Coming Clean

30 Jul

It’s been awfully quiet around here lately. Not because nothing is going on on the home front, but because I’m way too embarrassed to show you what I’ve been working on. But in an effort to document my progress, I figured it was time to come clean.

You guys, my backyard is a disaster.

I’m not just trying to be dramatic, it’s an actual disaster, and I get a little anxious just thinking about everything that needs to be done with it. I made it my personal mission to get it taken care of this year, but progress has been excrutiatingly slow for several reasons. One, I’ve been at it mostly by myself. Steve has been working incredibly long hours this Spring into Summer, often going in on the weekends just to keep up. Two, the obnoxious amount of rain we’ve received lately has not been conducive to yard clean up (I recently heard it’s rained in Atlanta everyday in July except for 3 days). And three, I’ve been taken out twice with poison ivy. My arms, legs, and sides were covered in itchy blisters for probably a month total. If you’ve had poison ivy before I’ll let you take a second to commiserate with me on how miserable it was. If not, I hope you’re lucky enough to never encounter it. It’s brutal.

Our lot is pretty strange which has made things more challenging. We’re on a cul-de-sac so we have a nice pie shaped lot, and we back up into woods so it’s relatively private. But in the back there are some large slopes which make getting to some spots tricky. Oh, and it’s all covered in ivy. Oh, the ivy.

Here’s a picture of our lot on the plat (which I badly doctored, and the house is not to scale) to help you get acquainted with everything:


The area to the right (we call it the side yard) is large and flat and more like the traditional back yard. The original owners had several sons and poured a black top back here for them in the 60’s. As you can imagine, after 50 years it was ready to go. Here’s what the side yard looked like in March:


From the front yard


Looking toward the front yard



You can’t really see the black top, but it’s under the branches and dead leaves in the picture above. In the back to the right there’s a creek that runs through part of our property. You can’t really see it here either, but it is so nice to have.

Directly behind the house things get a bit challenging due to the hills. See the front of the house here?

photo (5)

See the large drop off on the right side? The grade change is kind of extreme. Our basement is completely underground on the left side of the house and about 1.5 stories above ground on the right. So there’s a hill right behind the house. Here’s what it looked like in March:


Out of control saplings and ivy. You can’t even see the concrete steps leading up the hill.

And around the screened in porch, things get a little crazier. Also from March:



I know I’ve mentioned some of our plans for out here before, but next year we’re really hoping to convert that screened in porch into a sunroom and enclose the back of the garage.

Things get more complicated in the back of the house with the steep hill.




Oooh the ivy! I hate it!

Our property actually goes back a good ways. The property line ends a bit before the back neighbors fence you can see in this picture. An awful chain link fence surrounds our lot, but it’s hard to make out in photos.


I’m not sure we could ever really use the land beyond this little hill without spending a lot of money. For now my plan is clear it up to the top of the hill and keep it maintained there. We’ll also clean up some of the straggly trees.

In March, just after all of these pictures were taken, we hired someone to come in and remove the black top from the side yard and clear that whole area with a brush mower. Because of the steep terrain, they couldn’t reach the back of the house, but they did some serious damage in the side. Here are some befores and afters:





Then Spring Sprung and plants and weeds popped up where nothing was before and here’s the state of the side yard today:




The plan here is to clear all of the remaining ivy in the side yard. In the Fall we’ll have someone come out and grade the area and seed grass. I’ll also probably plant a few trees for more privacy to the right (Also, the ivy on the trees situation is obviously a problem. We’ve taken care of most of it, but it can take up to a year for all the ivy this invasive to die once it’s been cut). Long term I’d love a traditional potager in the back here. Wouldn’t something like this be lovely?


Via Country Living

And/or maybe even a green house?


Via Better Homes and Gardens

But for now, ivy control and grass are the main goals here. When we take care of the grass in this area, we’ll also take care of the front lawn. More on that disaster here. It was also roughed up when the blacktop was removed because the dumpster was put in the front yard.


Onto the side hill. Reminder, here’s what it looked like in March:


And after the brush mowing:


And now:



Look at that! Steps! And weeds!


We plan on cutting down the trees by the foundation. Wouldn’t a row of limelight hydrangeas look fabulous here? With peony bushes? And creeping jenny? One day.

To the right of the steps is a true disaster.


I was really hoping to avoid using herbicides here, but we’re to that point. I sprayed it two weeks ago with mild success and just sprayed it again last weekend. Once everything has died, I’ll take a weed eater to it to get rid of the bulk. Then I’ll cover it with pine straw until I figure out what to plant here (blueberry bushes! fig tress! options are endless!).

This hill by the porch will likely get the same herbicide/weed eater/pine straw treatment. Here it is today. You can see I’ve made a smidge of progress (we’re also in the process of rescreening the porch which I mentioned here. The screens are up, just need to add the wood supports.).


I don’t want to block the view from the porch into the side yard, so I’ll need to figure out what to plant here that won’t get too tall. As a focal point, I’m considering a tuteur in lieu of a view blocking tree. Something like this maybe?


Via Houzz

We also need to deal with the water/gutter issue that’s eroding the bricks on the back of the fireplace.


Going back toward the garage, things aren’t looking much different these days. I’ve mowed the ivy on the flat parts and that’s about it.




As I mentioned, I’ll clear the ivy to the top of the hill and plant a garden. I think I’ll also plant more trees by the fence line to block out the house back there in the winter when the leaves are gone. Loooooong term, I’d like to replace the chain link fence. Once we enclose the garage, I’d like to put up lattice against the new back wall of the garage and plant jasmine to grow up it.

As for a patio area, I’ve considered every patio surface under the sun. I don’t think it will make sense to add anything here until the porch has been enclosed since we don’t yet know where we’ll put doors leading onto the patio. Since I imagine we’ll be a little tight on renovation funds after taking on such a large project, I’m thinking a pea gravel patio may be our best option. I love the way they look, and they’re also affordable. Of course, they require more maintenance, but I’m totally willing to keep up with it. Here are some pictures of what I’d like to end result to feel like:


Via House Beautiful


Via Houzz


Via Better Homes and Gardens


Via Chicago Home Mag

I’ve gone a little crazy on Pinterest looking at garden and patio ideas lately!

So there it is. My needs-some-serious work yard. I’m hoping to have it all looking presentable by the Fall and then continually tweak it forever.

One Response to “Coming Clean”

  1. Karen July 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Well can I just say that given the massive size of your yards and the many obstacles you’ve faced (omg…poison ivy!!!) you have made remarkable progress! I love your plans and I can just picture how lovely it will be some day. And yes a row of hydrangea would be awesome where you’re planning it. Great job Kate and congratulations on your fantastic progress! xo

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