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Hey folks! I know it’s — well, Friday — but I want to update you guys on last weekend. Specifically, how I added some beautiful landscaping around my exterior air conditioning unit!
Long story short: I got the majority of the side of the house done! Doesn’t it look so much better than where I started? I’m about as excited about this transformation as I was after I installed the kitchen backsplash.
You guys might recall from my last update that I still needed a few more bags of gravel and then to fill in the middle spot between. Which looked like this:
And over the weekend, that’s exactly what I did. Right down to the very last bag of gravel, mulch, and plant I had available. I’m super pleased it turned out so well… one of the few times that something just worked the way I wanted it to right away!
I also figured out that if I’m going to bother putting gravel around these spots, I might as well do the whole area that’s tucked away on this side of the chimney (thus why I even ran out of the gravel in the first place). The pic below is to the right of the A/C condensing unit, so I filled in this area too. More scalloped edging will divide this whole section between the gravel and the holly planted out in front of the house (it’s not my favorite, but we’ve talked about this).
I need to scrub that green gunk off the house, but it’s already looking so much cleaner and low-maintenance-y. WIN. I considered going on in more detail about each part, but since people like to skim sometimes, I broke it down a little further below.
Choosing landscaping around the air conditioning unit:
I first came up with the idea for adding gravel mainly because I read that while shade around an A/C condensing unit (the outdoor part of your A/C) is good for energy savings, you also don’t want to plant anything too close. Plants can grow into the unit and decrease its efficiency, and anything that sheds flowers and leaves, or “defoliates”, during off-peak seasons is generally a bad idea (restricting air flow around something that’s purposefully trying to remove heat is kind of the opposite of what you want). A good rule of thumb is one to three horizontal feet (so says this site and others). You also don’t want to cover over the top of the condensing unit by a good four to six feet, but that’s not really a problem here (just more info for ya).
I wouldn’t say that the pine straw and low plants in the “before” picture were really much of an issue in terms of horizontal crowding, but honestly, thems a whole lotta ugly, and I didn’t want to run the risk of making things pretty only to have done it with less efficiency than I started with!
One more thing I was careful to measure off was adding some distance around the back of the little garden bed I created, too. This is mainly because the house has cedar siding, and to prevent termites, you also want some good spacing between the bottom of your siding and any mulch (I’ve read about 15 inches or so; fewer could result in voiding a termite warranty if you need one for your home). I’ve used rubber mulch for this purpose before when I need to blend it with regular mulch, but since I was using egg rock around the A/C already, I didn’t need to do any fancy mulching combinations. The spacing up against the fence was just for visual balance with the rest of the area.
I got a great discount on egg rock, but you can find out all about how to score this stuff on the cheap here. To separate the stones from the new garden bed and help me (hopefully) keep things tidy in the future. Since rocks and landscaping pebbles are known to spread around when you’re not looking, I also added some of the scalloped edging that exists elsewhere on my property. I gave myself a break while I went to go grab more cardboard to help kill off the grass, and in the meantime, a bird seemed to have assessed my progress:
Does that mean they hate it… or like it?
The scalloped edging may not be the prettiest IMO, but I have a ton of it after removing a bunch from the backyard mound where I had a bunch of trees cut down, and doing anything further with it would just mean more time or cost (even turning it over to the flat side would just emphasize the other places that haven’t been changed, and I’d rather have it all consistent instead of doing the labor to all of the other spots).
Like I said above, good plants to put near the A/C condensing unit are ones that don’t shed flowers or leaves regularly, so my typical shade-loving favorite, hydrangeas, was out. I’m not crazy about hostas in general, but when I went to my local gardening center to choose something that would work well in the shade without flowers, I decided that a good variation of colorful leaves was the right answer. And let’s face it — hostas are really easy to keep.
For each plant, I measured spacing on the higher end (so when the tag said 18 – 24 inches wide, I went with 21-24) so that it has room to mature and fill in over time. I used the tip of my gardening trowel to mark the center spot for each plant, and my mattock came in handy for digging deep holes with minimal effort.
After everything was in and covered with mulch, we get a nice little bed that I hope I have to maintain exactly zero times for the rest of the year.
The red plants are an annual (coleus, and thanks to Vanessa and others for making that suggestion in the last post!), and my intentions are just to have it fill in the negative space while the hostas grown in a little more. The shrub in the back is called Andromeda (I think – I actually bought it over a year ago and it stayed in a pot while I decided to plant… which makes this the lowest-maintenance plant I’ve ever bought at a nursery and actually survived! I considered just leaving it as a potted plant since it seemed content to stay that way, but the pot size would have kept it tiny). It flowers, but only teeny tiny white buds, and it’s a slow grower. Putting it at the back and with space to grow near the fence will give the bed some height, but not risk crudding up the condenser.
- Get one or two more bags of gravel (I had allllmost enough and took advantage of a good sale on the landscaping rocks, but I wound up covering more square feet than I originally planned)
- Patch & paint that band along the siding (I want it to be the same white/cream color that I painted the trim)
- Build a weather-resistant screen that will hide the A/C unit visibly from the street (already started!)
I know, that last one sounds like I’m immediately going to violate the whole “keep things away from the unit” rule above — but I’m actually still planning on giving it the proper distance, just giving me something more pleasant to look at in the process (and it might help keep any stray vine roots that exist under the soil from growing into the unit, too).
In truth, I completed this on Saturday morning, which meant I had all of the rest of the holiday weekend to run that first errand, but I still need to pick up those extra bags. I pretty much spent the rest of it visiting the zoo (Atlanta’s “Brew at the Zoo”) and getting poked in the head by a well-meaning bearded guy…
Which, by the way, it’s his birthday today, so I’ll be heading out this evening for some Moroccan food and relatively ignoring the long weekend of labor ahead of me. Happy Friday, folks, and tell me your weekend DIY plans if you’ve got ’em!