Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Around the Yard and in the Garden

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It occurs to me that most of you have probably never seen the front of our house or our front yard. Since moving here in late 2013, our only focus has been on improving the back yard. Oh, sure, I mow the front every week, but really, no one ever goes there. I’m not sure Handan even knows where it is. In fact, she refers to our back yard as the front yard. Confuses the hell out of me when she does that.

So while the back yard has seen its trees cut, the lawn extended, a new fence, a raised-bed vegetable garden, a pond makeover, landscape walls around all the beds and the pool, a new deck, a patio extension and currently, a small greenhouse with running water and electricity, the front yard has gotten basically squat. Oh sure, we ripped out most of the old shrubs (mostly leggy rhododendrons), and we did a couple of Big Whoop makeovers on the lamp post and the mailbox, but mostly it’s been put out of mind while we work on perfecting our backyard oasis.

Out of mind, but not forgotten. This was going to be the year that we tackled the front yard, but new projects keep creeping up that have drained our annual project budget (dining room makeover, laundry room makeover, the greenhouse project, and more). So we’ve again back-burner’d the grand plans in favor of some smaller steps.

Let’s start in the front yard and work our way to the back. Along the way, I’ll show you what we’re working on and what’s in the pipeline. C’mon then. Summer’s almost here!

Our back yard is pretty big, but the front is even bigger. When we moved in, the lawn was picture perfect. But I knew bupkis about lawn care, so I just mowed it once a week and thought that was good enough. Fast forward a few years, and the front lawn had turned to an unholy mix of grass, clover, crabgrass, moss, ULOs (unidentified lawn objects), hardpan and misery. Two years ago, we started with a lawn care service to fertilize and spray for crabgrass and weeds and ticks. It has helped enormously in the backyard, but only a little in the front.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

The sides of the driveway are basically dirt. I’m pretty sure I killed them by oversalting the driveway in the winter. But without the salt, it’s tough to get up our driveway. It’s as steep as that annoying hill.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Those yellow strips on the hill are all new dead grass this year. That hill used to be the lushest part of the front since it faces mostly north and it receives a lot of underground runoff. But this year? Surprise! Here’s a big chunk of death! Have fun with it! See the white lamp post? Yeah, we never got around to painting the rest of them black last year. There’s always this year, though, right?

Here’s a panoramic shot, for those who enjoy such things. Click the pic for a bigger version.

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Moving up towards the house, we enter the mini oak forest in the center of our lawn that is currently sucking up all of the water and leaving none for the grass. When I was young, I used to think that all trees were great. Yay trees! Save the planet, kiss a whale and wear tie dye, man! Then I grew up. And now I understand that oak trees are good for one thing and one thing only: burning in a big open fireplace. How do I hate them? Let me count the ways.

  1. In the spring, their pollen falls and forms a hideous yellow/green powder-coating on absolutely everything outdoors.
  2. In the summer, they suck up all the water because they are greedy assholes that never learned to share.
  3. In the fall, they develop 23 billion acorns and proceed to carpet-bomb the lawn.
  4. Later in the fall – practically in the winter, after all the other sensible trees have divested themselves of their leaves – the oak tree will finally deign to drop its enormous load of dried foliage. While other men carouse by firelight drinking ale and making merry, I toil away in the yard trying to clear the infernal oak leaves in a race against the first snowfall.
  5. Their big stupid leaves are like sails, so clearing them in the late fall (when it’s always windy) is the very definition of futility.
  6. During the cold of winter, they see fit to drop their weak sissy branches all over my lawn like an inconsiderate boor who clips his toenails all over the carpet (I’ve never done that, I swear!)

So up in the oak forest, we have three “landscape beds.” I think when we moved in they had landscaping. Now they have rogue pine trees and stupid oak suckers trying to grow from long-ago chopped oak trees. Seriously, they never give up! Here’s one of the beds. This one has been overtaken by some weird green stuff. That weird green stuff has basically taken over the far side of the front lawn. I have no earthly idea what it is, but it apparently eats weed killer for breakfast, because in the 2+ years we’ve been getting the lawn service, this crap has only gotten worse.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Here’s a closer look at the hideous infestation. Do any of you have an idea what it is? I’m starting to fear for my family. I think it’s plotting to take over the house. The attack will most likely happen at night…

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Each leaf is like a little green middle finger

The second and largest “landscape bed.”

