2.17.2015

The Ugliest Part of our Home

While we've been fiddling around fixing up the inside of our house, we've been hiding a big, ugly secret: our backyard.

You might think I'm being dramatic, but I swear I'm not. Our backyard is literally a dirt pit filled with dead leaves, old gravel, torn sprinkler tubes and tree branches. See for yourself:


UGH. Gross! I'm cringing a little just showing these pictures to the world wide interwebs. But admitting you have a problem is the first step toward fixing it, right?

To be fair, our backyard is part of what sold us on the house originally. Not the actual backyard, per se, but the creek behind it. It's really very beautiful when the trees are filled with leaves. Here are some pictures from the original listing. You can see that even then, the previous owners were unable to grow any grass back there because the trees block the sunlight.


The best part about our dirt hole of a backyard is that the house is actually positioned above it, so the views from inside the home don't show any of the ugliness. Thank goodness! That's a big reason why we've been able to ignore this problem for so long.

We brightened up the back patio last summer, and we just ignored the dirt hole below the deck.


Looking at these lush, green photos from the summer, I am officially depressed about the current state of affairs back there. After a long autumn and winter where this backyard was entirely covered with leaves from the plentiful trees around the backyard, we are left with a dust-covered deck that desperately needs a good power-washing.

Like most ugly parts of our home, I like to point my finger at the main problem. Actually, two main problems: Destoyer 1 and Destroyer 2.


They look harmless, right? Wrong! I swear they have worked together to dig a million holes and destroy every living thing in our backyard.

We have never wanted to invest any time, money or energy into our backyard because we didn't think it was worth it. Not only would the dogs destroy everything, but it's hard to figure out what to do back there because the shade and soil aren't ideal for grass and other affordable greenery. But enough is enough: We want to have a backyard we aren't ashamed of anymore! So we decided to tackle the dog problem first by building a dog run.

It was pretty easy. (Especially for me, since I just sketched an idea and watched the husband do all the hard work!) The husband built a gate for our deck so they couldn't access the main yard area, and then we blocked off the side yard. It's the perfect little stretch of space for them to stretch their legs and go potty without having the ability to dig up the entire yard. Plus it's discreetly placed on the side of the house so that they can proceed to destroy that area without us feeling too upset about it!


We had that short wrought iron fence sitting in our garage, so it was nice to put it to use. We need a little bit more to finish the dog run, but it's working pretty well for now.

The destroyers seem a little confused and upset about the situation, but I tell myself that they made their own bed by being so destructive! (No mom guilt over here.)


A little about the deck gate: I sketched a design for the husband that I thought would elevate our deck a little bit. I think the classic X pattern takes the existing prison-ish wooden railing and makes it a little more elegant. He was able to build it our of cedar 2x4s, and I just love how it came out. Of course we need to paint it to match the rest of the deck, but that will happen soon.

Meanwhile, I started daydreaming about what we might be able to do to fancy up the rest of the backyard. Here's what I'm hoping to achieve:


I know you can't see it that well, but we're hoping to add some bushes around the perimeter of the deck and house. Then we'll replace the swing set thing we inherited from the previous owners with another seating area in the back right corner, along with a pretty path that leads to it from the bottom tier of the deck. We are really hoping to be able to put down some sod back there, but we aren't sure if it's worth doing because of the extreme shade conditions back there. We need to consult with some expert landscapers to see if grass would be worth the time and investment. I'd really love to have some grass if we can make it work, so we'll see.

Meanwhile, we started the demolition process last weekend so we could have a blank slate. We dug up all of the landscape stone border pieces and random bricks that were under the wrought iron fence. (We think the previous owners had small dogs and used these stones and bricks to prevent them from escaping under the fence.)


And then we started pulling up all of the old drip line from the sprinklers because the destroyers have completely chewed it up. 


We are going to save everything – all of the bricks, pavers and other salvageable landscaping materials – just in case we can repurpose them later. As always, we are trying to do this project in the most cost-effective way possible.

We are so excited to tackle this big makeover! It's really been a long time coming. Scott has his spring break coming up, so he plans to really dive headfirst into this project while he has the free time. We're researching plants and sod that might do well back here. It's slightly sloped toward the creek and gets little-to-no sun when the trees are filled in. We do have a sprinkler system in certain areas, and a drip line all the way around the house in the existing flower beds.

Green thumbers out there – any suggestions for grass or plants that might thrive back here?! We're clueless, and we love to hear your ideas.


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5 comments:

  1. Oh man... our yard is also my ultimate source of shame. Our back neighbor has an unsightly falling down fence. We're going to have to build our own taller one to hide it. Between the dogs and my trampoline, we've completely destroyed the beautiful St Augustine grass back there. I'm hoping one of your readers will have some advice on the grass front, because we certainly aren't resoding the while yard with that water hungry stuff.

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  2. Really glad you figured out a way to deal with the destroyers so you can enjoy your space! It'll be gorgeous, I'm sure...

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  3. Hostas are beautiful in a shade garden. Also ferns. Both will die back in the winter so you may want to add some evergreen shrubs so you have some year-round interest. I love boxwoods because they are evergreen, but don't have pine-like needles like most evergreen plants. There is a variety of boxwood called "Green Mountain" which can tolerate full shade. If you want something flowering there are varieties of rhododendron shrubs which can also handle shade. If you are unable to grow grass, you may try a ground cover plant. Here is a link to some that like shade:

    http://www.thegardenhelper.com/shadecovers.html

    Good luck!

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  4. Ooooh I'm looking forward to seeing the progress pics of this makeover!!

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