Carport + Patio

THE ADVENTURES OF DIY LANDSCAPING: PART 2

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Last week, Ash showed you around the project at hand and introduced you to Sasquatch, the giant bush. If you missed it, check out this post. As she explained, we decided to take “baby steps” and begin with the back corner of our house. It’s a decently-sized area, but it’s still a small enough area to take on as our first landscaping experience. Needless to say, there was a lot of work that needed to be done. This past weekend, despite the muggy heat, we got our hands dirty and tackled Sasquatch and all of his little friends one branch at a time.

What once looked like this…

Yard Before / 7th House on the Left

Now looks like this…

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

I’ll show you guys around the new corner of the yard in more detail in a bit, but first let’s talk about how we got there. Before I get  into the nitty-gritty of what we did, remember that we are not professionals. What we ended up doing here may not have been the best way to go about it. This is just a breakdown of our DIY approach, and there are probably a few things we would do differently if we had it to do over. This is our very first landscaping experience, so cut us some slack if we do something wrong, haha.

Vintage Hedge Trimmer / 7thhouseontheleft.com

STEP 1 // Trimming. The first step in the process was trimming all of the bushes. We started with Sasquatch so we could easily see the rest of the bushes – some of which were almost completely hidden. We started out by using my father-in-law’s electric trimmer – which actually belonged to Ashley’s grandpa. I’m pretty sure it was made in the 70’s, but it worked like a charm and was a lot fun to use. I mean, who doesn’t want to wield a big chainsaw-looking sword against a giant monster named Sasquatch?

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Since we had the electric trimmer out and debris flying everywhere, we pulled out the 3M™ TEKK Protection™ Holmes Workwear™ Safety Eyewear. I really enjoy using the sunglass version – especially in the hot, sunny weather we’ve been having lately. I’m not usually a big fan of most types of safety glasses (they usually push on all the wrong places on my head), but these fit well and didn’t cause any headaches. The pair I used had a cool little channel in the earpieces for the cord that goes between a set of earplugs. It’s pretty nice to be able to just pull your earplugs out and not have them dangling around your neck where they can fall off.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Speaking of hearing protection, another favorite of mine is the Digital WorkTunes™ Hearing Protector and AM/FM Stereo Radio. They’re great for tasks where you don’t take off your hearing protection for long stretches at a time (like cutting the grass, for example). I always wear normal earmuffs over top of a set of earbuds when I’m cutting the grass, but they end up being more annoying than anything. The coolest feature is probably the bass boost, since bass is the first thing to get lost in a noisy environment.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Back to the trimming… Ash went behind me and used the small shears to trim the bushes in a little more detail. (That’s obviously my hand in the shot above, though!) She describes it as “doing hair” – just one piece at a time until it looks right. I made her wear the safety glasses because she tends to be a little accident prone, but she refused to let me take a photo for the blog. Girls.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Once we were done with the trimming, the area was looking a little less jungle-like and a little more manageable. The bushes don’t look “awesome”, but they’re definitely better than what they looked like before. Once Fall rolls around, we’ll trim them down even more. Even as with as little as we’ve taken off, we’re a little worried that some of them might go into shock, so I’m going to try to get out and water them on days that we don’t have any rain. Hopefully that will help a bit. Aside from that, we’re thinking about replacing the largest bush with something like a small Crape Myrtle down the road (when it’s the right time of year to do that sort of thing). We have a few purple Crape Myrtles in the back yard and like them a lot.

Hose Outline / 7thhouseontheleft.com

STEP 2 / Outlining. Even though we had a general idea of how we wanted the mulch beds to be shaped, thanks to the diagram Ash put together, we still needed to “draw” it out to know exactly where to excavate . To outline the area, we used the garden hose. This really helped with visualizing what it would look like and getting it just right before we started installing the edging.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

STEPS 3 & 4 / Edging & Excavating. We originally planned to do these two steps separately but ended up doing them as a single task since we already had the shovel in-hand. But let’s talk about the edging supplies first… We “guestimated” that we needed about 38 feet of edging, so we bought two packs (20 feet each) as well as a bunch of metal stakes (15 packs of 3). We picked out this particular kind of edging because it was simple (in design and installation), inexpensive, and the black color would blend well with the mulch. Weeeeeell, we ended up needing around 50 feet of edging and about half the amount of stakes. Lesson learned. 