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

And more little green assholes plants.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Hey look! A bonus dandelion! A few more, and I can make a salad!

Here’s the last bed. Do you see that cluster of brown-tipped sticks in the upper left quadrant? Yeah, that’s an oak bush growing from the charred remains of an old oak stump. Charred remains, people! I filled that stump with gasoline and oil a couple of years ago and burned it like a 17th century witch!

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Hey! There’s the rest of my salad!

Obviously oak trees are wise in the ways of witchcraft, because that trial by fire gave birth to a bush that burns me to the core every time I look at it.

We were planning on making over those beds this year, but first we need to thin the oak forest. As I mentioned earlier, our project budget has been worn about as thin as my socks, so the front beds will likely lay fallow another year. But if we have the time and energy, we’ll probably wade in and clear out some unwelcome life forms and maybe throw down some mulch. Baby steps.

Okay, moving on to the front landscaping around the house. Here’s full frontal shot of the house.

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And here’s the left side. We had removed all of the original shrubbery and replaced it with a Japanese maple, a couple of hydrangeas and something else that may or may not be a rhododendron.

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The alcove in the center of the house used to hold some sort of flowering tree that never actually flowered. It was an odd choice of tree for a space that is always in the shade! The tree was good for one thing and one thing only: growing above the roofline of the house and forcing me to climb a ladder to trim it. We made the gut-wrenching decision to chop it down last summer. Nah, I’m just kidding you – it was the easiest decision we ever made!

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

As you can see, I haven’t reached this far with my spring cleaning yet (thank you, oak trees). I hope to by this weekend. The mound where the tree was now holds the beginnings of a pachysandra bed, though we may need to remove them in order to grind the stump and plant something new there. That’s my office window back there. I’m sitting there right now as I type this post for you. Hi!

So here’s another question for you wise and erudite readers: what should we plant there? It needs to stay small, and it will almost always be in the shade (it gets a small amount of morning sunlight). Each of you has more gardening knowledge in your pinky-toe than I have in my whole body, so let’s hear some suggestions!

Oh, also check out that lovely mold on the house. Classy, right? Fortunately, it’s easy to clean. I just cleaned a bunch off of our vinyl fencing with a mixture of TSP, liquid laundry detergent and water.

Over on the right side of the house, we have the driveway…

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

…which is currently blocked with cars and trucks and trailers and dumpsters.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

The side yard on this side used to be a perfect little slice of lawn. But the deck project last year pretty much killed it with the dumpster, material storage and the crushed rock I had delivered. Fortunately, as of yesterday, the crushed rock is gone! Now I need to start rehabbing my yard.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

That’s Rich Lee’s truck of Lee Home Solutions. He’s the guy that built our deck, and he’s helping us with the electrical and plumbing in the laundry room. Currently, he’s running electricity and water out to our vegetable garden area. It’s a bigger job than I thought.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

It started out innocently enough…

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

But things escalated quickly…

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Let’s go back to the left side of the house and head through the fence gate.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

This little patch of lawn was intended for the dogs to do their business.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

It was once lush and green, too. Now it’s a wasteland. Oh, but the dogs barely go here. Why would they, when they have the entire back yard? What a couple of red-haired jerks!

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
“We’re sorry, Daddy!” [goes and pees on my one spot of perfect lawn]
This is the area where the second set of deck stairs leads. I had to add a bunch of topsoil and grade the landing last fall. Then I planted some grass, but it didn’t take very well. I’ll try again this year.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

When we built the deck, I had to jury-rig the downspout around the corner. This has caused the washout you see in the picture below.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

We’ll fix this issue by digging a trench down the slope to the chain link fence. We’ll then bury a perforated drain pipe on a bed of stones. Hopefully, that will solve the problem.

Here is our side garden.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

We haven’t cleaned it or mulched it yet, but hopefully we’ll have it squared away this weekend. With a little work and some more nice weather, it will get back its glory.

