Curb Appeal Facelift Part 1: Landscaping and Walkway




So here we are in our home that is, quite honestly, ugly and run down for years.  We’ve got a steel skeleton of a porch covering, horrible and terrible cottonwood trees in the front, no decent porch to speak of, a diagonal walkway, and nothing but weeds for a front yard.

We see a lot of potential here though, and we have decided to start on the landscaping aspect.

img_0006Taking these God-awful trees out will be the very first step.  I would likely attempt this myself, but the power company and city won’t allow a DIY job on this because I might get shocked to death.  Tera agrees.  We are going to hire this out to the lowest bidder.

img_0013I’m over at the neighbors’ house watching these trees going down in my bathrobe and sipping on a cup of coffee.  I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to try this.  There is a whole team of dudes over there chopping through large logs and I’d much rather be watching from afar in a bathrobe!

img_0014The right tree came down in one fell swoop.  It was so rotted from the inside out that I think it could’ve been taken down with a few whacks of an axe.

img_0015I’m known for my slow coffee drinking, but I’m only a half-cup down and they are getting to the trunk and main branch already! Wow, I am incredibly happy with our decision to hire this out.

img_0020It’s about noon now (they started around 9:00am), and they have all the wood down, chopped and moved to the curb.  We opted to somehow get rid of this wood instead of paying them to haul it away.  I immediately regret this decision after looking at the pile. I have started listing it on the local news classifieds and Craigslist as free wood for artists and/or free fire wood.  We are hoping it won’t  be here for months. Our neighbors will hate us for sure.

Update: after two days of people picking up their free fire/art wood, we are wood free on the curb! What an easy money saver it was to post a couple ads and put a sign up.

Today, yesterday, and the day before were very rough days on my arms and back.  I rented a sod skimmer to remove the top layer of “grass” from our front yard, broke out the old pink (ugh) diagonal walkway, and then a big hydraulic stump grinder to get rid of the two stumps.

All I can say is ouch.

img_0047I took a picture from Google maps, then added some finger smears to it on my iPad. This is kind of the general idea we have. The “blue/yellow/red” are sprinkler zones.

img_0028After days of rest, this is where we are now.

img_0031Here’s another picture from the front.

I have put a few sticks in the ground to begin marking out the (straight) walkway, figured out which sprinklers we need to move and/or replace, and Tera has picked out the new trees she wanted from Home Depot. We are basically working out the visual aspect by moving things around at this point.

Now that we are settled on where the trees will go, the hole digging begins. There are few things more laborious than digging holes through hard ground in some places of Utah…

img_0035…and to that point, here is the one single tree I got in the ground today.

img_0022Today I’m a bit more motivated to get these planted. I’ve now got the second tree in!

img_0027Now all 6 are planted.  Geez, that is a fun job, huh?  I have great respect for planting trees, but hopefully I won’t have to do that again for a while. I am using the piles of wood chips left over from the stump grinding.

img_0036I have also lined the new beds with the rest of the wood chips from the stump.  Notice the curve that I left on the yard side of the beds.  This will be the general line that we will follow to separate grass from mulch.  We liked having the redbud trees in the grass with the weeping cedars actually in the beds.

img_0037Here is another photo from the other side, with our line worked out in the same way as the previous picture.  We also have a second, much smaller tree on this side because this side is considerably wider than the other.

img_0040Our next step is to get our sprinkling system in order.  Today I put this box into the ground, after getting the new spray heads, tubing, auto valves, and a few other do-dads in place yesterday. I won’t go too much into detail about the sprinkling system,  but I basically took the manual galvanized steel system and turned it into an automatic system with a control box and new sprinkler heads. It works great, and I am very happy with it now! Notice the extra tube coming up from the system with a cap on it.  This will come in handy later…

img_0042This, plus replacing spray heads and running a cord from here to my back porch for the box is essentially all I have done with the sprinklers. Nothing too extensive, but it is automatic  now.

img_0048…and let there be sod. With a small bit of help from my older father, this was by far the most terrible and difficult job so far.  Laying sod is very simple, but it is SO much work. I moved the sod and topsoil from the pallets at Home Depot to the rented trailer, moved it again from the trailer to the driveway, then moved it again from the driveway to it’s permanent home on my front lawn. I would guess that I moved at least several metric tons in weight today, and it is very, very hot outside.  Yikes! Maybe hiring this out would be easier, but at least now I’m invested in the idea of taking care of this grass so I don’t have to do it again.

So I laid a 1-2″ layer of topsoil, spread it, soaked it, placed the sod strips and cut out around our bed shapes and sprinkler heads and walkway, and soaked the grass really well.

img_0049I also chopped up some sticks of scrap wood into stakes and wrapped some mason line around them so people will stay off it until it takes to the ground.

img_0050I crawled up on the roof tonight for a beer after a crazy hard day. Here you can see much better what we have in mind for the shapes of the planter beds.

img_0051Here also is the other side of the yard from up on the roof…

img_0041…and here is the whole idea so far.

The next step for us is to put down some quality yard fabric for the beds.  We used small stakes to secure it to the ground, and I made sure to put more than was necessary around the curved areas so that will be a nice sharp distinction from the grass.

img_0055Now the mulch.  We chose the black colored mulch because we thought it was the sharpest looking, and also we didn’t want to add any brown or red to our yard. I say “we,” but understand that at least 99.9% of color decisions come from Tera.  Not only am I colorblind, but she is fantastic with colors!

A few weeks later now, I have pulled a mason line in the exact lines we wanted the walkway to be, placed some 1X4 boards into the ground to keep the sand in, and filled the walkway with a pea gravel and then sand base.  Now I have to tamp it down, which I would recommend a rental for if you can afford it.  Doing this by hand is quite the task on the arms!

Adding in the pavers now that I’ve got a good solid underside for a base.

img_0063I used some cement to attach these stair pieces.  This needs to be good and solid for many, many years to come!

We wanted the walkway to have a larger landing area from the sidewalk, so this is how much wider we decided on.  This will have a gate and pergola later, so we had to consider that too while deciding how wide we wanted this.

Now that our landscaping is in place, we need to put in our fence! See “Curb Appeal Facelift Part 2: Fencing and Pergola Gate” for our next steps.

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