Monday, May 27, 2013

Dig it.

It's officially my thing - relating our home improvement projects to classic childhood movies. Ha!

Yesterday we spent about 4 hours working in the yard. Like the curtains that still don't exist in our home, I had never tackled the yard either. When I first moved in, I knew it would need some work. 

2 summers ago, my dad came and cut down the branches of all the bushes. He and my mom said they would help me pay for a landscaper to come dig them out, build a retaining wall, plant some perennials, and mulch. I got a couple quotes. Both around $2,500. Whoa! Way too much to clean up the front yard. It never got cleaned up that year. 

Or last summer. See, I got engaged and my dad decided it was now our responsibility. I can't blame him really. He's almost 60, works over 50 hours a week at a cement company about an hour from his house, and now here's this young guy with spare time and a little muscle about to marry his daughter. Torch passed!

Well, with Husband-to-be working three jobs, myself working one very busy job and training for my first half marathon, and both of us planning a wedding - it fell by the wayside. Husband-to-be vowed that when he moved in, he'd make a yard to be proud of. 

This year has been promising for the yard. I've settled into my job, which was a new position to me last year. I'm running the half marathon again this year, but training isn't as overwhelming the second time around. Husband now lives here, and has just one full time job. It's busy, but he has plenty of down time to get some work done at home. We're obviously married, and no longer stressing about wedding details (although we still need to get our thank-you's out... working on them!)

Since we both had a three day weekend for Memorial Day, we decided to finally take down the front yard once and for all. Well, the first phase of it at least. 

Here's where we started off yesterday: (Please excuse the photo bombing kitty.)

There were 2 stumps to the left of the steps, 3 stumps to the right, and a full bush to the right. We also discovered 2 thick rooted vines on the right and another on the left. 

We didn't really have a method of digging these up, so if you're attempting this at your own home, this may not be the best way to go about it. Do some research too. 

How to Dig Up Bushes:

Tools Needed:
Point shovel
Bin or bag for debris
A strong friend or husband ;)

Time needed: 
20-30 minutes per bush (or abnormally thick rooted vine)

1. Use the sawzall to cut down all branches, leaving only a few inches near the stump. You'll need those to yank the bush out of the ground later.

2. Dig about 2ft from the root in all directions, about 2 ft deep. Leave the dirt in a pile nearby (but separate out the weedy clumps) Smash roots with the point of the shovel or cut with the sawzall as they're uncovered. Be careful not to get dirt in the sawzall!

2. Have your strong friend or husband pull and pull and push and pull until the bush comes up. Stomp on those puppies if need be. Nothing to technical here, just keep digging, pushing, and pulling til you or your strong friend can pull the bush up. Definitely wear gloves for this and be careful not to lose your balance near the giant hole you just dug up. 

Husband demonstrates his bush stomping technique.
3. Till the rest of the area as needed. Whether you want a planter bed where the bushes were, or just grass, you'll need to prep the soil. 

4. Back fill the hole left by the bush and add new top soil if needed. You may need to use a rake to get the dirt out to nearby grass if that's where you made your pile. 

5. Check with your town to see how to dispose of the bushes. Our town sends a wood chipper through our alleys every couple of weeks spring through fall. They'll come in a day or two if you call and notify them you have branches to be chipped. So we dragged our stumps and branches to the alley. Each town is different though, so check out your town's policy. 

6. Take a shower and admire your work. 

This is pre-shower, but admiring. Trust me. The shower part is important!

Toward the end of the day my parents came to help us finish up. My mom weeded and tilled near the tree in our parkway.

Sorry, no before picture. I didn't think we'd get to this yesterday!

I raked up whirlybirds, aka helicopters, or Maple seeds. My dad and Husband (not like the same person is my dad and husband, but my dad and my husband...) cleaned up all the debris. The yard looks 100 times better than it did. 

(Photo bombing cat eats grass.)
We still need to get more top soil for the right planter bed, and garden edging. Both sides will soon get mulch and flowers. The grass is still awful, I know. It needs a major overhaul. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have! 

Lessons I Learned:
1. Wear long sleeves and gloves.
2. Always ask for help.
3. Don't pay someone $2,500 for something you can do!
4. Finish what you start - even if it's 2 years later.

Phase 2 (fall? next spring? never?) will likely include building raised planter beds. And I'm currently trying to convince Husband that it'd be nice to plant a tree on the right side of the yard - ya know, where the grass is dead anyway. 

What did you work on this weekend?

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