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

To dig the trench for the edging, I started out by using a square point transfer shovel that I bought along with the rest of our supplies. About halfway through, my father-in-law came over and gave me his post hole digger. Let me tell you – this thing was a life saver. I used it to dig along the line that we made with the hose, then used my trusty shovel to cut through the grass roots from the side and remove the top layer of soil.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Once I had my trench cut and removed all of the grass, weeds, and dead leaves, I laid my edging and used stakes to fasten it to the ground.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

When working with this type of edging, I learned that it’s best to lay it out flat in the sun so that it is more pliable and less likely to coil back up the way it was packaged. It made my life much easier.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

STEP 5 / Mulching. Next up, our most anticipated step… mulching! This is where the fun began. We used this online mulch calculator which estimated we needed about 1 yard of mulch, or about 14 bags. A friend of ours suggested we get a truck of mulch delivered because sometimes it will end up being a lot cheaper than buying individual bags, but this was such a small area that we went ahead bought the bags from our local Lowe’s. I actually ended up buying 15 bags for good measure.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

The actual mulching process was relatively simple. I placed several bags inside the newly-outlined area, exactly where I wanted the mulch to be dumped. At that point, I would just rip a bag open, dump it where it sat, spread the mulch, and go to the next one. I only had to go back to the truck for two additional bags (to fill in some small bare areas). After seeing this video, we were careful not to “over mulch” because that can actually harm the plants. As you can see, I was enjoying my safety glasses so much that I kept them on pretty much the whole time I was outside. With mulch and dirt flying everywhere, I didn’t want to mess up my regular glasses or get anything in my eyes.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

STEP 7 // Beautifying. The last thing on our list of things to do was to spruce up the crawl space door – or as Ash calls it, the “Keebler Elf door”. When we edged the mulch bed, we also excavated and edged a little squared-off area in front of the door. Obviously, the door needed a little TLC as well, so we sanded the door with 80 grit sand paper (it’s just what I happened to have on hand) and painted it with with a few coats of black enamel spray paint. Since our exterior doors are all black, we figured the Keebler Elf door should be too.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Once the door was all done, we filled in the little squared off area with four bags of pea gravel. We figured pea gravel would be cleaner to crawl on than mulch and easier on the knees than something like pavers or large rocks.

And just like that… we were done. Here’s a closer look at the finished product…

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

Overall, we’re really happy with how it turned out. It was definitely worth the sunburn and 12-pack of PowerAid Zero. Sure, it doesn’t necessarily look like the guys from Yard Crashers came in and made everything look brand spanking new, but what we have now is much more refreshing than what once looked like a big pile of bushes.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

We learned a lot though this process, so when we get around to doing the rest of the yard, hopefully it will be a bit easier.

DIY Landscaping 101 / 7th House on the Left

After dealing with the hot, muggy Virginia heat over this past weekend, we’re definitely going to be waiting until the fall to do anymore extensive landscaping, but now we have a nicely-manicured area to look at once the covered patio is finished in a few weeks!

3m tekk protection, 3m tekk, safety, respirator, tekk protection, safety projects

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Andi @ Estella's Revenge
    July 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    It looks great! I live in a rental, but I still like the keep the yard looking great. I have a nice flower bed already edged, but I desperately need to get in there, til up the old worn out monkey grass, and mulch it. It would look SO much cleaner. But it’s wicked hot in Texas right now. Maybe in October. 😉

  • Reply
    John @ Our Home from Scratch
    July 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I can’t decide if it’s too hot out for me to freshen up our flower beds or if I’m too lazy. Officially, I’m going to stick with blaming the crushing heat.

    The flower beds look great!

  • Reply
    Meghan B
    July 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    It’s been SO HOT here in RVA lately, I don’t know how you guys did that! Fantastic job though, it looks great!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    July 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I love how you included all of the equipment you used. This gives me and the hubby a good idea of what we need before we get started later this fall. Thank you!

