Anyone who knows me knows my favorite season is summer. To me, the perfect weather includes three things: bright sunshine, clear skies and a constant 80-90 degree temperature. Summertime means swimming in my parent’s pool, evening walks with Winston and riding with the car windows down. It means freshly cut grass (one of my favorite smells by the way), grilling hotdogs and hamburgers on the back yard BBQ and day trips to amusement parks or getaway vacations to anywhere with a beach. And for perhaps the first time, summertime now means pulling out my green thumbs. So when the first signs of spring began to emerge out of one of the worst winters I’ve ever endured this year, I was beyond ecstatic.
Since this year marks the first summer at out new house, I have a completely blank slate of outdoor projects to add some homey touches to our yard. Flowers, plants, vegetable gardens, grass, fences, decking, dry creek beds. You name it, I’ve probably got it on my list of things to do. But the first obstacle I have to tackle is cleaning up. This year’s extreme winter weather was no friend to the limited about of bushes and landscaping we already had when we first moved in. Not to mention the large chunks of dieing grass strewn across most of my back and sideyard (read more about this in my next No Place Like Home post). Currently, the front yard includes some daffy dill flowers, a few spruce and Japanese holly bushes, maiden grass, some ivy, two small spruce trees and red mulch. And so — with a bunch of help from my gardening expert parents — the cleanup began.
Aside from the trees and flowers, the only thing I plan on keeping from our current landscape is the maiden grass. When I first saw this thing, I thought Cousin It decided to make his new home in my front yard. Despite it’s dried up, almost dead-like look, maiden grass actually blooms into beautiful green foliage that’s good for shade and coverage. This type of grass can reach between six and eight feet high, growing best in full sun with some moist soil. Needless to say, it’s a very durable plant for Mid-west droughts and especially Southern Indiana humidity. Once summer passes, the stalks change into a yellowish color and helps mulch the base of the plant so it can grow back. As soon as early spring hits through, it’s time for a trim. And that’s where my Dad’s chainsaw comes in. The maiden grass needs to be cut down to about three inches from the ground. After the dead stalks are cleared away, it’s not long before this freshly buzz-cut plant starts showing signs of green shoots. Just one week later and my maiden grass is already growing back in full swing.
The next process for re-landscaping our yard meant raking up all of the leaves that accumulated in the front of our house. Since Jacob and I didn’t move in until last December, we avoided the cumbersome task of raking up leaves in the fall. Unfortunately, now that the last of this year’s snow melted away, it means we have to tackle the task this spring. The strange thing is we really don’t have any trees on our property except for some lining our backyard. I guess leaves always find a way to get in every nook and cranny. Once again, my parents helped me with this outdoor project and with a borrowed rake and a few boxes in place of trash bags, we cleared out this mess of an area.
After a healthy and much needed cleanup (and with some discussion from my Mom and Dad), I now have quite a few ideas for how to make our house really shine and add some extra curb appeal — including these pesky vines.
1. Flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. As you can see in the featured image of this post, I have one type of flower growing in the front — daffy dills. These are probably one of the only attractive things about our front yard right now, with the exception of our maiden grass and two spruce trees. Everything is significantly low maintenance but I’m not afraid to get my hands a little dirty or put in the effort. I’ll relocate the current bushes and add in some hydrangea ones. The white hydrangea will stand out well against the house and go well with other flowers. There are quite a few varieties of hydrangea colors — blue, limelight — but white is my favorite and the most gorgeous in my eyes. In front of the hydrangeas will be tons and tons of flowers. Purple cornflowers, Shasta daisies, Veronicas— and yes, I’m keeping my daffy dills. Placing flowers like these throughout the front yard adds so much color and life over some dull, lifeless bushes. Flowers really are a mood setter, I think. Depending on what kind you have, they can fill even the saddest person with joy. Who wouldn’t smile at the look of these? I know we live in the suburbs, but I’m going to continue pretending that we have a cottage.
2. Plants and herbs. As you can see from the pictures above and to the right, a clump of vines have taken over one side of my house, and not in a good way. With these, I plan to take them out, free up the brick and plant some nice lavender and a few fresh herbs. My mom grows lavender by the bushel so it was always a big trademark at my old home. Lavender works well in almost any condition, but it does best in full sun with well drained soil. The nice thing is that they are also extremely resistant to droughts. Plus you can harvest this plant to use in just about anything, including food, tea or potpourri. I also plan on planting a few herb plants, most likely basil. I absolutely love basil. The smell and taste adds such a great quality to practically any dish. Basil needs plenty of sun — about 6 to 8 hours worth and grows best in 80 to 90 degree weather (now that’s my kind of herb). While it needs well-drained soil, it still likes to stay slight moist and rich. Once the basil reaches 6 to 8 inches high, you can start clipping the leaves off by the stem to use in your cooking or even decorating. Either way, this summer is sure to be filled with pesto making.
3. Vegetable garden. Before we even began searching for a house to live in, I new I wanted a vegetable garden. Having the capability to grow my own food and feeling the satisfaction in successfully raising tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and whatever else I can imagine made me very excited. This vegetable garden is likely to be one of the next DIY projects I’m going to task myself with, given the fact that timing is everything with these kind of plants. Tomatoes really come to fruition in mid-summer, growing with a least eight hours of sun and along a trellis or cage so they don’t end up on the ground. Peppers also do best in full sun but they need plenty of water to maintain their sweetness. I’m sure more vegetables are expected to come, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
4. The backyard. Of all the ideas and projects I have going on, this part is definitely long term — well, for the most part. As you can see from the pictures to the right, we definitely have some landscaping improvements to make. The first one is fixing up all the dead or dying grass strewn across our side and backyard. Let’s just say it’s a bit of a disaster. One big project I’m hoping to accomplish this summer is adding a fence for a little bit more privacy (and so Winston can finally work out his energy). Eventually, we’d like to build a deck out from the patio, with an overhanging trellis for just an added touch. As for the sloping mountain that extends past our lovely concrete drain, I love the idea of creating a tiered garden maybe along with some stone stairs. A girl can dream. Along with our deck and trellis duo, I think it would be even more fun to add a fire pit. I’ve seen quite a few DIYs for this kind of project so the task doesn’t really seem daunting to me at all. Plus, think how fun it will be to roast marshmallows and create ooey-gooey s’mores on a cool summer night — future Food for Thought post. In this photo, I love the mixture of brick and rock to give it a sophisticated look. Speaking of rocks, the very large concrete storm drain in our backyard is definitely an eye sore and sticks out like a sore thumb. We’ve gone through quite a few ideas for solutions, including filling it up with dirt and grass or building the fence up to it. Since neither sound feasible, my Mom actually mentioned turning it into a dry creek bed. Now this I like. Low cost and turns something ugly into a nice feature of the property. As long as the city approves and we aren’t jeopardizing flood safety, hopefully we can make this come true. More updates on this to come.
As you can see by the length of this blog post, my ideas for outdoor projects are not for the faint of hear. While it may not all happen this season, I imagine some of these DIYs are quite do-able, including plants, vegetable gardens and possibly a fence. Be sure to check out more blog posts in No Place Like Home and follow my journey from a novice gardener to a professional green thumb.
Image credits: Check out my Pinterest page to visit the sites for these online images — http://www.pinterest.com/clamunn/gardening-ideas/