Front and Back Yard Renovation

Can you ‘renovate’ a yard?  I’m not really sure.  I just know that we’re renovating everything else so I figured it was a fitting title. 


So yet again, I wrote this post MONTH’S ago and I thought about not posting it but since we’re faaaar from done I figured what the heck…

In addition to all of the master bath/bedroom updates that we’re working on we’re also tackling the front and back yards.  Years ago we had the foundation repaired and in doing so, we lost all of our front yard landscaping.  I can’t blame all of the disaster that is our yards on the foundation work though… some of it was just sheer lack of want to and/or funds (or both).  We’ve put together a list of the items that have to be completed.  Here it is…

  1. Remove blackberry & other weeds as well as trim & shape groundcover around pecan tree.  (Hubs removed the demon blackberry vine a few weeks back… he’s been shaped since this photo was taken…)
  2. Shape groundcover around the 3 oak trees into a circle (it’s rather amoeba-looking at the moment and there’s a Morning Glory vine that has invaded one
  3. Widen holes in bird houses (we actually had a poor sparrow get wedged in the hole and for a while we thought he wasn’t going to be able to get out)
  4. Re-sod missing patches in front yard (hubs threw down some rye seed for the time being.  We’re hoping it’ll fill in the holes and basically keep the dirt in place until the St. Augustine can grow back.  Update: we’ve been invaded by some sort of weed.  The lawn guys from TruGreen had to come out and told us that we need to start bagging our lawn clippings AND we need to have the trees trimmed because the lack of light is causing our St. Augustine to grow black spot mold.  Yippee.)
  5. Add ornamental grass to back yard (we bought this super nifty ornamental grass this weekend.  It’s PURPLE!  I love it.  Also – we pulled those weeds.)
  6. Replace dead Japanese Youpon Holly (This hedge has been here forever and for some reason, we lost the back quarter of it during last year’s drought.  So, we bought a new one this weekend.  He’s just a sprout now but he’ll grow)
  7. Figure out what to do with the 4’ x 4’ patch that used to have our vegetable garden. (For the time being, we ripped everything out, put down a layer of weed block, then covered it with mulch.  We’ll plant perennials in the spring.  Hopefully.)
  8. Plant perennial color in the two large beds at the front of the back yard.
  9. Put paver stones down on master bedroom side of house.
  10. Pull up pavers on garage side of house – re-level and add weed block and reset pavers
  11. Repeat # 10 with the patch of pavers where the grill sits
  12. Reorganize garage side of house (it currently stores trashcans, terra cotta pots, tomato cages, and various other garden necessities)
  13. Remove and replace raised-bed bricks & walkway in front of house (this is a major undertaking that will require a jackhammer, a large industrial-sized trash bin, possibly a back hoe, and some large sweaty men… volunteers welcome)
  14. Bring in new dirt & plants for front yard beds
  15. Repair/replace pergola in backyard

Our plan is to tackle this little by little as we find time (ha ha) and money (bigger ha ha).  There’s no rush on any of this (either the house or the yard) but our goal right now is to have it all done by October 2013.  We’d like to be able to celebrate the holidays with friends and family at our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas next year (and not have the house a disaster when that happens).  So for now, that’s our goal.  I have no idea if we’ll reach it as we’re just getting started but I’ve got my fingers (and toes, and eyes) crossed.

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. ~ Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858

Are you an Ikea fan?  I am.  I totally am.  Some of their stuff is cheap and not worth buying.  Other stuff though, totally worth it.  A while back mom and I were wandering through Ikea (I can’t even remember what for now) and we found this guy…

The Ikea Socker Greenhouse

Isn’t he adorable?!?!  I just *HAD* to have him.  So I paid for him and he went home with me.  I knew immediately what flowers I planned to put in him.  African violets.  Yep, I’m a glutton for punishment.  I went with Hubs to Lowes and we picked up 4 of them plus pots and special potting mix.

Here’s what I will say – getting this sucker together was not easy.  I totally had to stop at one point for fear of breaking it and get the Hubs to help me out.  Truthfully, if it didn’t entail a thirty minute drive, I probably would have exchanged the greenhouse for another one.  We kept getting snagged on a bent part and Hubs had to manually unbend it without ripping the whole thing to shreds.  In the end, he got it to work.  It doesn’t close perfectly but I’m ok with that.  He’s still freaking cute.

