Monday, April 20, 2009

Shovel-Ready Project: Front Yard Overhaul

Before I moved in (from the sales flyer for the house, circa 2004):
Boring lawn, boring boxwoods, baby red oak.

And three weeks ago:
Wow, those boxwoods could use some pruning, couldn't they? And HEY! Who stole our lawn?

It's anyone's guess, really. My first guess was that Take-All Patch took it. I treated the yard with horticultural corn gluten and Actinovate, to no avail. My second guess was rust, another fungus, because of the way the grass blades looked so orangy-red in the sun. Our neighbor across the street, Darvin, guessed grubs. (Yes, that's how bad it got: the neighbors were making wagers as to what was killing our lawn.)

In any event, the darn St. Augustine grass looked so bad and so dead and was getting so expensive to treat and water that we stopped watering it last summer. In March, Jack dug it all up with a tiller and we raked it into ten-40 gallon yard clipping bags. I wish I had a picture of that, but after 8 hours' work in the hot sun, the last thing you want to do is snap pictures.
We left a tiny circle of grass around each tree. We'll see how long that lasts. (Red oaks sure grow fast, don't they? That's a 3 year old bur oak in the center.)

Three weeks ago, we ordered 3 cubic yards of organic garden mix from Whittlesey Landscape. I usually use Natural Gardener, but they were booked.
The man that delivered the soil was very conscientious; that's him, up in the bed of the dump truck, sweeping out every last grain of dirt. Jack loaded up the soil, wheelbarrow-load by wheelbarrow-load, to move it from the driveway to the yard, and I tried my best to rake it level and smooth into sloping raised beds.

While I started planting plants, Jack started on the limestone edging. He'd found some free limestone bricks on craigslist; unfortunately, they were all stuck together with mortar. So he took a sledgehammer to every last one of them.

Then he dug a trench, through the tree roots and caliche,

and laid each stone, one by one,

into the trench.
Backbreaking manual labor on an incredibly hot, sunny day. We were going to finish the path down the middle this weekend, but we didn't have time to go look for flagstone this Saturday and all the stone purveyors were closed on Sunday. Maybe this weekend.

I'll post a list of plants later. We've already moved some around. I can't wait til they fill in.


  1. Welcome to the world of Austin garden blogging. I'm new to it myself, but it's been a lot of fun so far. I have also been itching to overhaul my front "yard" (read: weed/dirt patch with some sad St. Augustine) but have so far been daunted by the scope of the project. We've only been in our house 2 years so maybe next year!

  2. PS: I'm also from Houston. Hard to believe how different the growing conditions are down there even those it's close!

  3. Thanks for the warm welcome! Front yard re-dos are so--public; careful consideration and planning is definitely in order. I'm trying not to be too embarrassed by my little twigs and sprouts. I'll take Austin's caliche and 3 seasons over the black clay and unrelenting humid summers of Houston any day.