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The deck project spurred all sorts of little projects last year. For one, I lined the pool area with landscape bricks. I also added them to the back of the deck. They help keep the crushed stone from being kicked into the yard. This year, I still have a little more to do.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Moving towards the back, this is Handan’s little garden by the shed. This and the side garden are 100% Handan. She did all of the work in planting them, and she maintains them. I’m always here to help – I’m not a jerk – but so far she just says “Nuh” whenever I offer my expert landscaping services. Probably because I have a hard time walking through such a densely-packed minefield. Every other step seems to produce a crunch or a snap that requires yet another, “I’m sorry, my babes!”

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Turning to our right, our pond area garden is doing great. Handan and Barish did a fantastic job cleaning it out last weekend (or the weekend before?). I’m waiting for a new filter for the pond, and we haven’t finished mulching, but it’s the one area where everything is on track.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Did I say everything? Oh, except for one little huge thing. Somehow (and we really have no idea) our sassafras tree died last year. We left it alone and hoped it was just taking an extended nap. But we can’t hide from the truth any more. The tree done died.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

So this year, we’ll cut it down and plant two trees in its place – probably a weeping cherry and some other flowering beauty. I’ll be posting again about the pond and garden later this summer when everything is in bloom. Maybe by then, we’ll have some new trees to show you!

Heading back towards the fence, we get to Fruitville. Our trees are all doing well this year, but the pears still aren’t blooming. I think they’re still too young and small. Our apples, peaches and cherries are all looking great though. Last year, we had dozens of peaches hanging from the tree, but they all fell and rotted, one-by-one. It was heartbreaking and frustrating. In the end, we only had one peach to eat. It was fantastic. This year, I hope they don’t all fall off early again.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
An apple tree that I pruned heavily.
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Scrawny pear with no flowers
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Our peach tree. Tons of little flowers!
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Handan showing off one of our two Fuji apple trees. It’s full of flowers this year!
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Black cherry tree

And here are some close-ups of the flowers.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Peach
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Apple
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Cherry
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Cherry
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Cherry

As usual, our grapes are budding late. Every year I panic that I killed them by over-pruning during the winter. And then they roar back to life and try to overtake the yard. Aggressive little buggers. This year, I hope I don’t lose the crop to black rot like the previous two years.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Moving on to our vegetable garden. I planted some of my garlic last fall and some this spring.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Fall-planted garlic
Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com
Spring-planted garlic

Last year was my first garlic crop, and I’m hooked! I just ran out in March, and wow, what a difference between mine and regular store-bought. It’s like the difference between a soft kiss on the lips and a punch in the face. I planted more this spring to ensure I have a year-round supply.

Overall, I’m shifting tactics this year in the garden. I used to be all about the hot peppers. Last year I had two full beds dedicated to peppers – 1 1/2 beds of hot, and 1/2 bed of sweet. But besides my Flakes of Hell, which I make by dehydrating and crushing a hot pepper blend, and my ground smoked hot peppers, I found I wasn’t using my fermented hot sauces as much as I thought I would. This year, I’ll only have one bed of peppers – mostly sweet. I’ll need to replenish my Flakes of Hell, as they only last a year, but I may be able to sneak another year out of my smoked pepper. It’s still plenty hot, and I have a ton of it left.

I’ve started a bunch of radishes early.

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Not because we love radishes so much. They’re okay, but what I’m after are the greens. Later this spring, I’m going to tell you the best way to eat radish greens. You’re going to love it!

I’ve transplanted two of my three rhubarb plants. I’ll transplant the other just as soon as we clean out its new home.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

Since I took the pics above, one of the rhubarbs is teetering on the brink of disaster.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

I think he’ll pull through, though.

The gray area in the picture below is where the greenhouse will go. We bought it three years ago, and it’s been sitting in a box in the garage ever since. I’m happy we’ll finally be putting it to good use!

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

We noticed that our first two raised beds were looking a little tired, so we decided to build three new ones in front (and raise them even higher) and use their planks to raise the beds behind them.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

We’ve already started dismantling this one and transferring the soil to the bed behind it.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

I’ll issue that project as a separate post and tutorial. Making raised beds is pretty easy if you have the right tools. We’ll show you how it’s done, hopefully next week.

