Not In My Backyard

So today is really actually a pretty nice day.  Aside from the fact that this December could not have been less Christmassy, the weather has been basically awesome and has reminded me why I can never leave California and why we live here.  I do love sunshine.

Normally it starts raining in November and it doesn’t stop till March or April or like last year, July. (Shudder).  This is terrible because we’re trapped in our house and it’s wet and muddy and depressing but one benefit of that rainy and gross weather is that we can ignore what our backyard looks like for six or seven months even when when what it looks like is horrible.

And this year it’s been so  nice and every time I come out into the backyard in the sunshine it puts me in a really really bad mood. It just looks SO DAMN TERRIBLE.

Now, make no mistake, the back yard got pimped a while back and damn, did it look AMAZING.  For five minutes.

And then my children and my dog and my husband did their thing, and now most of the time how it look s is “stressful.” Stressfully awful. It needs SO MUCH WORK all the time and I just don’t have the time or the inclination to add another giant pile of work to my life.  I have to spend every waking minute of my life cleaning my house and doing laundry. The last thing on earth that I need is something else to clean.

What I want most from my backyard is to be able to sit around in it and read a book while I drink a tall diet coke and my children play, so this year my number one most important goal in life is to make this backyard work for us so that it is not a giant source of stress in my life.  It really needs to function as a playroom and another living room for us and when it’s screaming “I am a mess” at me it really negatively affects my quality of life.  So here’s what I am planning to do as soon as spring starts springing and as soon as my bank account has recovered from Christmas 2012.

All that stupid black mulch has got to go. Black mulch plus a light colored patio is just a recipe for disaster.  I spent weeks carting bags of mulch into the yard last year, and it was so much work and then it all washed away and got tracked all over the patio and I still haven’t figured out what you’re supposed to do when leaves fall all over black mulch.  Do you…rake them up? It makes no sense.  Anyway, the black mulch is all going goodbye and we’ll put a bunch more grass back in and I know this is not eco friendly and I do not care.  Grass just makes way more sense for us.

Last year I tried to make a nice flower border but it was so much work and most of the time it looked awful.  This year if I find a low maintenance bush or tree or one of those nice flowering shrubs that they always have at Home Depot that says something about low maintenance and low water (I think most of them are from Australia) I am going to grab it and plop it in the yard.  We will still have a vegetable garden, but I am not going to worry about a flower border.  Plants that make my life easier?  Yes please.  Fussy annuals? No thank you.

I am also wondering if I might experiment with garden boxes in the cement driveway.  I have a big space where I could put these, but I am not sure how plants grow when the boxes are placed on top of cement (rather than over dirt).  Does anyone have any experience with this?

I want to get a big giant piece of plywood and paint it with chalkboard paint and hang it on the fence that runs on one side of the driveway.  If I hang it on hooks I can move it into the garage when it starts to rain, and I think my kids could get some serious entertainment from this. Something like this, but on hooks so I can move it in the winter.

We have a neighborhood happy hour almost every Friday in the summer. I want to DIY something like this table from West Elm so that I can just drop it into my front yard at 4:45.  I love the way the one from West Elm looks but I think I can make it for way cheaper than that.

Finally, I am going to outfit the backyard in every piece of furniture I think we need.  We made some progress on furniture for the past two years, but we still need more sitting stuff.  (Remember, I need to do some serious sitting around in this backyard.)  So I think we need two more adirondack chairs, at least one lounger, two more dining chairs, a dining bench, some furniture for the side yard that we can also use at Happy Hour, and a set of lounge furniture (like outdoor living room furniture instead of outdoor dining room furniture.)  So Cost Plus for the adirondacks, IKEA for the dining stuff, and I found a set of OSH stuff last year that hopefully I can find again this year, for the lounge stuff.

At least lately I have found myself asking “Does this make my life easier” most of the time, whether it’s about furniture or pre addressed Christmas cards and hopefully all these ideas will work because I am really tired of being stressed out every time I walk outside.  If anyone else has any tips for me regarding things you have done to make yard work or backyard maintenance less work, I would really appreciate it.





7 Responses

  1. I am doing my container garden on the concrete.

    My yard maintenance is that if it cannot keep itself alive, it must go. Which is working far too well for one of my bushes because soon, I will not be able to get into the garage since it is growing so well with me ignoring it. (If I could rip this bush out for its annoying need of trimming, I would.)

  2. It’s been near 80 every day here in Florida as well, which is nice but not Christmas-y at all.

    I love that chalkboard idea! I don’t know. It was a resolution of mine to keep my flowers alive and my flowerbeds mulched and weeded and it really hasn’t happened. My rosebush thrives when I ignore it, so I have tons of flowers there, it that counts. We did put in a deck this past year and I cannot tell you how much I have loved it and the kids play outside every single day. But how do I get rid of those damn mosquitoes?

  3. When we bought our house the previous owner had lovely flowers and an herb garden around the maple tree and lots of nice plants. I managed to either kill or uproot about 90% of the stuff the first two years, and we tore out juniper bushes and spirea and other crap I hated and planted a few low maintenance things. My philosophy is that daylilies and hostas cover a multitude of sins and my work goes into the vegetable garden.

  4. I have experienced both extremes in gardening. Our old house had actual “gardens” in the backyard. Beautiful yes….a crap load of work, YES. Our new house, besides a mulched shaped border around the grass and fieldstone patio, has zero plants/flowers/life. At first I saw it as a naked canvas. But then I had twins……and I went and bought two GINORMOUS beautiful hanging flowering baskets and put them on cool hangers on our fence and ya know–it looks good enough and they are waaay easier to water than entire shade loving perennial gardens. ps. i have noticed our black mulch has faded so it looks more natural and we broke down and bought a leaf blower and it works like a charm–takes the leaves but not the mulch.

  5. In regards to mulching vs.grass, another possibility is rocks. They are more pricey than mulching I think but we moved into our house almost four years ago and are just now needing to fill in some of the rocks around these little bushes in the front of our house. They just don’t seem to get kicked up as much, they don’t wash or blow away and its a shitload easier to rake leaves off of them without getting them everywhere.

    You are so lucky to be in California. We live in Kansas City and while, yes, there are delicious BBQ restaurants on every other corner, that does not make up for this crappy weather. I really must convince my husband to move.

  6. I am curious about the arrangement of furniture outdoors, especially the items that are not on a deck or patio. I really want a lounger and some “outdoor living” style furniture, but it feels like it will look strange just thrown out in the yard. Maybe some pictures when you get this new furniture?

    Our yard looked so good when we bought our house nearly two years ago…now, not so much. We need to do some serious work on it this spring.

  7. We live in San Diego, which is warmer, but the yard in our tiny house totally functions as another room. We have a LOT of brick patio space which is awesome for kids riding trikes, bikes, etc and zero maintenance.

    We also plant LOTS of geraniums in pots which grow like weeds and act like perennials. Not sure if Sacramento Is warm enough for that but it’s a thought.

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