Saturday, September 19, 2015

One Project Completed and Another One Started

A couple of months ago I commissioned my husband to build me a bench to circle the Magnolia tree in front of the house.  With only bark mulch covering the area, the space felt too empty to me.  Although I already have several seating areas scattered around the garden, including two benches next to the front door, aesthetics seemed as good a reason as any other to add this feature.

Wide view of the completed bench under the Magnolia


The back portion of the bench faces a hedge along the house so I elected to use that portion as plant shelves.  The bench, constructed in six pieces, has two levels with the front being higher than the back.  It was originally three different levels but that looked funky so, to my husband's chagrin, I called for a last minute design change (even though he reminded me that the bench had been built to my personal specs).

Here's a closer look at the completed product:

Front of the bench

Side view showing the difference in level between the front and back portions


The pots I placed on the bench were selected based mainly on the color of the containers rather than the compatibility of the plants in the pots, most of which are succulents.  The pots are in shades of brown and green (as opposed to the prevailing blue colors used elsewhere in the garden).  I expect I'll be tweaking the collection as time goes on.

A close-up of the plant-shelf portion of the bench


The bench's tawny color stands out against the bark mulch and the tree's trunk at this point but it's made of redwood so it will fade over time to a more companionable silvery color.

With that project completed, the next one is already underway.  The remaining sod was stripped away by a landscaping service earlier today.  We are now entirely lawn-less!

Photos showing the main part of the backyard lawn area before and after the sod was removed 

Before and after shots of the front lawn area


Although this crew did a better job than the last one, plenty of sod netting and crabgrass roots were left behind, which I've already started pulling out on my own.  However, rather than spend two months digging up the soil to clear it of debris before adding more topsoil to raise the soil level, I think we're going to pay to get help there this time.  Then we'll face the task of laying more flagstone paths...


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

32 comments:

  1. Wow! To both projects. Your husband did a fabulous job on your two-level bench. And I actually gasped when I saw the shot of your grassless area in the back, and then the front. Looking forward to seeing what you do with all that new space.

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    1. Grass-less, the areas look a lot bigger, don't they? Walking through all that dirt is already bugging me so I'm anxious to get on with our next steps.

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  2. Nice job on the bench--that whole area looks really nice and intentional--a good solution to cohabit with the magnolia. I'm looking forward to seeing how your newly grassless areas develop! A lot of work, though, huh?

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    1. Yes, a LOT of work, especially as my husband and I are back to talking about handling all the soil improvement ourselves (again).

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  3. Love the high-low design of the bench.

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    1. Thanks Susan! The pots give the area added interest I think.

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  4. I never would have thought of the design detail of the two-level bench, nice work to you both! And congrats on the lawn-less status update!

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    1. There's a lot of work ahead but we'd planned to take out the lawn when we moved in so, by our 5th anniversary in the house (i.e. mid-December), the lawn should be but a distant memory.

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  5. Yes it is a lot of work - (SO much work!) but aren't you thrilled already? It looks better even with the stripped dirt - I can only imagine how gorgeous your flagstone walkways will be.

    The decision to hire a crew is always a tussle for us. We are hands on people and our standards are insanely high. And, putting it simply, we're cheapskates. We pretend our labor costs us nothing. That ignores the fact that one session for a crew costs a lot less than a back or neck surgery potentially required by one of us over-reaching our tolerance in that inevitable final push to the finish. Neither The Hub nor I can get away with the work sessions we used to shrug off as younger folk!

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    1. @TexasDeb--everything you wrote could have been written by my husband and me! We view things exactly this way. -- Emily

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    2. Well, even when my husband and I plan otherwise, we tend to fall into the same camp. Even more than the cost, it's the quality of the work that's at issue. The top inch of sod was cleared but only a fraction of the sod netting and grass roots were. At least this time, much of the work will be invisible to our neighbors so perhaps we won't get the comments about running an archaeological dig.

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  6. It's a shame you can't train the raccoons to go over that new stretch of dirt. It is going to look good though, so much better than the 'lawn'. The front garden has filled out so much, I'm having trouble visualising it when it too was grass.

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    1. The blankety-blank raccoons visited again last night. Did they dig in the massive new expanse of uncovered dirt? No, they did not! They went back to my planting beds. They even dug up a new agave pup I'd planted! They probably don't like that nasty sod netting any more than I do.

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  7. Wow - the removal of sod is such a thankless task! But it will look wonderful once the flagstones are in. I really like the new benches - especially the pot bench. It's clever idea to keep the plants shaded

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    1. It's probably going to be awhile before the flagstones go in as it looks as though we're going to handle the process of preparing the soil ourselves (again).