For the past couple of years, I’ve seen a lot of creeping Charlie trying to take over various parts of of our yard, especially around the pool and the vegetable garden. I’ve been pulling it out around the pool, but we decided to let it do its thing in the garden. Not only does it make an attractive ground cover that prevents other ugly weeds from sprouting, but it has awesome purple flowers that the bees love.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

I think we’ll just let Charlie keep on creepin’.

Well, that’s about it. With the warm weather finally upon us, I’ve been keeping the doors open almost all day. And in the past two days, I’ve already had to catch and release three hummingbirds that have wandered in for a closer look at what I’m doing.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

I now keep a large butterfly net next to the door. It helps a lot. The guy pictured above was the first. I tried trapping him against the window with my hands. He panicked and flew up to the ceiling where he spent the next 20 minutes in non-stop flight. Eventually he exhausted his energy and landed, and then he was easy to catch. Don’t worry, he perked right up when I took him out.

With all the work we’ve been putting in to get the yard in shape – every night and all weekend – it’s good to sit down to a dinner cooked on the grill. One of the first things I did when the snow melted was to get my kamado grill up and running.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

It still had a full load of charcoal from last year.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

These pictures are from its first use of the season, but it’s been in use almost every night since.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

And the happy guy grilling with it.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

We’ve since moved the grills to their new locations as we’re slowly shaping up the patio and deck area for the summer and the big New Deck Reveal post. Stay tuned for that – we still need more greenery, an open pool, and I need to build more furniture before I’ll have the opportunity to write that post.

Around the Yard and in the Garden | TheNavagePatch.com

I hope you like our little stroll around the yard. We still have a lot of work to do, but the end is in sight. Slowly but surely, we’re crossing the items off our checklist. Soon, there’ll be nothing left to do but sit on the deck and drink rum and martinis. I look forward to that day!

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29 Comments

  1. Whowee, Greg! That’s a whole lotta property to keep up with. You and Handan are doing a beautiful job. Everything looks so planned out. Thanks for sharing. I hope you get to relax and enjoy all your efforts before the snow returns. Rum cocktails and martinis are definitely a good plan!

    1. Thank you, Audrey! Yeah, this place keeps us busy pretty much all of the time! We’ll find some time to relax, though 🙂

  2. we own a little over an acre, we have a small area in the back fenced to keep the kids and the dogs in…. it is full of kid crap swingset sand boxes pool and a hot tub for mom our front yard is small with three big maple trees and a flower bed by the house that is mostly iris and the rest of the acre is out side the fence and it is just grass clover and dadelions and just gets mowed i am hoping to have a small veggie garden this year we will see lol xx

  3. Looking forward to your landscape projects. I think your mystery plant in the front is False Lily of the Valley.
    Man you are brave for letting the Creeping Charlie live! Here in MN it will take over everything in one season. It puts out a million seeds and kills everything as it grows. It also smells like cat urine when the sun hits it. It took us 3 years to get rid of it. Now the neighbor has let his live and it is a constant battle to keep it out of our woodland garden.
    Enjoy being outside and garden on!

    1. Hi Diane, I looked up false lily of the valley, and that looks to be it! Thank you! We’ll keep an eye on that creeping charlie – i know how tenacious it can be!

  4. your green crap growing out of control, is called broad leaf weeds, where I live, and yes, they take over and are hard to kill. I’ve tried all sorts of weed killers, just to find new baby ones popping up every where in 2 weeks. So this is what you do. Start up your BBQ grill, cook something on it, eat it, and while your eating your meal, put the biggest pot you have, filled with water, on the grill. (start out with the hottest tap water you can get, and also put a lid on the pot) When the water boils, bring the pot to your weeds, and douse the suckers with a nice hot boiling bath. Just to let you know, the boiling water kills anything it gets dropped on. After giving your intruding neighbors a bath, sit back and have a beer or two, and look at those suckers the next day…. the beginning of the end! The best part… your getting a weed killer, essentially free!

