Cutter of the Sod

4 06 2012

It’s a never ending project owning a house. Where one task ends another begins. Where one leaves off another takes over. To me this is the excitement of home ownership; there is always something for me to do. The project this time was more landscaping.

We have done some landscaping each summer we’ve lived in the house. First was in front of the house, the second time around our egress windows, and this time we expanded those two areas. The south side of our house gets baked in the sun all day long, so the grass doesn’t grow the greatest there. And there was another area on the north side that we wanted to have plants instead of grass. All told, we had about 150 square feet of area to cover.

Last summer, we did some landscaping that required me to remove a lot of grass, and I did it with a shovel. Never doing that again. This time, I rented a sod cutter for the Krueger TrueValue for about $50. I towed this tool home, fired it up, and in about 30 minutes, I had cut out more sod than I did in about 6 hours the previous summer. For jobs of almost any size, I would highly recommend this route as it saved a ton of time and really saved on my back.

With the sod cut, I was able to just roll it up or in some places just pick up the chunks of sod and all them off. With my dad’s help, we cleaned up the area as best we could. When digging the holes for the plants, I unearthed a number of large rocks that were oh so fun to bring to the surface (more on that later). We cut the trench and laid the edging and laid out and staked down the fabric. After putting the mulch down, another project finished up with a nice touch.

Along the garage, we planted geraniums, a burning bush, some ornamental grasses, and a dogwood. Along the northside egress window, we planted some hostas as 3 endless summer hydrangeas. Along the garage, I washed off the rocks I had dug up from the ground and made a little “rock garden” formation bookending the grasses. Hey, they took me long enough to dig up, I might as well put them to work.

The garage area before

The garage area before

The garage area after

The garage area after

Egress window area before

Egress window area after

view of the two “rock gardens”


The Scaping of the Land

23 08 2010

And the time did come that the man and woman did plant their shrubs and their flowers and they did spread their mulch of life onto the land they did possess.

In other words, we recently completed a pretty big landscape project at our house.

A few months ago we had our lawn seeded, and while that has been coming in nicely, our home still lacked the outdoor flair of a shrub or a flowering plant, or really any desirable plant life at all.  The house was built with a curbed off area wrapping around from the front steps to the side of the house, which until recently was our “exotic” garden — by which I mean, it was nothing but weeds.

My brother, Christopher (or Chris to some of you), is part owner of a landscaping firm, and responded to my request of coming up with a plan.  I had diagrammed the area, and he filled in the details of what plants to use where and how to go about doing it.  This is what it looked like:

The diagram of our soon to be scaped land

Late last week, I started the task of weeding the area.  Boy was that back breaking work.  I essentially ended up pulling up one-by-one 190 square feet of weeds, mostly on my hands and knees.

Our Exotic Garden

Earlier in the week, I had gone to Lowes to get a few supplies.  Among them were some weed killer, some landscaping fabric, and a whopping 25 bags of cypress mulch.  Talk about feeling important, walking out of Lowes with two of their heavy duty carts loaded to the gills with mulch bags.  The excitement was only beginning.

After I had finished weeding, and after a brief cloud burst and windstorm that I thought were going to hamper my plans, I headed down to a nursery near my house and began my shopping.  The excitement was building!  I walked in with my plan in hand and started locating the plants.  I asked one of the employees for helping finding the plants before I started loading them up.  When she saw me with this drawing and a list of plants, she spoke up, “I take it you are a contractor?”  “Uuuummm, no,” I responded.  “My brother is, and he did this for me.”  I was on top of the world.  I loaded up my RAV4 with all sorts of plants, and on the ride home, my car was a sort of crowded greenhouse on wheels.  I was almost to the point of being giddy.  This was one of the most exciting shopping trips I can remember, and it happened to fall on my birthday, which was just a bonus.  I was buying real, adult flowers for my adult house and I was going to put them in myself to enjoy for a long time!

A good day's kill, I'd say!

That was Friday, and Saturday, Melissa and I started out after the dew burned off a little bit.  The forecast had called for a clear day in the upper 70s.  What we got was an overcast, ultra humid day, with a bit of a mist for the first hour or two.  The mist actually seemed to help us stay cool, which I guess was nice.

Now, I’m not sure if this is true to the entire area, or if it was because of the fill they used when building our house, but below the three inches of top soil, we encountered some pretty thick, wet clay.  This certainly made it difficult.  In fact, it was so bad at times that we had to take breaks occasionally to scrape what literally became an inch or more of clay and mud caked to the bottom of our shoes.  That just added to the story.

Well, we kept on chugging, starting from one side and working to the other, digging our holes and filling them in with plants.  We laid out the fabric and then spread the mulch.  All-in-all, we spent about 6 hours from start to finish, and for a couple of amateurs, I’d say we did pretty well.

The house now has some character

From left to right: an arborvitae, 3 goldmound spireas, and 3 Stella de Oro Day lilies

Beyond the spireas and the day lilies, we have some anabelle hydrangea, 3 wood pink asters, and 3 may night salvias. We will plant tulip bulbs eventually as well.