He’s hanging out right now in our dining room.

Close -up

His perch in our dining room.

Opening the top

Flower close-up

Truth is, I potted this sucker at least a month ago and guess what?  The flowers all died.  Just the flowers though… the foliage is still looking great.  I’m fairly certain the reasoning for this is a lack of humidity.  This is where the whole thing about this greenhouse being damaged from the get-go comes into play.  I’m going to try something different with them to raise their humidity level (filling the ‘saucers’ with rocks and water, then placing the plants on top).  Hopefully it’ll help.  If not, this may mean that I have to find another plant that will thrive.

I’ve linked up to these great parties:

Bloom Designs, Skip to My Lou, and Chef in Training.

As well as…

One Artsy Mama

”I bought a Venus Fly Trap today. I was going to name it ‘Republican’, but the fly trap is beneficial to the environment. I’ll save that name – someday I might find a plant that eats poor people and minorities.” ~ Unknown

Before you get your panties in a knot I want to clarify that 1, I found the quotation funny and 2, it’s about the only quotation out there about Venus Flytraps.  If you know me, you know I’m a Republican.  I’m about as right wing as it gets EXCEPT on environmental issues.  Then I swing left.  Part of the humor with this is that I voted the other day and the Republican line was out the door and there wasn’t a single person in the Democratic line. 

So when the Hubs and I were out shopping the other day for various landscaping items we came across a Venus Flytrap.  I thought he was quite nifty but we ultimately decided not to buy him as I didn’t know squat about their care.  Over the next few days I researched their needs on this website.  Here’s the gist:  they like a lot of light, moist but not wet soil (and you must water with distilled water only), absolutely no fertilizer, and loose soil.  Sounds easy enough right?  About a month later we were wandering through Lowe’s and we spotted another one.  This time, I picked him up. 

Apparently, Venus Flytrap’s don’t like for their soil to warm up or cool down too quickly so based on recommendations on the aforementioned website I got a Styrofoam cup, cut the top off, punched holes in the bottom, and placed the sucker in a terra cotta pot.  Then I filled it with a combination of plain ol’ potting soil, vermiculite (seed starter mix), peat moss and moisture granules (I placed some light pebbles on top to hold down the peat moss). 

He did great for the first few days and then suddenly one of his ‘mouths’ turned black.  Apparently this can happen from too much light, too little light, and even a ‘bad bug’ (one laden with pesticides, etc).  In this case, I’m fairly certain it’s a light related issue.  This little guy was living in a small shelf in the interior gardening section of Lowe’s and after I planted him I just stuck him right outside in partial sun.  basically, I think it was just a shock to his system.  So, I haven’t changed anything and the situation isn’t getting better or worse.  I’m going to leave it as is unless it starts getting worse. 

I haven’t seen Chomper (that’s his name btw) chow down on anything yet but I’m definitely watching out for it!  Here’s hoping he eats some mosquitos!!!

Here’s our little guy:

Birdcage Planter

So you know how the other day I posted about my loot from Goodwill but said at the bottom that I had three other projects I had to get completed first?  Well, this is one of the three.

You see, my friend DK has a friend who LOVES to have garage sales.  I mean this lady LIVES FOR IT.  DK, being the awesome gal that she is, lets her friend host garage sales at her house.  Nice huh?  Well they had one a few weekends back and I went over there to raid it before they sold anything I could makeover.  I came home with three pieces, one of which was this Christmas-y birdcage thing.  I assume that this guy was at one point part of someone’s Christmas decorations.  It’s hard to tell in the picture but he’s sort of a dingy gold color.

I picked up a Maidenhair Fern at our local nursery.  I honestly chose him for no other reason that I liked the way he looked.  Lucky for me, he should do relatively ok inside.  My only concern is that we might keep it too cold in our house for him.  We’ll wait and see how he does though.  Want to go know to care for your own Maidenhair Fern?  Go here.

I also went rummaging through our collection of pots to find a good pot to plant this guy in.  My husband was THRILLED with this pot that I found because it has a dragon on it.  He’s such a boy.  I like it too though so he got a bath (he was kinda yuck from sitting in our backyard side yard storage area for ump-teen years).

