One thing that I have always been a slacker on is my front yard. When I purchased my house the previous owner mentioned to me that he wanted the least amount of work to do in the yard. This resulted in him using unreasonable amounts of gravel anywhere he could. Over three years later and I am still picking up gravel in places you would never imagine.
Although the front yard is one of my lower priorities, I have been working hard to add the “Curb Appeal” one step at a time. For my birthday this year my wife and mom replanted some front planting beds I had made a few years ago. They added weed-block, flowers, pruned the existing foliage and redid the mulch. This was a great present as I did not have to do it!
There was a nice looking planting bed and walkway, but in between was over run with weeds!
As you can see the planting beds looked great, however the rest looked hideous. Last year I removed a brick walkway that was overrun with weeds and make a nice concrete walkway. Before the weeds blended in and were not as noticeable, however with the new walkway this area stuck out like a sore thumb.
As you can see the soil is poor and nothing good wants to grow there.
The existing plant matter had to be completely removed so I would not just have more weeds popping up in a few days. I used my handy small spade shovel, a 3-tong rake, and a hoe to remove all of this vegetation.
Another angle of the project
While I was digging all of this up, I was reminded of past plantings in this area. Below is the remains of some Irish Moss that I had planted here two years ago with the hopes that it would spread and grow. It did not.
Rest in the compost pile little guy…
Past plantings had proved to be unsuccessful in this location.
With nearly everything removed with hand tools I went in to detail mode, pulling everything I could from this area. It is amazing how grass grows where you do not want it to, but try and plant it and it never takes!
I started by removing all of the weeds and other plants growing to start with a clean slate.
After that the soil was ready to be amended.
Now that the soil was clear I could start with the fun part!
I collected all of the plant matter and put it in a compost pile.
All of the plant matter, soil and twigs I put in a compost pile in my back yard. I have one for sorted items (food scraps, garden plants, etc…) I also have one for projects like this, grass clippings (when I don’t mulch) and weedy material. Compost is easy to make and can be used everywhere.
The soil looks great here!
Although the soil looks great in the above photo, below the surface is a different story. As you can see below, once I dug down I discovered that there was a tightly packed clay soil. This is not conducive to grow anything but weeds.
In order to promote root growth I dug down about a foot to loosen the soil.
To help make this soil better, I dug down to make sure the soil was loose to promote root growth. This would also allow me to mix better soil into the area.
Below the surface there was a lot of clay soil, not the best for plants.
I did find a few friends like this one while i was digging. Worms are awesome in the gardening area. Keep them around by using organic gardening methods!
Worms are awesome!
After digging the entire area up, I was ready to start adding some soil. Luckily the soil was below grade so I did not have to remove much existing soil.
It does not seem like much, but digging this out took a bit of work in the hot sun.
Now the soil is dug up, but it still needs some help.
The soil here was clumpy and full of clay...I need to fix this.
I made sure to pull all rocks out of the area. I have a rock box for other projects.
To amend the soil I used a ratio of 2 bags of Top Soil to 1 bag of mushroom compost. I have found that Agway soil is actually really good and not full of junk like a lot of other big box top soils. I also mixed in a little bit of organic garden fertilizer to promote root growth.
I used a mixture of 2 to 1 Top Soil to Compost
I mixed all of this up in my tractor dump cart. I got a John Deere X300 last year, and I love it!
I love my tractor cart, I mixed the soil quickly and easily in it.
The pictures before show that the soil used to look like it was full of nutrients, but once I add the composted soil you can see how different it looks! The new soil is almost black it is so rich.
Look at how rich this mixture looks!
After filling it in, I mixed the soil in with the existing area. This helped the soil below gain those needed nutrients so everything will grow.
The soil looks nice, but I had a little too much (for this projects anyway)
To help speed up the planting process I placed all of the plants above where I wanted them to go. Spacing them evenly all the way down. This allowed me to go down the line without stopping to measure or eyeball where I wanted them.
I placed all of the plantings above where they were going so I could work straight through.
Make sure to read the tags for proper spacing and planting information.
Before planting, I took a bunch of newspaper and soaked it in water. I’ll go into newspaper in a little bit.
What am I doing with newspaper? Continue to read to find out!
A typical problem of store bought plants is they become root bound. I made sure to cut and spread the roots so they would start looking around.
The Plants from Agway were a little root bound.
All the plants are in and they look great!
After the plants are in I laid down a thick layer of newspaper. I cannot say enough about how great newspaper is in the garden landscape. Not only does it block weeds, it helps keep the ground moist. Promotes worms (this is a good thing) and brings them to the surface.
Please note that you should not use the glossy ads, but rather the regular paper. This breaks down after around a year, so it does need to be replanted. Most newspapers give away old print for free, so you can have a great resource for no cost!
Newspaper, a great free weedblock.
Finally, I put the mulch down. I always go with hemlock mulch as it is natural, lasts a long time and is not dyed. A lot of my gardening friends always go with this for these very same reasons.
Cover it all with some nice hemlock mulch.
I wonder who the shadow belongs to?
Now everything matches and looks great! Now when I have people walk up to the house, I do not feel embarrassed. This will last a few seasons with no problems. When I do have to refresh it I just need to remove the mulch and lay down new newspaper.
All finished! And it looks awesome!
Time: 3 hours
Cost: $45 for plants, mulch and soil
Value for cost: High