Yard Projects

Rocking Out in the Back Yard

We are still very much enjoying our overhauled yard, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best it can be yet. After living with the new layout for a little while, we decided to make some changes for easier maintenance.

There are two areas of the yard where a lot of leaves are dropped: under the Japanese maple by the patio and under the trio of trees in the back corner by the retaining wall. We realized that with the vast quantity of leaves that will be dropping from now through winter, we’d be constantly struggling with removing unwanted tree debris without also needing to frequently replenish the mulch. Having rock under the trees would solve this. There is rock under the Japanese maple in the front of the house, and we’ve really like how it catches most of the leaves and can be cleaned up with a leaf blower or shop vac without affecting the rocks.

Fortunately, we had no shortage of rocks in places where it would be easy to reconfigure the layout.

For under the maple, we used the rocks formerly lining the side of the house in front of the fence. We are constantly annoyed by how tight the walkway is there, so in lieu of rock we’d like to put in pavers. This will expand our walking space and provide a convenient spot to store the garbage can where it is both easily accessible and out of sight from the street. But that’s a project and post for another day!

After trying a few methods, I found the easiest way for me to move rock was to put a 5 gallon bucket on it’s side and manually scoop piles of rock into it with gloved hands, dump that rock from the bucket into a wheel barrow, repeat until there was a decent pile, wheel over and dump that pile into it’s final location, then spread out the pile with my hands.

It took about 3 hours to do the corner with the maple by myself (I woke up a few hours earlier than DJ on a Sunday and was feeling motivated). Worth!

Here’s what it looked like with mulch:

And now all rocked out:

For the other side of the yard, we used the rock next to the patio (pictured above), taking the rock line from the edge of the patio back to the edge of the house and scraping from the top layer of rocks as needed. To determine the shape, we used the natural leaf drop line  from the trees as our guide, which you can see in the picture below.

And now with rocks:

It took DJ and me probably about 6 or 7 hours total to knock out this part of the yard together, which is maybe 3 or 4 times as large as the space the maple is in. We spread the work out over a couple days. So much work, but totally worth the effort.

We used the mulch from the newly rocked spaces to fill the space where the rock used to be by the patio and bolstered the thickness of mulch all over the rest of the yard (there was a LOT of mulch). There are no trees by the patio — unless you count our itty bitty lime tree —  so we shouldn’t need to refresh that mulch very often. Not only is this overall yard arrangement easier to maintain, we actually like how it looks better too. Win-win!

In addition to the rock and mulch adjustments, we’ve been pruning a bunch as well. We majorly reshaped several of the large established plants in the yard and have been removing all the dead limbs out of our trees. It’s looking better and better — as long as you don’t look at the row of emptiness along the fence line.

This space used to be filled with more of these plants (you may have noticed the plant corpses in an earlier image). These guys on the southeast side of our lot up and died, so we got them replaced — but then they died again! We’re not sure what to put in that space at this point, but we are disinclined to try the same shrubs again after two failures. If you have any ideas, we’re open to suggestions!

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