Bushwhacking: Part 2

When it comes to our jungle-esque backyard, we last left off with transplanting/digging up one giant 15′ garden bed and leveling it all off in the hopes of growing some lush green grass. And we’re back with a little backyard update (why yes we did spend the weekend getting muddy and why no, I still don’t have Madonna arms, but maybe a third day of bush whacking will be the charm?). Much like any other “room” in the house, it’s definitely a do-it-in-phases thing, especially since it’s such a you’ll-be-sore-after-each-phase process, but there’s something awesome about digging around in the yard for a few hours while the bean naps and Burger sleeps lazily in the windowsill (slash “Supervises”) because there’s a pretty obvious change at the end of all that digging. For example, after three and a half hours of work on our second phase of backyard bushwhacking, here’s the difference:

Yup, we tackled the second 15′ wide garden bed and got to work on digging out about 50% of the path-blocking liriope that went crazy and decided to grow so enthusiastically that it makes your legs all itchy if you walk down the path in shorts. Makes me twitch just thinking about it, actually. See how the path looks about 3″ wide in the back section of this photo that we didn’t dig up yet?

And see how we gained about 6-8″ of walking space on each side (for an estimated total of 12-16″ less of liriope once we get both sides done)? Raise the roof. That’s about 300% more non-leg-itching freedom that we gained.

We put all the liriope that we dug up in the side yard where lots of it is already growing (and actually looks wild and free and pretty in a giant mass, so we’re totally cool with it going bonkers and covering the entire wild area in our side yard).

Digging up liriope isn’t for the faint at heart. John started on this task while I cut down the second 15′ planting bed (trimming everything back and then digging it out at the roots to transplant it or remove it seems to be the most manageable method that we’ve learned to tackle such large planting beds). Meanwhile John was showing the liriope who’s boss by digging up sections with his shovel (using the jump-on-the-shovel method to make sure he got all of the roots up so these guys don’t sprout back up in the spring to surprise us). That’s right, J-Boom put his back into it.

Then once I had the planting bed trimmed down (but not dug up quite yet) we looked at the clock and realized we should tag-team the liriope (I worked from the far end while John worked from the end where he started and we met in the middle) since Clara was going to wake up from her nap in about an hour and a half and we wanted to at least have that one leg-tickling side knocked out. We even had time to grab some dirt from a few bare spots back in the woods at the end of our lot and rake that into the holes that were left from digging up the liriope, so there weren’t any giant pits in the yard. Whew.

The view from this angle is the most dramatic change. This is basically what you see when you walk beyond our side patio and turn to the left to see the backyard. Your eye used to stop about ten feet in front of you at that giant planting bed, but now it goes all the way back to that pretty maple on the other side of the backyard.

It actually looks like a backyard instead of a bonafide bushfest back there. Although we still have a few more rows of liriope to dig out along with actually leveling the 15′ bed that I trimmed down so it’s all ready for grass seed. Not bad for one afternoon though. There’s just something so satisfying about a little reclaim-your-yard bid-ness outside (especially since the weather has been awesome lately – not too hot and not too cold).

I know our backyard is really hard when it comes to orienting yourself since there are just a ton of trees and bushes that all look the same, but this is the old & new view just beyond the patio (the comparison above is the view if you walk about four steps forward from where the shots below were taken and turn 90 degrees to the left).

Maybe this terrible rendering that I did of our lot a while back (with our house sketched about ten times too large and the area around it dwarfed by the giant house in the middle of it all) might help you get your bearings. At least it helps you see where the brick paths go and where two two 15′ garden beds used to be in the back:

Oops, but it’s old so it doesn’t have the deck, which now fills in that odd alleyway area between the original house and the 70’s addition on the left side of the house. Anyway, if all goes well we just think it’ll just take one more phase of bush whacking back there to remove the rest of that crazy path-encroaching liriope, level out that last garden bed, and seed everything in the hopes that we can get a nice lush carpet o’ green going on. You know we’ll keep you posted…

We totally love that there’s a big woodsy lot behind our house, but we’re total suckers for a nice swatch of lawn in front of that for the bean and the burgs to run around on. I think it all goes back to our first house’s backyard (ah spring, nothing ever looks this perma-green in the fall):

Grass in the front + woods in the back = our favorite kind of backyard mullet. So although our current house’s backyard will only be about half as deep as our first house’s was when it’s all seeded and lush, we’re cool with that. Still enough room for playing but less to mow and rake. Jackpot.

