September garden progress – back yard

Continuing on from my front yard garden projects earlier in the week, on Friday and Saturday I made progress on the back yard. Mimi prefers when I stay in the back – she can hang out with me if she wants to, without being tied up. She doesn’t care for outside all that much, so it’s easier if she can come and go as she pleases.

I’m afraid these projects got a little more wordy than the front yard section. I guess there’s more backstory. You might notice a theme of me undoing stuff that hubby did 10 years ago – he would prefer to do things once and never again, but I like to make changes that reflect how life has changed, even if it means undoing something that took a lot of effort. I hope I don’t sound too exasperated by our different ways of thinking :)

Friday afternoon: I tackled the garden cart and patio area in the back yard. I noticed that the shaded not-dead portion of the lawn needed mowing, so I quickly tackled that. Found some baby Rose of Sharon plants for my friend who wanted one and potted those for her. I pulled a few weeds, and lightly pruned a plant that was getting in the way of the mower. Then I decided to tackle my garden cart. That is a longer story…


a recreation of some of the mess that was piled in the cart – it was much worse than this

The cart came from the guy who lived in Riley’s house back when we moved in 10 years ago. He gave me the cart with plywood box sides he’d built for it. I didn’t care for the box. I had visions of carting bags of mulch and compost and tools to and fro, but the box added a lot of extra weight and made it much more difficult to get things on and off the cart. I talked to hubby about getting rid of the box, but I think he felt that it was better with it, and that it would be difficult to store or get rid of, so I should keep it. So I didn’t move the cart anywhere. It sat on the patio and became a place to store things, which is not terrible, but not really a good use of something with wheels.

Yesterday I discovered that all of the tires had gone flat from sitting still – not really surprising. One of the most important things I’ve learned about hoarding/decluttering is that things wear out even if you’re not using them. It’s better to get rid of newer things you don’t need rather than letting them rot. Luckily these days I have more connections and means of getting rid of things. I offered it to my gardening friend, who will try to pump up the tires. She has more space to store it and will hopefully make good use of it. She thinks she might even have a use for the plywood. And she’s going to take my giant pile of empty nursery plant pots. I purge them every so often, but I think they breed when I’m not looking.

gardencardboardI made some space in the basement to store the useful things I had stored in the cart. I also got distracted dealing with reorganizing the massive hoard of cardboard boxes we have down there. Running a business results in boxes and boxes full of stuff colonizing my house and basement… Most of the boxes end up being recycled, of course. But I always keep a box full of good boxes to reuse, and their number keeps growing. I’m not really sure I need to keep that many considering how often we get boxes delivered and how infrequently we ship things. The practical side of me likes to keep good boxes in a range of sizes though… in the hope of having the right size when I need it.

Luckily my friend talked about how she uses cardboard and a thick layer of mulch to kill weeds and lawn, so I have a use for the excess if I can find the time and energy to execute it. I just need a lot of mulch. That would be an easier way to handle the rest of the neighbor’s weed/lawn so that I can garden it next spring. (tutorial here)

gardensandtubAnother big obstacle to my cleaning up of the back patio is this giant tub of paving sand. When we were done creating the patio (in 2004 or 5) we had a bunch of paving sand left over. Hubby shoveled it into this tub and put a piece of plastic over it to keep it clean. And there it has sat for the last decade… I removed all the stuff we had both piled on top of it and tried to move it – of course it won’t even budge. I cursed my hubby’s practical save-it just-in-case nature, but also acknowledged that it was the best solution we could come up with at the time.

We also kept the sand to renew the “grout” between the pavers, so I spent some time shoveling sand into the cracks and sweeping it around. I probably used less than 10% of the remaining sand. So we probably have enough to maintain our patio for the next 100 years! I’d like to give the sand away to someone who can use it. I would much rather see someone I know build a patio with it now, even if we have to buy new bags of paver sand in the future. We’ll see if hubby agrees.

Actually, in the process of writing this I came up with a specific plan – I’m going to buy the some polypropylene sandbags online and fill them myself. They will be easier to move, store in the basement, and/or give away. I don’t know what I’ll do with the giant tub though… it’s HUGE! but at least empty it will be movable. I’ll figure that out later.

