY better than the original patch of grass/weed/dirt. The framing of this picture feels mildly awkward, but at least you can see our new plants in relation to the scale of the front of the house: Slowly but surely we're getting a more "welcoming" entrance!  Some of the succulents even kind of look like flowers.  Which makes me feel like I'm growing something a little more fancy than a cactus. The best part about this project was that it only took about 2 1/2 hours start to finish.  And, I was going pretty slow.  There was lots of futzing with where the plants were going to go and recalculating how much soil I overbought.  (The answer is: TONS.  Like, I bought 20 bags of soil and only needed 10.  I totally underestimated how much space the plant would take in the soil.  The husband got a good "I told you so" in for that one.)  So, after I returned a LOT of soil, the whole project turned out to be about $250 for all of the plants, soil, fabric, staple-like things, and pickets.  But, since the pickets in total were only $10, those are hardly even worth mentioning. Any of you guys doing anything exciting to up the curb appeal of your house?  Or, is there anyone else out there that's gotten bitten by the planting bug?

Sprinkle(r)s on Top

Brad and I are pretty negligent with our backyard lawn.  We keep hoping that all of the new work that we've done out there on the patio and retaining wall will inspire us to use that outdoor space, but with all of the dead grass in the back even our dog is afraid to go out there.  (And, I can't really blame her.) Our front lawn is looking pretty good.  We've revived it from the dead wasteland it once was in the past year and a half.  Still not perfect, but considering our black thumbs, we're proud. Continue reading "Sprinkle(r)s on Top"

Building a Retaining Wall (pt2)

Waking up today was not easy.  It was one of those mornings where everything hurts - legs, back, arms.  At least I know yesterday's wall-building was an effective workout.  And there was still quite a bit more to get done today. Where we left off yesterday, we still needed to cut the blocks for the side, add the top layer of blocks, and also level out a whole lot of dirt inside of the retaining wall.
Not too shabby for a days work
Continue reading "Building a Retaining Wall (pt2)"

Building A Retaining Wall (pt1)

A few months ago, Brad and I paved an entire patio with a built in pergola all by ourselves.  It was not easy... it took us about about a week and a half to get the whole thing done, but we love it, and it's kinda amazing.
Pergola of awesomeness
But, the worst part of the patio was the digging.  And, there was a lot of digging.  About two full days of it.  And that dirt was awful.  It's not the good dirt that they show you in the how-to Lowes video that we studied before we got started.  That looked like it came up pretty easy.  It was the crappy clay dirt that has been sitting stagnant since probably 1963 when our house was built.  But, the previous owner had a giant shed where our patio now is, and the grass never grew back right. Continue reading "Building A Retaining Wall (pt1)"