25 June 2012

The Neighbors Are Not Amused

It goes without saying that we are not the most popular people on the block; having a front "weed" versus a proper yard does not make us any friends in our very curb-appeal conscious neighborhood. Our next-door neighbor to our immediate right probably suffers the most: he is of the trim-your-lawn-each-evening-at-dusk-with-nail-clippers-and-a-magnifying-glass type, and his lawn - except where it borders onto ours and except where our dandelions and thistles have run roughshod over his every effort at preventing them to take root - is pristine. Thick, lush and deep, deep green, it is a marvel of yards. The perfect lawn. And then there's us:

This photo was taken before the town laid a bunch of replacement sod over the new grading (we just had sidewalks installed on our streets last year). It'll give you an idea, though. All that greenery? Dandelions. Seriously.

Yes, we are mighty trailer-parky around these here parts. But it's always been our dream to somehow get rid of the grass (and, of course, the weeds) and to plant a lush green lawn for ourselves. Only our lush green lawn would be made of clover: low-growing, drought-resistant, eco-friendly clover. We made a few inroads over the years by stripping back the existing layer of sod, tilling the soil, buying the lumber to create borders, etc. but it never seemed to come together. And now the with the deadline of a family visit looming over our heads ... well, we knew we had to kick things into gear!

Early last week we had a farmer friend come out to the treat the lawn (I won't say with what). It was supposed to kill off everything, grass and weeds alike, after which we'd rake it up and start seeding, but things didn't so much go according to plan. Here's what the lawn looked like after the first treatment:

Dead grass, yes. But the weeds? Still kicking. Not enough of this:

and waaaay too much of this:

Our farmer friend offered to come back over and treat it again, but it's a long drive for him and we didn't want to inconvenience him more than we already had. So instead, I turned to the trusty internet for a homemade weed killing solution, and man did it ever work! Basically, the recipe I used was this:

Homemade Herbicide
1 gallon cleaning-strength vinegar (10% acidity)
3 tablespoons liquid dish detergent (we use Sunlight)

Gently mix the ingredients together (so it doesn't foam too much), pump into your hand sprayer and spread it evenly over the lawn. I waited until I knew it would be a sunny day without any chance of rain, then sprayed first thing in the morning after the kids went to school (around 8.30am) and by noon on the same day everything was dead. Deader than dead. Almost blackened, and definitely not coming back. Woot woot!

Raking the dead stuff up also didn't go as planned: our soil is more like bedrock and wasn't going anywhere. We did make an attempt at it but even the stronger boys couldn't make a dent, so we wimped out this weekend and rented a tiller. MUCH easier. MUCH faster. EXCELLENT investment of sixty-five bones, I'm not going to lie. And with the tiller on site and doing some of the heavy lifting for them, the boys set to work and toiled relentlessly on Saturday churning up the dead sod and weeds (which we didn't even have to pull out - they'll just decompose into the soil and basically work as mulch), digging out and laying the border between us and the neighbor (so the clover doesn't take over his lawn) and putting down the seed (which is a lot harder to do by hand - evenly - than you might think). Here are some action shots of the "in progress":

And of the fabulous stepped border between us and the neighbors:

So nice! So straight! So permanent! I am IN LOVE with it ... totally in love. And I should say that though I happened to snap a photo of J. in a (sort of long, protracted) moment of rest, he and his dad worked like champs the entire weekend. We couldn't have done it without him so I suppose the break was well-deserved :)

And if you're saying to yourself Wait, isn't a heat wave at the end of June possibly the very worst time to plant clover? Well, then, you'd be right. It is. But we're watering the crap out of the lawn and keeping everything nice and hydrated (our water bill next month is going to be atrocious!) and hopefully by the end of this week some little green shoots will start making an appearance. Keep your fingers crossed!

And if you're keeping score at home, here's what the to-do list looks like now:

  • Front yard
    • Collect the wooden ties (currently creating a loose "border") from around the lawn and store in rock garden
    • "Round Up" (read: kill off) the entire front lawn
    • Rake up dead lawn
    • Till
    • Dig out border trenches and lay wooden ties
    • Create patio-stone pad at street level for garbage cans (so we don't kill the new clover on garbage days by piling our bins on top) [we've opted against this idea, but will revisit in future if it turns out the clover is indeed being killed off by our cans]
    • Seed with clover seed
    • Water 'til the cows come home ... or the family does
    • Plant some new plants in the planters (you know, curb appeal at what not)
  • Backyard
    • Clear out any garbage and debris
    • Power wash the patio
    • Tarp the pool
    • Remount shed door (it fell off. I don't know why)
    • Mow the weeds back to an acceptable level; clear out the debris
  • Transition
    • Replace the screens in both front and back screen doors
    • Tidy up the upper driveway/transition to the backyard, just to make it a little more presentable and a little less trailer park-y

  • Paint the outstanding window and door trim in kitchen and living room
  • Apply final coat of paint to the hallway ceiling
  • Paint hallway ceiling trim and install
  • Touch-ups as required
  • Install hallway lights
  • Hang artwork
  • Paint master bedroom
  • Install master bedroom chandelier
  • Cleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleanclean