Let There Be Grass! (Seeding Some Bare Dirt Spots)

Back on this hosta post I left a not-so-subtle indication that we were planting some fresh grass ’round these parts.

Though as pretty as superimposed text looks in that area (not), we’ve been working on getting the real thing for a while now and it’s finally (mostly) photo-ready. But let’s head back to the beginning, which is actually one step before the photo above… when it still looked like this:

Yep, we still had some weird liriope lingering to the right of the brick path, so we dug that up (to the point where it was even with the stone border on the other side) and called this area ready for grass seed.

Here’s the strip from the other side of the house. If you recall, this is where we used to have a line of boxwoods making the pathway look very, um, boxed in.

The area near our front porch wasn’t the only spot in need of grass seed. We also had a stripe of dirt (and ivy) where our “bush fence” once resided at the front of the property.

So once we ripped out all of the ivy, this area was also ready for some serious seedification.

Because this is not a good look. And we’ve been living with it like this since last fall. And we’re pretty tired of being “the house with the dirt path to nowhere.”

As for actually spreading the seed, we didn’t use our usual routine of starter fertilizer followed by grass seed in a broadcast spreader (detailed here). Since we were getting towards the end of the grass growing season (once it gets really hot the seed can burn before it begins to grow) impatience got the best of us and we bought this “seeding mixture” that has fertilizer and seed in one. I think it was about $20 per bag (sorry, lost my receipt to double-check).

I worried my broadcast spreader would waste a lot of seed by tossing it way beyond the bare strips. So instead I just tossed it by hand – kinda using the motion I imagine one might use to feed a bunch of chickens. Not that I’ve ever done that, so maybe I’m way off.

Once it was all spread, I got my water on. Again, since it was such a small area I skipped our usual sprinkler routine and broke out the hose. So picture me out there once a day (usually in the evening or the early morning, so the sun wouldn’t just burn it off) soaking both areas.

Now, to force a little bit of delayed gratification in this story (since it there was about two weeks of daily watering that delayed any real life gratification) I’m gonna switch gears momentarily. Let’s talk about these random ferns that pop up under our magnolia tree.

We both like ferns. Just not in this spot. It just looks messy to us and we have other plans for under this tree someday. So we dug them up.

They were actually a bit of a pain to get up – and there were lots of them too. I filled two whole wheelbarrows full of them (which I hauled to our naturalized side yard, where I’d be happy for them to take root). I also like how this photo unintentionally looks like our West Elm ceramic speaker-pig is trying to escape up the tree to avoid the wheelbarrow. #PigProblems.

Now it’s a big empty round of dirt – but at least it doesn’t have those gangly ferns creeping all over the place anymore. And someday we’d love to plant some green low-lying groundcover for a more seamless look (that screams big-ring-of-dirt-under-a-tree-where-grass-won’t-grow a little less). Someday.

Okay, now back to grass mode. It took about 10 days for any hint of grass to start showing up. A bit longer than our past experiences (which were usually seven on the dot), but we chalked it up to being late in the season when it was a bit warmer out.

Here’s a farther-away shot of the area just starting to get a subtle green tint to it around ten days in.

Fast forward another week or two and things are finally filling in pretty nicely:

You can still see the distinction between the fresh grass and the mature grass, but once the new stuff starts to grow out of its neon green newness it should be less obvious.

We can’t tell you how much this excites us just to see a carpet of grass here, totally unobstructed by bushes, ivy, or dirt. Kinda wish it hadn’t taken 18 months of living here for this to finally get done!

It’s also much easier to mow now that I don’t have to weave around a bunch of bushes (these pics were taken right after mowing, which is why you can see some fresh wheel lines in some of the shots).

The stripe closer to the house is having a bit of a rougher go at filling in. The area by the street is lower, so water runoff seems to go there – which makes all of the grass down there a little lusher. We might end up overseeding this path area another time this fall, just to help it fill in more evenly.

Here it is from the other side. Again, not perfect…

…but definitely an improvement!

And while we’re looking at old before photos, let’s take a peek at how the view from the front has improved. Here’s a before shot taken about a week after we bought this house (even before Sherry trimmed up the magnolia).

And here we are today.

It’s pretty grass-tastic if you ask me. And thankfully since it’s only a three-foot strip of grass out front and next to the path that we added in place of all those bushes, it only takes a few more runs of the mower to get ‘er done (five more mowing minutes are definitely worth the curb appeal that we gained).

Has anyone else played the grass seed game yet this year? Or have you had any past triumphs (or trials) with planting grass around your home? Are you slowly inching along with outdoor improvements? It used to make us so sad that outside things seem to take forever, but we learned with our first house that a lot of little updates over a few years can definitely make for some dramatic results. So keep the faith. And make sure your ceramic pig isn’t trying to run off…


  1. Emily says

    You inspired us! In the past month, my husband and I trimmed all the bushes in our front yard; pulled up two dying ones and replaced them with fresher, deer-resistant, flowering bushes; seeded and watered all the bare spots in our front and back yards; and replaced the sparse, aged red mulch in our garden beds with a thick, fresh layer of dark mulch. We were pleased with the results, but even more pleased when guests came over and remarked with surprise “Wow! You guys have done some landscaping lately! It looks wonderful.”

