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Zer Netmouse
October 3rd, 2006
09:43 am


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Back Yard Thoughts
And suddenly, for a few hours yesterday, it was fall. Not raining, sun out, smell of leaves in your nose. nice.

I picked up a salad at the produce station and came home and sat out on the back porch to eat it. Bill and I have been talking about really fixing up our back yard so we can enjoy it. Sitting out on the porch, I observed some things about what I notice back there that I'd like to change:

  1. It is loud with traffic noise from nearby streets, especially Liberty
  2. It is ugly
  3. It is uncomfortable

So, on point 1, I'm not sure what to do. Liberty is well traveled and quite close (we're almost on the corner). a couple years ago Bill and I planted fast-growing trees to try to create something of a sound screen, but the trees (can't remember the type just now) have been sickly from the beginning, plagued with bugs, and have not grown well, nor high, nor do they have much foliage. So that's not working. I'm pondering putting in some sort of trellis and growing grape vine or something over it, to just box the yard in from that side. In the meantime, there's a huge cedar thing (not a bush, not a tree) that we've left in the middle of the yard because it affords some privacy and sound screening during the winter, and sound screening all year round. Plus, it's holding some of the soil where it is; there's a huge drop-off from our back yard down to Eberwhite woods, and the ground has a tendency to run away down there.

on point 3, to a certain extent this is because neither of us have thus far been willing to spend a lot of time tending the back yard. This is a catch-22 point though, because I don't tend it because I don't like being there anyway, and thus the situation reinforces itself. Generally, I don't mind tending and pruning plants, though I don't really understand soil chemistry and I dislike watering. Probably the right solution on watering is to either go with native plants that don't need it or to have a built-in system we can program when it needs water. I'd like to have a vegetable garden, but like I said, I don't like watering. And the yard is loud and ugly so I rarely go out there just to putter around.

There are three fences on our back yard - 2 wooded side fences, both different along the tops, and a chain link fence between us and the woods. All are ugly to me. especially the chain link because it's overgrown with ivy including poison ivy, which makes it ugly and scary. We could potentially paint the wood. whimsically I was thinking we could jigsaw animals or shapes in the top of the lefthand fence for the entertainment of the girls next door. I want to get rid of the chain link fence, put actual earthworks in to stop erosion, like our neighbors have done, give the yard a new layer of topsoil, put in a flower and vegetable bed along the north side of the property, building up the south side with rocks and flower beds and a water feature (for a long time Bill talked about a pond with a waterfall), and have the rest be paths and beds of wildflowers.

finally on the ugliness front, we have a little shed that I don't like the looks of, and when you turn to look from the yard to the house, the porch is ugly. we're planning to have the porch replaced and put in a deck, which should help. I like having a shed but need to replace the door to this one, pull off the cutesy shutters that look like they're glued on, and repaint it.

point 3. We want a deck, we now have a place to hang a hammock, and I'd like chairs or a bench or swing out in the yard in the shade. But there is no shade. No comfortable shade. Which is weird because there's woods right behind us, but there are also power lines along the back edge of the property, so the companies come in and cut a corridor there.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
I can empathize on the backyard noise thing. I like the way our backyard looks, but there are TWO service drives out back, which makes for a lot of noise. The wooden fence helps some, but not as much as I'd like.

[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2006 07:07 pm (UTC)
Loud, ugly and uncomfortable is no way to go through life ;-) You might try a border of red cedars around the outer edges of your yard. They are easily grown, not pricey (you can get 2 foot plants at about $1 or $2 each online at nurseries if you buy 25 at a time) and while columnar, will thicken up to hide the fences and deaden noise. I've planted a ton of them to screen out the neighbor with the junkyard, and the next door neighbors from hell. They grow pretty quickly too, so you don't have to wait 20 years to get good cover. The ones we planted about 3 years ago are now a good 8 foot tall, and are the only things to survive being near a black walnut tree.

Bonus: there's no maintenance and you'll be providing good winter habitat for birds and other things that are fun to watch in your backyard. If you want trees near your powerlines that the utilities won't cut, try smaller ones such as apple trees, magnolia, rowan, cherry, etc. They should stay short enough to not get anywhere near the wires. If you want good shade, a maple nearer your house will grow fairly quickly.

Bill's idea of a pond / waterfall is good for the noise issue.
[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC)
Having seen your backyard, 90% of what it needs is to be torn out. After that, you need to plant some sort of hedge along the Liberty side of the yard for noise reduction - stardustgirl has a good recommendation with the cedar. The only difficulty with hedges is that they do grow and grow and grow. The cedar will top out at about 30 feet, if you let it.

Definitely paint the fences, or somehow refresh the color; it's amazing how much nicer fresh paint or stain looks on wood. Then go plant a bunch of plants that don't require much maintenance (hostas, azaleas, whatever) in front of the hedge, cover it well with mulch, and presto - in about half a day you can have a nice backyard.

The porch/deck will take longer.

I personally think water features are overrated, but they're currently all the rage. I tend to think of them as birdbaths that are going to require too much work to keep the leaves out, the water clean, and the pump in order. YMMV.

I recommend figuring out what you want to do, and have a Yardwork Party. It can go amazingly fast if you have a lot of helpers. I say this as someone who chopped down three ash trees last weekend, with the help of the next-door neighbors (there are another three slated for the chopping block as well).
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