As so it was done.  Unlike the lawn, I think this project looks good right away.  I can enjoy it now and for as long as I own this house.  This was a job that absolutely required Melissa’s help, and I could not have done it without her.  Despite the mud, the humidity, the bugs, and long hours, she was a good sport about the whole thing, for which I thank her.  Now I can just sit back and watch them grow — that is at least until my next project rolls around!

Watching The Grass Grow

11 07 2010

The phrase “it’s like watching grass grow” gets a bad rap.  Generally it is used to describe something that is very boring, tedious, or drawn out unnecessarily.  Well, it has been 11 days since are grass was planted, and we are starting to see some significant progress.  I now have found that watching grass grow can indeed be rather exciting.

The start of a good crop.

I have perfected the process of watering the lawn, complete with a to-scale diagram of the house and yard.  We also made to-scale movable sprinkler cutouts to place on our diagram in order to assure precise placement of our sprinklers to maximize coverage.

I stepped off the house and yard to get the exact dimensions.

So, we now have 9 sprinklers throughout our yard, each attached to its own hose.  Have you ever seen the movie Christmas Vacation and Clark’s Christmas light display that was seriously overloading his electrical outlet?

Modern Art

Now, all I have to do is go outside and flip a switch to swap each of my sprinklers.  My next step might be a timer, but I would need a timer for every hose, and at a minimum of about $7 per timer, that would add up pretty quickly.

This is easier now

Now I only have to move a one sprinkler. The rest just do their thing.

…like the grass needs rain

4 07 2010

So now that the lawn is in, the real work begins.  Watering the lawn is probably the biggest pain and more work than I would have ever thought.  And no amount of someone telling me “hey, watering your lawn is a pain” would have convinced me of the truth that was in that statement.  A combination of too short of hoses, too few hoses (who ever thought 6 would be too few), and low water pressure all add up to the sum of 2+ hours of my day every day devoted to providing my dirty hay with moisture.

The recommendation I got for several reliable sources was to try and water the lawn for about 10-20 minutes at a time in the morning and the evening.  Well, with the amount of times I have to change hoses or move hoses to cover gaps, it adds up to about a 1 hour job in the morning and in the evening.  In same areas, I have even resorted to just holding a sprayer or even the sprinkler itself and manually watering some corners where the sprinklers don’t reach.

We had our lawn put in on Wednesday, and it is now Sunday.  I’m told to expect a week or two before seeing grass start to grow, so I feel a little bit like Noah right now, needing to work so hard for something that at this point doesn’t seem to be doing anything.  Anyway, rain is in the forecast for the next three nights, and never before have I been so excited to see high chances of precipitation on the horizon.

I have, however, discovered that when used in tandem, oscillating sprinklers and pulse sprinklers, while very different in mechanics, can be very affective.

The Lawnman Cometh

30 06 2010

We bought a house with no yard.  We planned from the very beginning that we would be putting in a lawn soon after we moved in.  I wanted very much to make this my project.  With advice from my brother, who owns his own landscape design firm, I formulated a plan of what needed to be done.  I created a list of supplies needed, found pricing, got some estimates for top soil and seed and hay.  I did all the homework expecting that as soon as I got the will, I could start creating for myself a lawn that was indeed my own creation.

Well, that was not to be.  As part of my diligent homework (my wife in this case) lined up a landscaping company to come take a look to give us an assessment.  The news was not what I wanted to hear.  What my untrained eye did not really account for was that my back yard had a grade (that’s essentially the slope of the ground for those of you who are as ignorant as me) that was too crowned.  About half of the back yard sloped towards the house, which is a no-no for drainage purposes.

Ultimately, it became a project that was moving quickly outside of my scope of do-ability.  And as it turns out, the estimate I created to do it myself turned out to be pretty close to the estimate given to me by the landscaper, plus the amount for the heavy machinery needed for doing the grading.

So anyway, today is the day.  A few weeks ago the landscaper came and sprayed our lawn to kill any living thing in the area.  Here is what the lawn looked like the day he sprayed it:

World class weeds. We considered building some lawn furniture out of some of the stuff growing in our yard.

Our dog was even a little scared to do his business in our yard, as some of the weeds seemed to have a foul look about them.

If you listened closely, you could hear Mowgli and Baloo singing the Bear Necessities in our back yard

That was two weeks ago.  The landscaper came by yesterday and cleared everything out and began the process of grading our lot and seeding our lawn.

I think a few species of birds went extinct when they sprayed and plowed over our yard

And this is the bobcat they left in our yard overnight without the keys

They are supposed to be finishing up with the seeding today, so hopefully soon I will be able to share our beautiful lawn with the world, and especially our neighbors.  For now, my work laid before me is that of a waterer.  I added to my arsenal a few sprinklers and a few hoses, so I guess that will be my contribution to the “putting in the lawn” project.  We have decided that for now we will just put the lawn in, and we will worry later (probably sometime next year or even this fall) about putting in any additional landscaping.  So now we just wait and watch the seedlings work their way into our lawn and into our lives.

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