Without the garden cart and the tub of sand in the way, I can create a small patio space. We have some plastic chairs that could be used there, or the little bistro set that is currently squeezed onto the back porch. All of that stuff would be movable so we could clear it out of the way if we want to use the space for some other purpose on occasion.


One of the things that was piled up was a spare bag of bark mulch, so I ended the day by weeding the long neglected alley strip. It helps protect the fence hubby built from reckless drivers. It was built with landscaping cloth to prevent weeds, but over time they have found  away through. It didn’t take me too long to rip them all out, to rearrange the jagged rock piles that further protect the fence, and to spread the bag of mulch. The alley is still a mess, but what do you expect from an alley?!


Saturday: I left my gardening until very late in the day so I decided to do a small task – pruning the low hanging branches on the Rose of Sharon tree – the ones that annoy my tall hubby. They filled my tubtrug which always makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. After I emptied it into the green waste bin I decided to do some more strenuous work – I was listening to music so it seemed easy enough to continue (I’m learning how to trick myself into working longer and harder!)

We have a bench shaped thing under the tree that hubby built a decade ago out of excess fill dirt and old fence wood, more things that we would have had trouble disposing of. It is covered in impenetrable weeds and the wood is rotten, so I have decided to spread the fill dirt out into small hills in the garden (which wasn’t there 10 years ago). First I dug up the day lilies that I had dumped in front of the bench a year ago. I never got around to planting them, but they didn’t care – they rooted and grew and flowered anyway! I’ll find a spot for them.


before and after (but still a work in progress)

Then I started attacking the bench with a shovel. It didn’t take much to break the structure up. The wood was very rotten. The weeds were holding it together better than the wood was. I dug into the weeds and tried to pull them by hand, but they were tough. In the end I undermined the weeds by digging out a lot of the dirt under them. I got the hose out thinking that damp dirt would yield a little more easily. But I’ve been watching too much Gold Rush on Discovery – Parker Schnabel had to move a huge amount of overburden dirt on Smith Creek Hill, so he used a high power water jet to wash it away. So I did the same – hose on “jet” setting, I washed away as much dirt as possible from the sides of the bench and under the weeds. I haven’t used a drop of water in that garden this summer, so I didn’t feel bad about wasting water this way. A bit more digging took care of most of the weeds but one really huge stubborn area remained – so thick and compacted that none of the water I had blasted at it had penetrated through. I used the jet of water a little more and finally loosened the last chunk of weeds.

I’m going to let it all dry out for a day or two before I sort through the dirt to throw out the weeds and roots. There’s a little more bench structure I need to tackle – I need to ask hubby how he anchored the corner posts. But then I just need to spread the fill dirt out into pleasant “hills” in the garden, then plant and mulch the area.

I’m sure the bamboo appreciated the water. It’s so horribly dry back there…

Well, that was a lot of gardening and tidy up! There’s still plenty more to do of course, both in the front yard and in the back.

I have a big gap where the feather grass was, but I’m going to move the hydrangea forward so that I can see and enjoy it. My small hydrangea, the one I think of as “the one that didn’t die after all,” needs a new home too, maybe in the back yard where the bench was. I have a few dead looking plants in pots that I will put in the ground in the hopes of fall rain saving them. And of course there’s always more weeding and mulching to be done. I also have daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs ready to be planted for spring happiness. 50 of each – I love Costco. My feather grass experience confirmed that I will need hubby’s muscle to divide the clumping bamboo, so that probably won’t happen for a very long time. Maybe years!

If I keep working on one thing each day, whether big or small, I think I can get a lot done before the rain settles in for good. We only have 3 or 4 more days of hot sunshine before we have to settle for warm and partly cloudy, chance of showers. I’m going to enjoy it in my shady Beetopia, getting prepared for next spring.

Happy Sunday! I’m banishing myself to the yard today while the business men work on admin and financial stuff in our tiny dining room, probably while listening to football on TV. I might have another post when I’m done.



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