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

We’ve lived in this house for almost three years and have yet to touch the landscaping — Unless “landscaping” includes ripping up a dead bush in the front yard and taking down a small dying tree. We’ve had so much to do on the inside of the house that the landscaping has been put on the back burner. Eventually, we really want to have the front yard done by a pro (or at the very least get a consultation from one), but we thought it would be fun to try our hands at a little DIY landscaping in the back yard… where no one will see it if we royally mess up. All kidding aside, we just thought since we’re doing so much work to makeover the carport covered patio, part of the yard we’d be looking at while sitting back enjoying our new outdoor living area could use some sprucing up, too.

Yard Before / 7thhouseontheleft.com

Okay, some major sprucing up. To make the before photos even worse, this was taken right before the grass was cut. We decided to take baby steps and begin with just this back corner of our house, which also happens to be the biggest eyesore. Luckily, it’s small enough of an area to not be too overwhelming for our non-landscaper selves.

Here’s what it looks like from the side…

Yard Before / 7th House on the Left

To give you a reference point of where this is, that’s our bedroom window on the top left of the photo, and you can see the carport over on the right. If you look closely, you can also catch a glimpse of the sheetrock from the ceiling removal process – which is on its way to the dump in the very near future. Between the carport and these bushes is the aggregate patio.

Yard Before / 7thhouseontheleft.com

The most obvious dilemma is the biiiiiig bush that is choking out pretty much everything around it. Would you believe that we trim this unruly plant several times a year and it still manages to get that big? Not only is it (in decorating terms) “too big for the space”, it’s beginning to kill the bushes next to it. On top of the out-of-control plantlife, there’s not a defined bed of any sort, which makes everything look ultra messy.

After Greg and I got a good understanding of the area and made a mental list of the problems we wanted to address, we sat down and came up with a plan of action. Along with that plan, in typical 7th House fashion, came a diagram of the whole area. Here’s what we’re thinking…

DIY Landscaping / 7thhouseontheleft.com

1 // First up, we need to cut Sasquatch back so he doesn’t continue to choke all of the other shrubs around him. Once big guy is trimmed, we’ll move on to the other bushes and trim those back to give everything a more polished, separated look and help their overall health. Google searching starts now.

2 // Speaking of trimming, we have a tiny Japanese Maple in the midst of all the madness. We need to give it some attention by trimming it and the bushes under it bit so it will grow taller and healthier.

3 // To make everything pop, we’re going to excavate, lay down landscaping fabric and add a layer of black mulch. This is probably the thing we’re most excited about because we think it’s going to make a big difference.

4 // To define the mulch bed, we’re going to line it with landscaping edging – something really simple like this. Like the mulch, we’re thinking this will make a big difference looks-wise and also help keep the mulch where it’s supposed to be.

5 // Next to the mulch bed, we’re going to add a small bed of pea gravel in front of the door to the crawl space (I call it the Keebler Elf door). This will be less dirty than crawling through mulch and easier on the knees than pavers.

6 // Speaking of the Keebler Elf door, the door needs some help. Right now, it’s just a piece of metal leaning against the crawl space opening. It needs some sanding action, a coat of paint and some sort of handle or latch.

So, how’s that for a baby step plan? We’re going to be tackling this to-do list over the next few days and report back after the weekend to give you all the 411 on how everything went, along with a step-by-step of what we did. Hopefully, we won’t have to rip everything out and start over. We’re not expecting the end result to look like Yard Crashers pulled up and made it awesome, but anything will be an improvement, that’s for sure. Sasquatch, out.

…but for us, it’s coming this weekend.

A few months ago, the folks at Home Depot contacted us about taking part in their inaugural Style Challenge: Holiday Edition. The deal was, they were going to mail us a curated selection of Christmas goodies handpicked especially for us by their blog team. The catch was we wouldn’t know what was in the boxes until we opened them, and we’d be assigned what area of the house we are to decorate. For my planning-way-in-a-head-slightly-control-freak-especially-when-it-comes-to-the-house self, this was indeed going to be a challenge. However, it sounded like a fun challenge and the type of project we hadn’t worked on before, so we were game!

We were told to expect a large delivery on our doorstep, including a Home Depot gift card for purchasing any DIY materials or extras for propping the space. Greg and I have until October 29th to complete our challenge assignment and use as many of the mystery products as possible. Last Friday, we got an email letting us know the packages had shipped and we’d be tackling… drumroll… the front yard! Last year, our first Christmas in the house, we didn’t do much Christmas decorating outdoors (aside from a wreath), so we are particularly pumped about this.

In a few weeks, we’ll be sharing our finished project over on Home Depot’s blog, The Apron. But we thought it would be fun to share the process with our own blog family as we went along. After all, we try to share what we’re doing around the house on a week-to-week basis, and this project will definitely be a part of the house happenings over the next few weeks. We checked with the powers that be at Home Depot, and they said it was cool as long as we didn’t share any “after photos” until they were posted on The Apron.

And yes, we hear you. “It’s barely October!” Hopefully this project will spread a little early Christmas cheer and help everyone get geared up for the holidays. After all, they’re going to be here before we know it! I have to say, I’m a little tempted to put out a sign that says, “I promise we’re not crazy! We’re working on a project for Home Depot!” Then again, it might be more fun to leave the neighborhood wondering if we’ve lost our marbles.

Last week, five big boxes were delivered on our doorstep. I think we’re supposed to be getting more more in (not completely sure yet), but when we find out everything we have to work with, we’ll be sure to share the challenge with you all next Friday. Maybe you can help us! This weekend, we’re going to be getting the front yard spruced up (trimming the bushes, getting rid of some weeds, etc), bringing down the Christmas decorations from the attic and playing more than our fair share of Christmas music to get in the holiday mood…. in October. In my book, it’ll be a great way to spend my birthday weekend!

For now, I’ve got to at least share a curveball they’ve already sent our way. Knowing Greg is a big fan of Star Wars, they also sent along a special bonus mystery object…

Yes. When I saw this written on the outside of the box, I literally said to the UPS guy, “No way!” In all honesty, my mind is BOGGLED as to what to do with him. Hopefully with all of the gearing up for Christmas we’re planning to do this weekend, something will come to mind. Fingers crossed!