I started by taking the birdcage apart (3 screws holding the bottom ‘panel’ in place) and tossing the gross ornaments.  I gave him a good scrub and noticed that one of his ‘spokes’ had broken off on one end.  So, I had my super-handy husband solder the sucker back together.

Then I attacked him (the cage, not my husband) with spray paint.  I honestly wanted an ORB (Oil-Rubbed Bronze) color but couldn’t find the spray-paint I wanted at Wally World so I settled on a copper color instead.  I’m so happy that I did.  The color is gorgeous against the leaves.

I mixed 2 parts potting soil with 1 part vermiculite.  If you’ve never heard of this product before, no worries, you’re not alone.  I only heard of it a few years ago after doing some research for the garden we were working on.  Basically, it’s seed starter mix.  It’s light and loose which allows the plants to get their roots growing easily.  I also added some moisture granules (basically these guys suck up moisture when you water the plant and distribute it slowly over the course of a few hours/days.  This, I’m hoping, will help our little fern since he likes a moist environment.

Once he was planted and put back together I put the little guy on our breakfast table.  So far he seems happy there but we’ll see.  If he starts looking puny I’m going to move him to our screened-in porch where it’s much warmer.

So, what do you think?  How do you like our Christmas-decoration-turned-planter?

I linked up to this party:
Bloom Designs
Chef in Training
Creatively Living
Delightful Order
I Heart Naptime
Kammy’s Korner
Mommy by Day… Crafter by Night
One Artsy Mama
Skip to My Lou

Boys & Their Toys

We (and by ‘we’ I mean the Husband) got a new toy at our house. 

Now that mom has moved out we no longer have a yard guy (by choice) and the hubs is in charge of mowing the lawn.  That means we need a mower.  It’s just waaaay too much lawn to cut with scissors. 

This is what we purchased. 

I, in a huge leap of faith, let the hubs choose what he wanted.  Being the type-A control freak that I am that’s a major deal.  So far, so good though.  If nothing else, he’s seriously happy.  I have never, in my life, met a man who is so thrilled to mow the yard at 6am on a Saturday morning. 

For those of you who are wondering, yes, we also purchased a weed eater as well.  We purchased it from Sears and again, it was the hubs’ decision.  It’s working out great so far as well. 

“Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.” ~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

I sincerely doubt anyone has forgotten but just in case you got amnesia in the last few months let me remind you… Texas had the drought from hell last year.  Like a lot of people, our lawn definitely suffered because of it.  We lost a lot of our grass and then this spring, when the weeds took over, there was no actual grass to prevent them from a total domination.  Then, about a month later when we put down weed & feed we ended up with nothing but large dirt patches in some places where the weeds died but there was no grass.  Our poor yard looks like the head of a three-year old who found his dads clippers.  A few weeks ago when we were working on our first landscape project I was sitting on the ground planting the new plants and kept complaining to my husband about how freaking hard the ground was and how sore my butt was getting.  That’s when we decided that this year, we are going to save our lawn.  The first step, we realized, is to make sure that we water consistently and evenly.  Lawns should get 1” of water per week but not all in one watering.  We decided that we should break everything into sections and water four sections per day (30-minutes per section).  With the number of sections we have, that means everything gets watered once every four days.  Works for us.  So, how do you make a watering schedule you ask?  I’m about to show you.  No laughing at my horrible drawing skills though.  I’m definitely not the artistic one in the family.

Front yard:


Back yard:

I said no laughing.

Basically the idea is to break your lawn up into sections that will get covered with the spray from the sprinkler each time you water that area. 

So far we’ve lived with this for about two weeks and we like it.  We bought a different sprinkler head and it’s much wider so we think we might be able to combine a few spots in the front yard.  Regardless, it’s working pretty well.  So far, Mother Nature has been helping along too – we’ve gotten at least one good rain each week.  There’s no rain in the forecast this week though so we’ll definitely start up our watering schedule today.  I’m seriously hoping that this watering schedule will help us out this year.  We either forget to water for weeks on end or we water every day for a month and give everything root-rot.  How about you guys?  You have any watering schedule tricks?