Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Green- Grass and Rain Gardens

The grass is now officially growing. It's exciting to see it green up. It took 6 days for the sprouts to appear, which I think is pretty good. We were VERY nervous, as Saturday we had a huge downpour that made it appear our entire yard was flowing down towards the Mississippi.

In our neighborhood, everything flows towards the Mississippi River, about 3 blocks away. With the poorly draining clay soil and grass not yet established, we've been really able to see exactly how the yard handles water. The regrading we did greatly improved the water situation around the house. The sump pump was very active prior to re-grading (so much that we joked about having a water fall feature from the sump outlet)- but it hasn't gone on once since the grading. This weekend, we were able to get the 60 plants planted in the rain gardens.
We used a combination of grasses- such as Karl Forester and perennials such as Black-Eyed Susans and Coneflowers. I had to improvise a bit, as not all the plants I wanted were available at Gertens- but overall, I think it will look great once it gets a bit more established.
Here's a list of the plants we used:
Karl Forester- grass
Blue Sedge grass
Prairie Dropsee Grass (edible & nutritious seeds on this one!)
Icicle Veronica
Butterfly Weed
Pixie Meadowbrite Coneflower
Little Joe Pye Weed
Magnus Coneflower

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Greening Up the Yard

It's been difficult to have 3 kids, a nice summer and not be able to play in the yard.... We've grown tired of the dirt yard- although I will say that not having to worry about watering, mowing and maintenance this month has made me jokingly want to consider astro-turf.

Last week and the beginning of this week, the folks at CurbSide Landscape finished the final grading, Buck's Concrete poured the back sidewalk slabs and then CurbSide seeded the lawn. Before seeding, the entire yard was covered with a couple of inches of compost. We opted for hydroseeding the lawn, which a method where a slurry of water, seed and fiber mulch are sprayed on the lawn with a hose. With proper watering, grass should be growing in a week, with mowable lawn in 3-4 weeks.

The slurry has a green tint- and it made quite a mess around the base of the house.....
The front yard is planted with a traditional residential grass, such as Kentucky Blue Grass. For the back yard, we went with an "eco grass". This is a low-mow, low-water, low-maintenance turf. It may take a bit longer to establish the back yard, but we're willing to give it a try. It's amazing how much water is needed to have a lush, green yard. Given our large yard, we were looking for an alternative that will save us time and limit water use.
On Tuesday, after the yard was seeded, we received a huge downpour of rain. Unfortunately, the rain barrels and some of the downspouts weren't in place, so we may have to touch up some of the hydroseeded areas.

We're treating our yard as a work in progress that will continue to evolve over the years. With our limited budget for landscaping, this is the only option. Matthew Fair Jones, our landscape architect, helped conceptualize the plan and master plan ideas. They are simple for now. I want to make sure I understand which areas of the yard get sunlight at various times of the day and how we want to ultimately use our yard. Prior to the seeding, I did plant a small rock garden utilizing the rocks that were in our yard, around the River Birch tree by the patio.
This weekend we will plant the rain garden plants into the areas that were installed by CurbSide. More on that later....

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Bit of Privacy

We've been living in our new house for about a month now. We love the amount of windows and they way the house really takes advantage of daylight and cool breezes. So far, we only have shades on one set of windows in one room. No other windows have window treatment yet and although we love the simplicity of that, it does leave us feeling a bit exposed at times. We are only about 25' from the street and we do have quite a few people looking at our house these days. There are times when we look out the window to see someone looking in. Sometimes we just end up waving to each other. We really don't mind too much- but there are times we feel on display.

Time for window treatments.....

Our aupair is lucky enough to have this bedroom (although it's very small) with a balcony. The balcony space is really quite wonderful, in that it's like being in a tree house. This tree also provides a bit of privacy, but it will need to be trimmed and the leaves will be gone in a couple of months, leaving it much more exposed to the street. When Kerstin leaves in October, it will become a guest room/study room.

We just installed these roller shades from The Shade Store for this room. We went with the subtle white-on-white pattern.
Now, we're just debating on window treatments for the other windows that need it (mostly bedrooms). Although I like the solar shades and roller shades, we really count on the breezes we get at night. Given the need for breezes to pass thru, and the desire to control light entering, we are going to go with a 2 or 2.5" wood or faux wood blind in white. I just have to do a bit of research to find a louver with recycled content.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Brick Yard

As much as we love our new house, the one thing that has made this summer difficult is that we have no yard to enjoy. The dirt that surrounds the house is less than inviting and is something we've tried to train our children to avoid. That won't change too soon, as we are planning on seeding grass- but the one bright spot is that we are well on the way to having a completed brick patio in our back yard.

This is the stack of brick pavers that had to be torn up during construction. It's a painful site for the former owners who put their own sweat into creating pretty elaborate patterns in the walks and patio areas. It's also a painful site for Kevin, who neatly stacked them up and now is working at the unstacking. There are literally thousands of brick pavers in this stack. (We're only going to use about 1/3 for our large patio)

On Friday, the guys from CurbSide Landscape and Irrigation excavated the patio site. They laid down a root barrier sheet, then infilled with about 6" of crushed stone. They took a while to get this perfectly level using a surveyor's transit. Unfortunately, they were a bit short on the crushed stone, so they'll be back on Monday with the remainder.

Kevin ponders just how much work this would have been to do by hand......

We got a tip from the guys at CurbSide about setting the sand base. They suggested laying (2) 1" pipes down, infilling with sand, tamping it and then screeding it level using a 2x4. This technique worked pretty well and Kevin made a ton of progress on Saturday.

A rubber mallet is used to tap the bricks into place in the sand. Kevin used a (mostly)half basketweave pattern. See if you can spot where the pattern goes awry in this photo! We're not too worried about the occassional quirkiness of the pattern. It's a character-builder.

By Sunday, the entire family was helping (?) out.We should be complete with this project mid-week. After CurbSide delivers more crushed rock base, we'll be able to complete the patio area. CurbSide will then be working on the grading on the rest of the site, the installation of the rain garden and the hydro-seeding. Even though the seeding of the lawn won't provide a useable yard this year, at least we'll have a nice-looking patio from which to enjoy the outdoors.