What did you guys do this weekend? Anyone else digging around outside and crossing your toes for a nice long kid-nap while you’re out there getting dirty?


  1. says

    Nicely done! It’s amazing what a lot of elbow grease can accomplish!

    I didn’t do any work in the yard this weekend, but instead FINALLY put up my Halloween decorations. Given we’re only two weeks out, it was my “Dude, Get on That” project of the weekend. :-)

  2. says

    We drove an hour and a half to hit up the closest H&M, spent an hour there, then drove back. It was funny and actually pretty great. Gotta love a drive in the fall with all the colors.
    Also, I had a dream last night that you guys were doing a house crashing on our tiny house, only somehow when you came I had a seriously amazing kitchen. Maybe I have the gift of prophecy?

  3. Aimée says

    We’ve just moved (finally!) so I was looking forward to Miss Georgia having a nice long nap so that I could get a couple of hours of organizing done but I made the mistake of sitting down…and woke up myself 2 hours later…totally unproductive but felt sooo good :)

  4. says

    I’m completely gardening-challenged, but my mom (the master gardener) was here visiting last week and planted some flowers and installed some solar lights in the front. It looks great, but now it’s on me to keep them alive.

  5. Amanda says

    Looks amazing!!!

    For what it’s worth, Jillian Michael’s 30-day shred (level 2 particularly) for the Madonna arms. It’s 20 minutes a day, but it tones your arms in just
    a few days.

    • says

      Ooh thanks Amanda! The crazy thing is my mom basically was born with Madonna arms and I always ask her why she didn’t give them to me in my genes. Haha.


  6. says

    Things are really clearing up nicely around there! I’m with you, in that I love a nice open yard surrounded by trees. I have over half an acre of overgrown ivy(surrounded by trees) that my husband and I are trying to make into a yard for our 2 furry babies to enjoy. This post is giving me the motivation to get out there in the yard and start ripping it up! So thanks!

  7. says

    We’ve got sooo much transplanting to do that I dread the work. The previous owners were gifted through some nice family about $3000 worth of landscaping left over from their previous job and they just put it anywhere. They wanted to get it in the ground before the fall got too cold and didn’t want to waste any plants. But now a couple of years later everything is way too big and overgrown.
    Hoping we can get it all done this fall or early next spring…sigh

  8. Jen says

    Love your post! Quick question.. what kind of seed did you use in your old house yard to get such lush grass in the part (or what appears to be part) shade? I am having huge issues in our yard with this!

    thanks! jen

    • says

      We do our best to use local grass that does well right here in Richmond (like a local “fescue mix” from a home store here). That seems to help! Oh and mention it’s a part shade area. Hope it helps!


  9. Kitty says

    Wow that’s such a big difference! Will you be digging out the pathways to give you more lawn?

    We need to sort the garden out for autumn, store everything away and prune back. It hasn’t been the best weather for it lately.

    • says

      I think for now we’re cool with leaving the paths since they’re so low-profile and blend in (once the liriope is gone) but who knows where we’ll end up down the line!


  10. Kara says

    Oooh, you could use some of the dead lirirope as upcoming Halloween decor! (They all won’t survive in that big wild tomb of flora, unless they’re mutant plants… which just very well could be a serious possibility!) Put some dead leaves among a bunch of white and orange pumpkins, and a potted mum. Fall and halloween, done!

    Great work you guys! That was a scary amount of work you got done!

  11. Lauren says

    First time posting but had to comment as my husband and I were doing some lawn work this weekend too. We just got back from Disney World for our first anniversary, and let me tell you what a shock it was to come back to good old PA to find 50 degree weather and PILES upon PILES of leaves in our yard. We just bought a house in April and orignally loved the yard that was full of charming mature trees. Now, not so much. haha. So yeah, here’s to working on those madonna arms!

  12. says

    The yard is looking great! I can totally appreciate it! Our yard is an absolute disaster! It’s been neglected for about 15 years and the past 1 since we’ve been here. But we have some trees that have to come out first ($$$$)…one day…but I am looking forward to it! Even though I hate yard work, I like a nice yard!

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