Useful Yard

March 13, 2021 @ 9:05am
I didn’t have much of a plan. I woke up on Saturday and started digging. Normally I’d stick with a shovel, forcing it between grass and soil, but I tested a mattock here and it turned out to be way easier. I swung the fat end of the tool under the grass, slicing the roots, and then I tossed the clumps of sod to the side.

March 13, 2021 @ 11:30am
Two hours later all of the grass was pulled up. There were still random roots and blades to remove but for the most part the grass was defeated. It would put up one last fight, however, as I wheeled loads and loads of the heavy sod around the house. Our backyard is a rise in elevation—it’s level with the top of the house—so moving anything up the driveway and then into the back is a test of willpower.

March 13, 2021 @ 1:30pm
Big thanks to the crew.

March 15, 2021 @ 6:46pm
Two days later and a line is drawn. Some piles of dirt, rocks, and grass remain by the road, but the slope is raked and ready for seed. The stakes and rebar were set for a baffle, to be made of apple tree branches that a neighbor gave me years ago. The rebar would ultimately be my only mistake.

March 20, 2021 @ 3:33pm
A week after the project started, it was seeded. The branch baffle worked as a mini retaining wall, and a mix of top soil and compost covered the slope and held a mix of wildflower seeds. Next: water and wait.

May 16, 2021 @ 4:35pm
Within a few weeks, things sprouted. And after two months, the slope was nearly green again.

May 16, 2021 @ 4:36pm
A closer look, on the same May afternoon. You couldn’t walk on this like grass, but it’s much more inviting. At least four different type of plants can be seen here. The variety and texture is almost as good as the flowers that would arrive. I especially like the two round lupin leaves that look like two small hands, reaching up through a crowd.

June 2, 2021 @ 2:43pm
At the start of June, an array of blue, purple, and white flowers lead the eye from the road into the yard’s shrubs and trees. They attract insects and people alike, all apparently happy by what they’ve encountered.

June 23, 2021 @ 4:55pm
It’s the middle of June and you’re walking down a street: would you rather see this or a lawn?

August 18, 2021 @ 2:27pm
Now it’s the middle of August and I guess I have to re-ask that question. A neighbor basically did. “So are you … happy with this?” I don’t think he meant it as an insult; it was a fair question. I dunno—will it look like this until spring?

September 25, 2021 @ 1:51pm
By September some green reappeared—likely after much needed rain. If I had photos of the lawns nearby, I’d guess they were pretty close to looking like this after our extremely dry summer. A green lawn requires a lot of water, or chemicals. A group of nuns that live one block away know this fact. Their corner lot looks fake because they pay a company to spray the ground with poison. WWJD.

January 15, 2022 @ 1:02pm
So that rebar? I backed my car out of the driveway one weekend… right over the baffle, nicking my tire. It was flat in minutes. My ~$50 project (seeds, soil) was now an extra $200. The baffle was supposed to be temporary and now it was costly. I promptly removed everything and cut a new line.

February 21, 2022 @ 1:06pm
Over the next month, between rainy, muddy days, I stacked ~150 stones to make a small retaining wall. It’s not holding back much but it’s a nice finishing touch along the road. They weren’t free; the project rounds out to about $500.

January 29, 2022 @ 1:53pm
While on the ground, leveling stones, I had a new perspective on the slope. The plants that persisted through winter were lush and growing quickly. You couldn’t walk on it—well, one water meter guy stomped right through it, oblivious—but it’s more vibrant than any lawn. And doesn’t need a mower. It’ll grow, it’ll flower, no gasoline or batteries or chemicals required.

Part 2: The Flowers