Bushwhacking: Part 3

Update: Thanks so much for all the kind words and general awesomeness on yesterday’s post. You guys rock my socks.

Ladies and gentlemen, we actually have a backyard. Well, we still need to get some grass going on, but three phases of digging and transplanting and weeding (here’s phase one, and here’s phase two) have definitely turned our Jumanji-esque backyard into a nice clearing for Burger & Clara to run around in… once that aforementioned grass makes itself at home. And we still have a ton of giant trees on the side and back of our lot to keep it from feeling too open and stark, which seems to be the sweet spot for us.

But enough jabbering, the pics do all of the explaining anyway:

As you can see, we leveled the second 15′ wide planting bed, and dug up the rest of the borderline-insane amounts of liriope that encroached on the area that we’d rather just seed and mow for a nice lush little swatch o’ grass. We also brought in some dirt from the back of our lot (free!) in an attempt to level everything out to get it ready for grass, although we’ll add a little top soil when we seed just to be sure we’re giving those little grass seeds all the reason in the world to take root.

We also did some tree-maintenance in the form of cutting these two giant vines that are cannibalizing an old oak tree (they’re so thick and crazy that during Hurricane Irene we worried the extra weight of the vines and the dense leafy branches would pull the tree down on our house). You can see which tree they’re on if you scroll up to the before and after pics above (it’s that crazy leafy-looking mass hugging the tree next to the corner of the house on the right).

Reciprocating saw + John = buh-bye oak-strangling vine. We actually heard from a certified landscaping expert that we hired back in April thanks to a Living Social deal (more on that here) that it would be best to remove any vines from all of the trees on our property, just to keep the tree in the best possible health and not have to worry about them choking the trees or making them fall in a storm. And you apparently just have to cut a chunk out from the base so the roots can’t keep sending nutrients up through the vine and it should slowly die off (then you can yank it off the tree if you don’t like the look of a bunch of dead leaves hugging your tree like a beer koozie). We’ll keep you guys posted on how that goes…

While the reciprocating saw was out we also used it to cut out some old roots (from trees that were cut down decades ago) that would have made for some lumpy not-level grass…

… and we also had another brush with nature. Although this time it wasn’t a tiny snake, it was a baby squirrel. Cue the collective “aww.” This picture doesn’t do his insanely cute size any justice, but take my word for it, this is totally one of those baby animals that you’d see on Pinterest and let out a gasp at his sheer adorable-ness. He was smaller than my hand and quite wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.

But back to the yard progress. At the end of another 3 hour span (aka: another Clara nap), we had completed our third and final phase of bushwhacking and finally have reached ready-to-seed status. Woot!

It’s so funny because every time I turn the corner to walk into the backyard from the patio on the side of the house, I think I’m going to be met with the view in the top pic, so it never fails to make me jump when I see the cleared out view from the bottom pic instead.

It definitely looks kind of stark now, but we know when we get a nice lush carpet of green grass going on that it’ll be awesome and open without feeling too cleared out since our lot is almost an acre that’s chock fulla wooded area on both sides of the house along with most of the area behind the house. So this will just be one open and grassy area for Burger and Clara to have fun in while various woodland creatures can do their thing everywhere else.

Oh and here’s a really great example of how a giant planting bed can block your whole house from the back. And then after a few days of work, it can be history. Poof. Begone house-blocking bush.

So much better! And I can’t even explain how happy we are to see the old brick paths again (so charming!). After nearly two years of staring at about two-bricks-worth of them while the rest was completely covered in leg-tickling liriope, they’re a sight for sore eyes (and itchy liriope-groped legs).

So there you have the latest on our backyard progress. Of course we’ll share seeding/grass-growing pics whenever we can, but we’re pretty psyched that this whole area just took a few pretty serious (but totally doable!) days of work to result in some pretty major changes.

Do you guys like to tackle your outdoor projects in phases? Do you dream about having a certain landscaping setup when you move in (like we did back in 2010) but then take a few years to get your momentum up (we’ve almost been in our house for two whole years, so it’s about time for this!!). It’s amazing how time can fly when you’re putting off yard work…


  1. Laura says

    We had a similarly overgrown acre yard when we moved in. Have you thought about renting a bob-cat or a tractor for a day? It goes SO much faster! I spent days ripping out gardens and then we got a bobcat and it was done in a matter of minutes.

  2. Cathy says

    It looks fantastic and really opens up the backyard! :-)

    What kind of grass seed have you found to work well for you? Due to the trees that still exist, do you get much shade? We’re getting ready to do some grass planting as well but have a good amount of shade to deal with.

    • Lesley says

      we reseeded a large area of our yard two years ago with Pennington Tall Fescue Mix. It is the best grass in our yard by far that we want to dig everything else up and use this everywhere. It did great in sun and shade. We bought more this year to fill in some more areas and expand our lawn but could only find it at Home Depot. It is a very thick grass but it holds up great to high traffic (ie playing kids and animals) I don’t know why but the reviews online weren’t so great. Some people said it was weedy. We did have some weeds when it first started coming in but I am pretty certain it was from the topsoil not the seed. I did weed a lot at first but this summer was great. the thickness keeps the weeds out and it is very green and plush. It is the best looking part of our lawn. It is actually grass we like to roll around in with the kids and pets.

  3. Jen. says

    AMAZING difference. The after (even without grass) looks so much more polished.

    p.s. Can’t wait for your book to come out … I totally understand your fear, but it looks so inviting. And a solid review from Publisher’s Weekly … looking forward to having a copy in my hot little hands (and my library!)

  4. Jennifer W says

    holy moley! What a transformation already!!

    So are you seeding now or waiting for spring?
    I’m in NC and trying to decide if it’s too late to put some more seed down, myself.

  5. Keri Beth says

    So much nicer! You guys are totally inspiring me with your yardwork–although we’re kind of working on an opposite project now, turning an expanse of lawn into an orchard and garden.

  6. caree says

    eeek! I think that vine is poison ivy! (the big vine form). Hope you guys aren’t allergic (I am very) and took precautions.

  7. Joy Franks says

    Yard looking fantastic. The baby squirrel was sure adorable. We don’t have squirrels on our island and I really miss them.

  8. Casey says

    AMAZING transformation, you guys! I’m an apartment-dweller, so sometimes just skip over the great-outdoors DIY posts, but this is incredible. Had to read the whole thing. Pictures are awesome. Congrats on your brand new back yard!

  9. Lauren says

    I’ve really enjoyed seeing your outside renovations come along, thank you for posts like this! That yard’s going to be great for Burger and Clara!

  10. says

    I kind of wondered when I got to the bit in your blog about you guys buying this house how you would make a yard work, with all that green clutter. Now I see it! I like to tackle projects all at once, but they tend to work themselves into segments anyway (usually over a few sessions over one day, or over a weekend).

  11. says

    Wow! That looks incredible! I bet the kids are going to LOVE that. I didn’t even think your house was that big from the outside, but now it looks much more like your first house, which I know you loved the exterior.

    Next summer we are going to be working on a Dog Friendly back yard. We have a fence already but our plan is to transplant the lily’s out of there (apparently Lily’s are poisonous if a dog eats them) and install a brick pathway around the fence. They’re going to kill anything we put around the edges anyway so we mind as well embrace it and put some vintage bricks down or something. It will also take us a few years, but once we tear down the existing deck and move it we’ll have about 10 more feet of yard that will totally need to be regrassed and everything. Exhausted just thinking about it!

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