  • Reply
    EMILY
    July 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    The before and after is so good! It looks so much better!

  • Reply
    Abby
    July 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    My Mr has those same glasses and loves them. They make him a happier person when he’s doing yard work. LOL

  • Reply
    Fiona
    July 23, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Glad to hear that you are thinking of replacing the “largest bush” at some point. It looks like a dappled willow that will continue to outgrow the space even if you trim it drastically every year.

  • Reply
    Kelsey // It Takes Two
    July 23, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Oh wow, incredible transformation! When I saw the first “after” picture I thought you had ripped everything out and re-planted new plants, and I was wondering where you managed to find such mature plants to buy. I couldn’t believe those were the same plants! It’s amazing what a little (or a lot of) shearing and pruning can do.

  • Reply
    Karen Blount
    July 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Only suggestion would have been to lay some landscaping cloth before the mulch to keep the weeds down, but it looks awesome and you did a great job.

  • Reply
    Will R
    July 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    It looks great, I’ll take extra caution now to blow grass in the beds, and check them for weeds when i mow. I love the 3m tekk worktunes, i use mine all the time.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      Haha! Thanks, Will : )

  • Reply
    Maureen
    July 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    It looks fantastic! Amazing what a bit of elbow grease and mulch can do.

  • Reply
    Senora H-B
    July 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I never comment, but I had to today because this is amazing! It really looks wonderful. It’s nice to see that you were able to make such a difference with relatively inexpensive materials – though I’m sure the day’s work was plenty… I also really appreciate the post hole digger tip.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Aw, thanks so much!!

  • Reply
    Shawna @DakotaCreekChic
    July 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Looks great!! What a difference…I love the black colored mulch. You guys did a great job on the trimming. I always end up with a big chunk missing where it shouldn’t be.
    Shawna

  • Reply
    Carrie
    July 23, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Wow! You guys did a great job. Huge difference by taming Sasquatch and I love dark mulch. Great job.

  • Reply
    Joy
    July 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Looks awesome!! The black mulch really sets it off! I am almost motivated/inspired enough to get my pregnant butt up and clip some hedges around here. Actually, never mind. Not much can motivate my pregnant butt once it’s seated.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Haha! Congrats though 🙂

  • Reply
    Nicole
    July 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    This turned out great! Now come do mine? 😉

  • Reply
    Rick
    July 24, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I know you’re pleased. I know that I am always glad to get projects like this completed. Looks great although I’ve never been a fan of the plastic edging. I always destroyed it with the weed eater.

  • Reply
    Emily
    July 24, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Just a big difference-it looks great!

  • Reply
    susan
    July 24, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Wow, that is an amazing transformation. Mulch makes everything look better, doesn’t it? It looks like a little park now. Also nice the way the Japanese Maple shows up. It wasn’t at all obvious you had one before!

  • Reply
    Becky Carl
    July 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Wow, y’all made that look so easy. Thanks for the tips that I have learned when I get ready to tackle my yard work! I love the Japanese Maple – could not see before. That should really be the focus of the whole island! Great jog you two!!

  • Reply
    Becky Carl
    July 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Oh, have you thought about moving out that Christmas tree looking shrub next to the Japanese Maple?? It will probably grow to the point that it will overtake everything. That would make a great border shrub for hiding something ugly!

  • Reply
    Hilary
    July 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Great job! It looks “polished” now, I always love the look of dark mulch to make the plants stand out. I’m sure it feels satisfying to have that done!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks! We’re going to be waiting until the Fall to do anymore landscaping projects. We’ll be sure to post them though! : )

  • Reply
    Pam
    July 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

    This turned out really nice. I love the dark mulch. It really brings out the color of the any plant.

  • Reply
    Meghan
    August 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Just came accross your blog and you guys are doing such an awesome job. Love this landscaping.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      August 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks so much! Glad you found us!

  • Reply
    John D
    September 16, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Congrats the landscaping job looks great! It’s also nice to separate the plants from the lawn with a mulch bed just looks nicer.

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