    • says

      Aw, it’s amazing when people notice! Some of our relatives still don’t seem to notice our changes but when we remind them they didn’t used to be able to see the house they’re like “ohhhh yeah!” – haha.


  2. says

    Wow that looks great! I imagine it is much nicer to pull up to the house now! I always love it when I drive by my house and see the yard looking nice. Of course we have a 6-8′ tall hedge that my husband has to trim a couple of times a year (totally different condition than yours).

    Glad to hear that you moved the ferns to your naturalized area, since unlike monkey grass, they are native (aka good for the bugs and wildlife).

  3. says

    Why does growing grass seem like such an accomplishment? Every time I plant seeds, I walk out every morning in my pjs to check the progress. It’s so exciting! I’ve also been known to chase birds, squirrels and rabbits out of the yard… Yeah, I’m practically an old woman!

    • says

      Haha- seriously! Clara and I used to sit in the window waiting for it to grow. That didn’t work very well, and someone got a little impatient (well, both of us did, haha). This grass totally made us nervous when it didn’t pop up seven days later like it usually does. Ten days is really an exercise in patience! Haha.


  4. says

    I had to feed chickens once (a lot of my family grew up on farms.) I was picturing myself as Cinderella in the Disney moving, gracefully scattering corn whilst humming a beautiful melody. What actually happened was that all the chickens charged me and I screamed and ran and they chased me because I had their food. Not one of my finer moments.

    Anyway, the grass looks great! The when-you-bought-your-home and Today comparison is awesome. I love big lawns, so much fun as a child.

  5. Ashley says

    That grass looks fantastic! My husband & I are currently in the short sale process to purchase our first home. We live in Florida where it’s hot all year. The backyard is a decent size blank slate, but the grass is anything but actual grass but just sporadic blades and clumps and basically dirt in between. You both always have a way of making us soon to be home owners have hope in our homes and inspiration for renovations! Loved this post!

  6. says

    Wow that looks sooo much better than the before! Great job! Our entire yard is basically all weed and super super bumpy so next year we’ll be hiring a bobcat and tearing it all up and then getting our grass seed on, fingers crossed it turns out!

  7. says

    Oh my word! The yard looks so much better than it did when you guys first moved in! Nice! I love that you can see your yellow door from the street now.

    Speaking of painting… remember when you guys selected paint samples to decide what color to paint the rest of the house? What’s going on with that? (I know, I know. Like you guys don’t have enough to do :-)

    • says

      It got to cold to tackle that last fall/winter and sure enough with book stuff/kitchen stuff it got put on the backburner. Now we’re doing the deck, but the porch is definitely on the hopefully-soon list!


  8. says

    Wow, I have to say that last before and after shot is pretty amazing, especially considering all the work that’s gone on indoors! You guys are awesome!

  9. says

    I am incredibly jealous of how good your grass looks! Seriously. We moved into our place last October, so we just started on our backyard for the first time a few months ago. Considering we’ve been out there every single day (weed removal, weed killer, grass seed, fertilizer, more weed removal, more weed killer, more grass seed, more fertilizer – rinse & repeat!), it’s not bad, but whew! Time consuming!

    • says

      Totally! That was one thing when we learned when we moved into our first house – we had no idea outside stuff took so much work and time!! Good luck with everything!


  10. says

    What kind of grass do you have in your yard? Was it easy to find matching seed at the home improvement store? It looks good and I’m glad to know it only took a couple of weeks to fill in.

    We recently limbed up a tree that was creating a dead spot in the grass on our front lawn and now it’s time to plant.

  11. Ashley Reid says

    Sorry guys but I totally disagree with yanking up all those ferns. They don’t look messy – they look natural and native to the area. Mulch the area, clip them back a bit and add in some colorful annuals – that would be beautiful. Sometimes you need to just let things be and not try to force something to look perfect and balanced all the time, or to work somewhere it wasn’t intended to. Kinda like those poor hostas you planted in full sun. Loosen up a bit!

    • says

      We just plant things wherever we like them! We’re loose! Haha. We put the ferns in our naturalized side yard because we prefer them there (yay for native plants!) and have plans for a low-lying green groundcover to obscure that giant brown ring of dirt under the magnolia since it’s just not our cup of tea). As for the hostas, if you check that post many VA experts/gardeners mentioned that in our region those green variagated ones are super happy in full sun, which explains why they did so well where they were initially growing (which was also full sun) and why they’re still rocking out by the mailbox (whew!).


    • Sara says

      I was thinking the same thing! I love ferns, but they looked kind of… RANDOM. Good call, youngsters. :)

  12. says

    Great job! I love how nice a lush, green yard looks.

    My great grandmother had those ferns. They are really great when piled next to each other in one area instead of randomly placed over a large area. I can see why you removed them, but they are a nice touch of green that could contrast with surrounding plants. Good luck with the grass! We’re removing grass around our yard… well, to replace with giant flower beds, and our dog is doing his fair share too. But he’s replacing it with big, giant holes…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *