Annnnnnd We're Ready to Plant!

We've been working hard the last couple of days and we're ready to plant the yard! Hooray! There were several small tasks we had to complete along the way, but now the front yard is ready to make friends with lots of lovely plants :)

Over the weekend Chris had finished laying the border and gravel for the walkway

And then I pulled out our stepping stones and laid them in for placement. Once I'd walked over them a couple times to test out their distance away from each other based on the lengths of steps we take and thought I found a good distance, we cemented them in place so there's no wobbling when you walk across them

Isn't it purrrrdy? :) I love our stepping stones. Wendy found them and they're super cool!

They're natural stone and very flat so there's no tripping. They're also a bit rough which is good for traction when it rains. And they've got awesome color and some nice metallic flecks in them

They cost $0.23 per pound and are around 40 pounds each, so they clock in around $10 bucks a stone.

We had leftover gravel from our walkway so Chris decided to weed the area where our rain barrel will go and throw in some gravel to both build the barrel up (we want its overflow valve above the wall) and provide good drainage

While Chris worked on that I tamed the dirt in our yard (if you remember the dirt all over the place...)

On the far right of the yard in our raised bed Wendy had the idea of building a mound of dirt to provide a little height difference to spruce things up a bit so our yard wasn't just a sea of flatness. I moved the dirt around by building a berm and then flattened out the rest of the dirt in the raised bed so it was all level

Chris and I both finished around the same time so we moved on to taming the dirt on the left side of the yard

First we had to figure out a way to dispose of all these stepping stones that used to be in the yard

We'll reuse 11 square ones (not pictured) in the sidewalk strip so that we don't step all over the plants we'll put there when we get in and out of our cars. And another 3 of the longer ones will be used on the far right of our yard along our neighbors driveway so she has a nice area to step out onto as well (and we'll spruce them up a bit because they're really ugly right now). But the rest got busted up into small pieces and we'll get rid of them.

Because the right side has a nice raised bed we wanted to give the left side a little pop of fun as well so Wendy thought it would be a good idea to build a nice crescent shape raised bed with small boulders/large rocks...

...and then back fill it with dirt and plant a tree in it (Wendy comes up with lots of good ideas). We rolled out our weed block first. We decided to go with rolls of landscape cardboard because Chris sees it used on the Cal campus a lot and says it appears to do a good job. And when we were at the Urban Farmer they said it worked really well and actually made the soil really rich and healthy. Win win

Once these two layers of weed block were rolled out I traced the shape of our crescent with stripping paint and we laid out the rocks

We built it two stones high and mortared in the top row to make sure it was nice and strong

I really liked the shape and I think it gives this side of the yard some nice interest so the right side's raised bed and berm isn't the only star of the show.

When we were done building the crescent we back filled it, took the rest of the dirt and dumped it onto the curb just to get it out of our way and posted FREE DIRT on craigslist in the hopes of some takers (someone has already taken 1/2 of it, woo-hoo!) Then started rolling out the rest of the weed block

And now our yard is ready for planting!

The berm will be home to a beautiful dwarf Japanese Maple my grandpa and his wife gifted us

And the crescent shaped raised bed will welcome a Coral Bark Maple

And I may or may not be getting ready to drive up to Fairfield this morning to meet Wendy and bring home our first set of plants to plant. Maybe. :)


Sara @ Russet Street Reno said...

Wow, tons of work! You have to keep us posted on the cardboard, because I've NEVER had a weed block work for us. Looking great, the stepping stones and wall are so neat!!

Robin @ 3 acres & 3,000 sf said...

Yay! You're on to the fun part now. Remember planting a big new area takes time to get looking good. Collecting plants over time is half the fun so don't fill it all up now plus smaller plants are cheaper and can fill in quickly.

So you're planting on top of the cardboard or will that be topped with gravel? If you're planting on top I'd put down a generous layer of compost first. Around here we can get an entire trailer load for $5. I use a 3" or deeper layer on all of my beds now because it makes a huge difference (the first couple beds I didn't do this and I regret now...so much so that I'm considering digging everything out and starting over). Plants grow better, need less watering, and bloom more profusely. Topped with 3" of cedar mulch my weeding is minimal.

Do you have the trees already? I would suggest looking for a different tree than the coral bark maple for a number of reasons. (1) Maples are used far too extensively in residential areas and provide little benefit to native wildlife. A native tree would help diversify the tree population. Both trees you're looking at are Japanese maples. Beautiful but of no benefit to the environment. (2) Maples have shallow root systems. This means they need to be constantly watered. They don't need a lot of water but even short periods without rain will impact their health. (3) The shallow root system makes it hard to plant anything else near the root system. As the trees get bigger the root system will eventually span your whole front yard robbing the moisture from other plants and making it hard to move, divide, and add perennials. Again you'll need to do more watering than you otherwise would because of this. (4) Shallow root systems make them easy to tip over in a strong storm. (5) They also break up driveways, sidewalks, and other hardscapes they are planted near. I'd hate for it to wreck your new driveway after all that hard work! The dwarf won't be doing this anytime soon but the bigger coral bark will. Sorry to be a debbie downer but tree selection is one of the most important selections a gardener will ever make as they are a long lived plant and make a huge impact on the enviroment around them. You might want to consult with a certified arborist or talk to a tree specialist at your local nursery before you pull the trigger on the coral bark.

meryl rose said...

Thanks Sara! We'll definitely give an update of how we think the cardboard works because we're on the same boat as you: weed block is an oxymoron.

Robin - thanks for all of your awesome advice! We did however already get the coral bark maple but we've made sure to get dwarf varieties of both, so the coral bark will actually only top out at about 12 feet. We talked with the people at the nursery pretty extensively and they let us know that the root system with the dwarf wouldn't be as invasive and threaten our patio. Thanks for all of your comments and thoughts though!!!!! :)