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  8. My accolades to your husband for his excellent rendition of the bench! I like the different levels. The potted plants look great there! As for the sod; you were definitely wise to get help. I look forward to seeing your completed paths. You really have a prize garden!

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    1. As it turns out, the quality of help we got this time was much like that we got last time - meaning it doesn't meet our expectations. So pouring more money out to get more of what we believe is sub-standard work (leading to never-ending weeding of crabgrass and pulling of sod netting remnants) isn't sitting well with us at the moment, even opposed as we were to going through another major excavation.

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  9. The new bench looks great! Is it going to be primarily for plants, or will you leave some space open for human posteriors? The yard already looks better just with the grass removed! I would suggest simply laying newspaper down 4-6 layers thick and filling over that with topsoil, but I imagine you'll want to do some planting this fall and winter. You still could use the newspaper technique, but I find it annoying to have to cut through the newspaper to plant. The point is to have that temporary barrier to smother whatever grass or weed roots might still be underneath, not poke holes in it! And of course when I prepare an area, I want to plant immediately, not wait. Though, if you lay enough topsoil over the paper, you won't have to cut through it, just plant on top... I am rambling. Ignore me. Looking forward to seeing the new flagstone paths and whatever else you do with that space!

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    1. Half the bench is reserved for human posteriors - the lower portion is reserved for potted plants, although I can't promise there won't be spillover at some point. With respect to the lawn removal, we've discovered that Bermuda grass is hard to smother -- believe me, I've tried. There are also gobs of that nasty plastic sod netting still in place as the crew didn't strip the sod layer so much as pickax it into pieces. Why, oh why can't sod-sellers develop netting that biodegrades?

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    2. Ah, I don't think I have Bermuda grass, thankfully. I've had to deal with black plastic left by the former owner (and more recently by the nice but ignorant contractors my parents hired) but no sod netting. Sounds awful. They really should have a biodegradable material for that by now.

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  10. Lawn free, woohoo! That bench is seriously cool. You have a very talented husband!

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  11. Welcome to the club of lawn-less :-) I was lawn-less for many years in my old house and now I have only one small patch left to take up here in my new garden and then there will be none left here too. Much more space to put many more lovely plants in!
    I’d love to have a bench like yours – in fact, I’d love to have a husband who could make me a bench like yours, really clever design :-)

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    1. The first thing I did at our old house was tear out all the lawn but it was a small garden so that wasn't a big task. With this house, I inherited a lot of lawn. The soil preparation of the newly denuded area is going to take a long time but we got started on it today - working on it for a bit early in the morning and again just before dinner. The good news is that I should be properly exhausted every night, allowing me to fall asleep quickly (as long as I don't get caught up thinking about my fall planting plan).

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  12. I love that bench Kris. That tree was really crying out for it I think. Well done to your OH, what a wonderful job he as done.
    It's such a shame the work wasn't up to what you expected - I often think that if a job's worth doing and it is possible to do it yourself then that's usually the best course of action. You get it done to a standard you want. Looking forward to reading about the rest of the work when it's all done.

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    1. We seem to have decided to do the job ourselves after all, Angie. Without a lot of discussion or even a formal declaration of intent, we've already fallen in step tackling the job.

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  13. Hi Kris, that is a great idea to build a bench around the tree in your front yard! I like that you have used Redwood wood, since its fades in such a nice way. I hope you don't mind me saying this but I would have gone with only one level for the bench. I feel it is a little restless to me with the two levels, but this is of course my sense of design and most important thing is that you and your husband love it. Your husbands craftsmanship seems to be exquisite!
    Congratulations for being completely lawn-less by now! I am sure the flagstone paths will look great. I totally can relate to your complains about substandard work if you get other people do it for you. Unfortunately that is a very common experience here in America.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. I find most garden service providers want to poison the lawn and then just scrape up the debris but I refuse to use chemicals. Although I talked to the provider about digging down several inches, I don't think he really understood what I wanted. He and his helper worked hard in horrible heat so I appreciated the effort, just not the result.

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  14. Incredible changes! Can't wait to see what you do with all that newly-available planting space!

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    1. Other than installing more flagstones and adding more creeping thyme around them, I haven't even begun to work out a planting scheme. So much to do - and so little time to get it done to take advantage of our brief rainy season!

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  15. Wow! The bench is great, those tree-wrapping benches cost the earth in the UK but they always look fantastic, well done your husband! The garden sure looks bigger with the grass gone; I know what you mean about getting work done by contractors, it is always done better by oneself, but that is a huge job I know. I look forward to seeing this project progress.

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    1. My husband is a great woodworker - it's one of his favorite hobbies. I already have another project in mind but as he's signed up to help me dig up the backyard I'm not going to share that with him yet.

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