My Backyard

It is shady. Almost too shady. It takes a long time for grass to grow, and it needs some leveling out – right now all the good topsoil and such tends to wash out in the rain and land in the neighbor’s yard over time.

This summer, as I’ve said before, we aren’t going to a vegetable garden this year. However, we will get raised beds ready over the summer, so that next year we can plant more. I may do one bed of herbs this fall – we’ll see. Right now it’s just too damned hot for the work involved for setting up a vegetable garden.

But we did want to do a few things. A few months ago, we had the foundation of our pier-and-beam house leveled. They had to transplant some shrubs planted next to the house while they dug a giant trench, and the workers weren’t exactly treating them with love. They spent two days with their roots partially exposed (the shrubs, not the workers – that would be a completely different story), and then were kind of thrown back in place in the fill dirt next to the house.

The poor things were shocked. They didn’t survive. Tried cutting them back, but the damage was done. We now have sticks in the ground where we used to have shrubs.

So today we headed over to Home Depot to check out a few things. We had about $225 in gift cards, so we thought some beginning backyard improvement would help. We found raised bed kits and bought two – they’re 4×4. Over the summer, we’ll dig up the good grass where these beds will be placed, and transplant it. Apparently, before I arrived Hubs paid $400 for that grass (seems like a lot for something  you can’t smoke or put in brownies, but OK), and he doesn’t want it to just be covered over or DIE. So we’re digging it up.

I thought I’d put a small path between the two beds, so that I can water and weed easier. Herbs in one, veggies in the other. We’ll use animal wire, too, because the fur boys have a fascination with newly turned dirt. The plan is to pull the grass up, build the beds, and then put down potting soil. Our new best friend at Home Depot used to be the master gardener at Fair Park, and he dropped some mad knowledge on us today, and gave me what he says is the best gardening soil recipe evers. We plan on using it in the beds this fall, and then covering over everything with newspaper – which will both inhibit any grass or weed growth in the beds, and will also attract earthworms, which will aerate the soil.

I’m also gonna be hitting up his container gardening class on Saturdays – it’s at 11.

But the first project is replacing those dearly departed shrubs. I wanted something flowering, or that would flower, and HD BFF recommended a few things for that particular spot, including hydrangeas. I lurve hydrangeas. They make effortless flower arrangements, and they bring back good memories of when I was a little girl, and we had one in the backyard. I’d play wedding, and cut off a bloom for an instant bouquet.

We also got some ground cover. The plan is to replaced the dead shrubs with these three hydrangea bushes, and then plant this cover in front of that, and in a couple of seasons, it should start to fill in. We’ll put in edging to control where that ground cover grows, and that’ll be the end of that project.

That’ll be the most of what we do this summer. We plan on trying to work with some solar lighting back there – it gets really dark back there at night, and if we can get it a little brighter, Hubs can mow at 10 p.m., since he’s getting a quiet push mower instead of the gasoline beast.

We may also work on having the yard leveled off. If we can get some good soil in, and level off these sloping places, drainage would improve, too.

Later, we’re going to put some pavers in this problem spot by the deck and garage. Tons of shade, poor drainage, and it becomes a mud pit when it rains. Pavers might just help with that.

But most of all, this is just a lot of fun. After several years of apartment dwelling, it’s nice to have a yard to tinker with. What are you guys planning on doing this summer with your yards? How have you combated this stupid clay soil?


  1. RE: Wire around raised beds – I bought these 4′ metal corner fence thingees that you drive the end into the ground (I can send a picture if you need), and that allowed me to wrap the exterior of the garden with animal wire (I recommend chicken wire – it will keep out the rats and the possums too). I overlapped the wire on one side and use a bungee to keep the “door” closed. I also used u-shaped brads around the bottom of the fencing, securing it to the sides of the raised beds so little critters can’t get in. A possum family will rip a bed of tomatoes apart at night if they can get in.

    RE: Fall planting – yes way too hot, nothing will grow. However in September put some arugula in a pot on your patio – it will do fabulous until the first freeze. You only need a few leaves to punch up a salad.

    RE: Expense of grass. See, now you can grow your own, for brownies or other pursuits. Recoup the investment as it were.

    Happy growing!


  2. I know exactly what you mean, re: the wire. We have it, and the stakes, but without stuff to help stabilize it (hoping the border from the beds on one side and the dirt on the other side of the wire will help), the basenji fur boy likes to climb in.

    I got 2 bed kits, each 4x 4. I’m thinking if I put a path between the two, I should be able to reach in and weed whatever I need to, and harvest. I hope.

    Arugula sounds so good! We bought a tomato plant today at the farmers market that has two very green tomatoes and several flowers. I’m going to move it to a bigger container, probably, but leave it in a container so I can move it around if it needs more/less sun.

    Unless, of course, the damn possums get to it. I don’t know if we have anymore. There was mass possum carnage in the streets around here a few months ago – it seemed like they were all leaping into the street in front of cars.

    Would a possum family eat rosemary? Last summer something just gnawed my rosemary down to the root.


  3. Let me say this…your backyard SCREAMS Japanese Yew. They love shade…but check if they are poisonous…thinking about the pets and any stork deliveries!

    I had excellent luck with Encore azaleas. The can take about 3 hours of morning or late evening sun…but they need a bit of work on the front (planting end). Dig out holes 2 X larger than the container, and put 2 JUMBO bags of peat moss in for each plant. For every spring after that, use 1 jumbo for 2 plants. They will bloom in spring to summer, and Indian summer into fall.

    In a shady yard like yours? I’m tempted to grow grass in the center area, and place easy care Asian jasmine (seriously, weed whack it once a year) on the shady edges. Dogs love the “camo” and will fertilize for you…hint, hint. This leaves the rest of the yard as a great play area….hint, hint.

    I would love to help you next spring!


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