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…
Now looks like this…
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!