  5. Thank you for the tour! I think a hosta garden with a birdbath would work in your alcove. And a hook or two with hummingbird feeders, so you can watch from your desk.

  6. That was a lovely tour ,i’m green with envy wish i had a plot that size ,love trees , what you call creeping Charlie we call ground ivy even though it’s not ivy ,i love it .going to put some in my fairy garden i am working on at the moment , it’s a mostly shady 10 ft square plot one side of the path outside our living room window,thought i’d do it in a couple of days but the weather can’t decide whether to be baking hot or freezing cold.

  7. I agree with Derry , the hosta , Look for an elephant hosta. They get really big green and ribbed like leaves. It’ll look really good there and it comes back year after year and noooo attention is needed!!!

  8. Thanks for the tour! Yes Hosta will work Great in the Alcove area. A tall pot bubbling fountain would be cite there also if there is an outlet there.

    1. Hmmmm…we have a fountain in the back already. We could move it around to the front. We’ll see about that. Thanks, Kathy!

  9. Whew! I’m looking forward to the day y’all can drink rum and martinis! You are quite the ambitious couple! But I love it all! It will be beautiful!

  10. OK Greg, you asked for it! Why not let the May Flower take over the front? It makes a great ground cover and NO MAINTENANCE! The alcove… hosta and ferns, also NO MAINTENANCE! (I’m trying to help you get on the deck with those cocktails!) The doggy potty place… grass is highly overrated. I fenced in a 20X30-foot area for my dogs, laid down 1/2-inch thick overlapping (by half) layers of wet newspaper and topped it all with pine mulch. It took me about 40 hours but that was 8 years ago and it still looks good. Also NO MAINTENANCE! If you MUST have grass, spread cracked corn over it when the daffodils bloom. The corn won’t let any seeds sprout. The sassafras tree… is it the tree next to your pond? If so I think you may have damaged its root system when you(?) put in the pond. Rhubarb does not like to be transplanted. And… I am jealous that you have running water and electric at your garden!

    1. Cristine, I love your no-maintenance ideas! Unfortunately, everything we do in the yard has to have the dual purpose of pleasing us and increasing our houses value. We live in Connecticut, and the burden of living here is enormous (other states have a “cost of living” – in CT, it’s a burden, lol), Once our son graduates college (in 7 years), we’ll be looking to sell the house and move south to nicer weather and a lower cost of living. So everything we do until then needs to pretty this place up for the next buyer! 🙂

  11. Chiming in with a +1 on the hostas. They are great set-it-and-forget-it plants. I have them on the north side of my house in Boston and they get absolutely no love, but the one or two times a year I go look at that side of the house they’re merrily doing their thing. I’m a big fan of things I can plant and then ignore. I have irises and peonies as well on the west side of my house along the driveway that have been there for almost a decade now and I haven’t managed to kill them, despite salt and the efforts of the snow plow folks.

  12. How about a Harry Lauder Walking Stick, Greg? I plant at least one at every house I have lived at. They always look interesting , no matter the season.

    1. Wow, I’d never heard of it until now. What a cool tree! I don’t know if it would work in front of my office, as that’s a full shade area, but I’d love to plant one in the back yard somewhere!

  13. Another vote for hostas and a fountain if you already have it, looks like a perfect spot for that and some hummingbird feeders to enjoy from the window! You’ve got one hell of a to-do list, but the good part is you can enjoy that nice deck and the pool at the end of a work day after marking an item off the list.
    I allow myself one small garden bed area (that whole pesky military moving thing, I don’t want to put too much in just to have to weep as I leave it behind) and I got it all spruced up this past weekend. There was a rock pile in the woods when we moved here so I used those to create a flower bed by our deck. It’s right outside the kitchen window and I enjoy looking at it so much. I put a little $7 stick of a maple tree there that I got off the pitiful plant shelf (it’s filling in quite nicely these last few years), some clearance hostas (that I divided this year for more plants!) and a rose bush in and fill in with some annuals for color each spring. A pretty hanging basket and some pretty plants in a few pots on the deck and I’m all set! Now I’ll just weed it from time to time and fight off slugs with some granules I sprinkle out and the rest of the time I’ll sip my sweet tea and enjoy the view.

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