Kiss My Grass, Part 1: The Beginning


The Beginning

I've never been the type of person to put too much effort into a lawn. But then again, it wasn't until we bought our house in 2013 that I actually owned a yard. And to raise the stakes a little higher, we had sod laid in our backyard two months after we moved in. We essentially gutted the backyard because it was in a bad state of being. I still wish to this day that we had taken more pictures. So, after the time, money, and effort to get to that point, I didn't really want to see that investment go, um, bad.

Before we had laid the sod, the backyard was just dirt, literally. A lot of work went into getting it to the point of being just dirt. We had to disassemble and remove an old and rickety swingset. We removed random bushes that had no rhyme or reason to their placement. We dug out a cement footing that, because of Google Earth, we believe supported what looked like a light pole. The neighbor behind us had and has a mostly forested backyard, and it had been allowed to start taking over our backyard some years prior. So, that overgrowth went into our yard up to five feet at most from the property line, and it was very thick and root-y in spots. And then, there were the leaves.

The back right corner of the backyard had become a giant compost pile. We wondered, and still do to this day, if that was intentional or just laziness. It seemed like it had become the destination for many years worth of leaves. Although it wasn't a square pile, I would say it was about twenty feet by thirty feet and about three to four feet tall. It was disgusting and smelly and buggy. What did I do with the leaves? It took a while, but I spread them around the low spots in the backyard. I didn't really have anywhere else to put them, and I wasn't going to spend the money on having them removed nor was I going to spend money to haul them. I took a cue from the state they were sliding into—decomposition.

I had two dump truck loads of dirt delivered to the house. I used that to build up the ground around the house to ensure water would flow away when it rained. Also, it allowed me to bury the leaves I had spread around. It's amazing how quickly dirt disappears, or at least gives the impression of disappearing. I had rented a Bobcat to move large amounts of dirt and also smooth out the backyard. It would have been agony had I tried to accomplish all of that with a wheel barrow and other implements. Of course, it decided to rain the second day I had the Bobcat and using it only made things worse. It was a good thing I got most of the work done the prior day. I didn't want to rent it for longer than I had to, so back it went on that second, rainy day.

I had planned on planting seed, initially. It would have been much cheaper than sod. But, with time going faster than the work getting accomplished, I knew that seed would take longer to fill in the yard. And to be a much more effective route, I figured I would have to sow seed more than once that summer. Despite the cost of sod and paying for labor, hiring it out made the most sense and got the job done in two days. Also, the company that did the work finished up the job of smoothing and grading the backyard. That was a plus. The only initial hiccup was that they snagged our newly buried internet cable and cut into it. They did a quick repair and all was well (and still is well).

That first summer in the new house saw us on a daily schedule of keeping the sod watered. Even with water being relatively cheap, the price tag was hefty. Also, I had learned that summer that the soil in our area has a lot of sand in it, which is not so good for holding moisture near the surface where the roots are. We went out of town a few weeks after the sod was laid, and even though we thought the grass had done a decent job of establishing itself, it just so happened to be the beginning of a long and hot dry period of the summer. We had watered it enough up until the time we left, but after, we didn't have someone we could count on to consistently water it for us. Fortunately, we were gone for less than a week, but that was still enough to burn sections of the backyard.

Since my wife and I were getting married that September in our backyard, we wanted it to look nice. It was the whole point in why we were doing all of that work that summer in the first place. We figured we would put money into our yard and house and not a venue. So, we had a couple of months at best to patch up those burnt spots and hope we didn't run into any other problems. The grass was the absolute only thing we had to do and worry about, right? Yeah... Stupid grass.

Rather than replace the sod, which we weren't necessarily convinced was toast but probably was, I applied some Scott's PatchMaster (mulch, seed, fertilizer) that actually worked pretty well, especially in areas that had more shade. I used quite a bit that summer and have occasionally since then. Other than being a lighter shade of green than the sod, the newer grass filled in those dead spots, and we had a backyard full of grass for our wedding. The difference in color wasn't very noticeable from the ground. Looking out the window from the top floor of our house, yes.

Had we known just how destructive pine trees are to grass, we wouldn't have had sod laid in that area of our yard. Also, the guy putting in the sod said it shouldn't be a problem. Shouldn't doesn't mean won't. Our neighbor to our south has a row of pine trees along a portion of the property line next to our house. There's probably only fifteen feet or so from the line to our house, so there's also not a whole lot of sun reaching the ground.

However, we (my wife) wanted grass there for the wedding, and so I spread lime and grass seed throughout that area. It was a temporary fix. One that I told my wife I would not be repeating. After that first year, we gave up on growing grass there, will be landscaping it in the future, and then grow appropriate plants for the conditions. Ultimately, I think it will turn out better than just having grass there, anyway. Another experience to learn from.

A couple of other happenings from that summer that are interesting is the discovery of a hidden sidewalk and the tall yet thin tree that fell down in our backyard. That also reminds me of all of the chunks of asphalt and concrete I've dug up since we moved in. Considering our neighborhood was a part of a historically documented tornado, I can only assume that therein lies the answer.

The hidden sidewalk was discovered because my wife wanted to plant flowers. The area she wanted to plant is a dirt patch surrounded by our porch, garage, driveway, and walkway from the driveway to the porch. When she hit something hard with the shovel, she came and got me, and that's when we discovered the hidden sidewalk. It was probably the original from when the house was built in 1971. The current sidewalk does look new, and rather than take the old one out, they decided to cover it with dirt. They being the company that flipped the house before we bought it. A sledge hammer took care of the old sidewalk. Afterwards, we filled the area in with some of the purchased dirt I had mentioned earlier.

Lastly, for this post, and ironically, perhaps, the first yard improvement we did happened shortly after we bought the house. There were two tall, thin trees that were growing in the backyard. One of them fell down due to it dying, and fortunately, it fell in an open area of the backyard and caused no damage or injury. It happened before the sod was laid so the tree and stump didn't cause any issues with that. We had the stump professionally ground, and my father-in-law cut the tree up with a chainsaw for us as I worked on other yard projects that I've already mentioned. It was the first batch of firewood we harvested from our trees.

That summer was very busy. The busiest I had been since I graduated college. Between moving, doing home improvements, planning and executing a wedding, and working as much overtime as I could, I was pushing myself as far as I could go. It was only the beginning to a new chapter in my life. Little did I know what I had started. Or, did I?

Read Part 2: Speak To The Trees



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