Let’s say your good friend Amy brags to you that she actually “loves” doing yard work and gardening. And you have a yard full o’ this to work with:
Clearly, there’s a chance she’s insane… but I have absolutely no ethical issues with taking advantage of her delusions and letting her stick her bare hands in dirt.
And then, let’s say The Home Depot sees your post about cleaning up your back yard and dangles a magical orange gift card in front of you – one that has the power to give your garden some much-needed fall color and the right tools to get it done.
So, what’s a girl to do?
Put ’em both to work, that’s what.
First, let’s talk about the issues that this little back “garden” area has… if you can even call it that. It’s really just two strips of dirt, about two feet wide, on either side of the cement patio with scalloped brick edging. I don’t like the red brick, but it’s what the builder used throughout the neighborhood for the front, back, and both sides of the house… and I’m not about to replace it just because I don’t like the color. It would be way too expensive for relatively little visual payoff (in my opinion). I can make it work, but it needs a little help.
The area also gets mostly shade, and the amount of mosquitoes make it nearly impossible to enjoy being out here. So even though I really wanted to add color to each spot, I wanted to also incorporate some practical choices – maybe something that would make sitting out here in the evening (you know, when I get home from work and can enjoy the patio) a little more pleasant.
Early last week (before putting up the fence this past weekend), Amy met me over at my house to drop off her two dogs. We figured they could be stuck outside with us while we got a few things done. Good thing, since we had a lot to do!
First, we came up with a game plan for what kind of plants would be best for the yard immediately (again, color would be nice) and also practical long-term (Hydrangeas love shade and protection from the wind, but would they be available to plant now? Are all spring bulbs for sunny areas only? What would be good to fertilize the existing soil and prepare the area for overwintering?) As much as I enjoy DIY, outdoor projects are not really my area of expertise. Thankfully, The Home Depot had me covered – they’ve just recently added a number of new project guides to their website for picking fertilizer, planting spring bulbs, and pruning for fall.
Amy and I did what people normally do on a trip for supplies for an outdoor project (I can only assume). We stopped for lunch and got rid of some freeloading dirt that came along for the ride:
I hugged pretty plants and made excuses for why I should purchase them, even if they don’t meet the shade requirement (sorry tropical plants – but more on you in a later post):
We picked out garden soil and mulch, and tested my cart-pushing strength (super-serious face included):
And finally, we grabbed what we needed for our actual project. I’m pretty sure everyone leaves this task for last when they go the store, right?
We grabbed hydrangeas, rosemary (for its mosquito-repelling properties), pansies, mums, and a spotted shade-loving plant I didn’t really note the name of. I saw pink spots, green leaves, and a tag that said it was good for shade – so in the cart it went. I keep it simple :) Update: one savvy reader has identified this as caladium – thanks!
Back at home, I swept away dirt from the brick and gave it a fresh coat of dark brown spray paint.
Then, I placed each plant to visually space out where they would all go: hydrangeas on the far end, rosemary near the patio door, pansies on the other side, and the pretty spotted plant on the end to the right. I thought that this arrangement, once they grew a little, would cover the downspout area with something more visually interesting.
On the right side, we dug both the holes for planting the pansies as well as the spring bulbs.
Amy mentioned that her mom is a big gardener and loves using Osmocote for plant food – says that it really brings out the color in her flowers. It absolutely reeks, but I’m taking her word for it and sprinkled this around the plants.
On the left, I wanted to mix in some fresh potting soil with the existing dirt (a shovel works fine here too – I grabbed what was closest!). Thankfully, it was much easier to dig through than the red clay near the fence – confirming that at some point in the past, someone gave this area some TLC but later let it fend for itself.
Once all of the plants were in place, we spread out a few bags of dark brown rubber mulch. I’ve mentioned a preference for the recycled stuff before, but my goal with the back area is to keep it as low-maintenance as possible. Using recycled rubber helps keep some of the weeds under control, looks similar to bark mulch, doesn’t loose its color, and still allows for the spring bulbs to pop up next year (instead of using landscaping fabric). And the most important factor: my house has cedar siding – keeping bark mulch this close to the house isn’t really advised when you want to keep termites at bay.
Amy had to leave mid-afternoon, so I thanked her for her help, thanked her dogs for keeping Charlie occupied while I worked, and continued working on a few areas near the patio. I got out my old friend, the caulk gun, and caulked around both of the rear windows, the patio door, and painted the trim. Only problem is: I’m short, lazy, and had already put the ladder away – so I grabbed my Homer bucket (which The Home Depot folks also sent with the gift card) and made quick work of the trim.
I also sprayed down the windows and patio door with some insect killer (hey, as long as I’m out here, I might as well get some fall maintenance chores taken care of as well). After only a day (and a lot of dirt), the back yard essentially went from this (on the left side of the patio):
And from this (on the right side):
The simple truth is (sponsored post or not, 100% my own opinions here), without The Home Depot’s helping hand on this project (and Amy’s of course), I probably wouldn’t have been able to get to this garden makeover this year. I am thrilled that the backyard is getting cleaned up (and still have more to show you guys later this week, including full shots of the patio area), but sometimes the extra color of flowers simply makes the effort a little more worthwhile. It’s usually not the first thing I think about when it’s budget-allocating time, so the extra push from an outside force has been a welcome change of pace.
And as for that budget, here are the dollars and cents for the fall planting:
- Fall bulbs (Allium) – $10
- Rosemary (5 large pots) – $30
- Rustoleum 2x spray paint in Espresso, 2 cans – $8
- Cutter insect repellent (2 cans) – $8
- Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Plant Food – $12
- Hydrangeas (4 pots) – $52
- Vigoro rubber mulch in Mocha Brown (6 bags) – $36
- Pansies (15 pots) – $18
- Vigoro select annual (the spotted plant) – $5
- Miracle Gro gardening soil (1 GIANT bag) – $8
- Ortho Home Defense Max Insect Killer – $15
Total (incl. tax) – $214
I had some more room on my gift card for yard cleanup (and adding some color to the front), so I picked up a few more bags of mulch, soil, plants, and one great big extension cord (so I can return the one I’ve been borrowing from Dad). More on those projects next week.
Leading up to this project, I used The Home Depot hashtag #LetsDoThis on Instagram and Twitter as part of their campaign (so go back to see some of the other sneak peeks if you’re curious). I’ve noticed that there are a few other bloggers also taking on their own challenges, and it’s not just outdoor projects – so I’m looking forward to see what others come up with!
What are your favorite flowers for fall? Do you have any routines you go through to prep your outdoor spaces when the weather gets colder? Have you had success with using rosemary for mosquitoes? I’d love to hear it.
And now, of course, the legal stuff:
I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this Fall Fertilization, Fall Planting and Fall Cleanup project. As a part of the Fall Fertilization, Fall Planting and Fall Cleanup project, I am receiving compensation in the form of cash and gift cards, for the purpose of promoting Fall Fertilization, Fall Planting and Fall Cleanup project and The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.