Soil Conditioner Piled on a Yard


Some of you follow my tweets @BuildingMoxie.  And I know some of you know that I took the week leading up to Memorial Day to check- in (foursquare that is) with a number local supply houses.

What was doing?  Was I getting my ducks in a row for a long overdue grass planting session (finally completed here – Seeding a New Lawn), essentially bringing the Pennington Seed Seed4Yourself program full circle?  Nope! (Not just yet.)

While I was playing errand boy for a few small things on my wife’s (Mrs. Moxie’s) flip project, I was also out, well, pounding the pavers.  Ha! That is – I was out gathering ideas, information and pricing on a handful of large, it’s-time-to-really-dial-this-yard-in, items.

My yard todo, you see, looked something like this:

  • A new Patio and Walks (Hope to Post Soon)
  • Pond Redo
  • Timber stairs (to edge out the kids’ playset area)
  • Plant things
  • Add Ground Cover (Vinca Minor – herein)
  • General Seeding and Lawn Repairs
  • Mulch &
  • Much Much More.

Now, I certainly would not consider myself an experienced Cedar Fence Intersection Bare Rear Yardlandscaper. With the exteriors of my own houses, I’ve done light fence and walk work. Oh and okay, maybe a little lawn work, but nothing like what I am about to undertake.

What I mean — when I worked with the builder, I was responsible for “grade” and of course for stabilizing it. Any plant/planting or hardscape work performed by someone else.

Learning How to Landscape (Selecting a Ground Cover)

So, equipped with a little knowledge (gleaned from a library book) and some pics of my yard, I ultimately found my way  to local garden center  – Poor Boys.  When I walked in, a look of fear on my face (or Vinca Minor Label Nurserymaybe it was – absolute cluelessness), I was greeted as if they knew I was coming.  I mean – maybe it was that they had dealt with my type before, but in a matter of minutes (working from the suggestions of specialist Michele Betley), I had a pretty clear path.

Now, one my favorite features of our yard also happens to be one of it’s biggest . . . shortcomings.  Big trees = dense shade.  And I mean dense as in – it is all but impossible to do anything let alone grow anything in certain areas of our yard.  Or so it has sometimes felt.  But what I came away with  was plan of attack on at least two areas in particular.

A large maple, and maybe you have seen one of my two unsuccessful attempts at growing grass under it, would instead receive a ground cover called Vinca Minor.

Laying Out Garden Define Bed with Garden Hose

Building a Garden in a Trouble Spot for Grass

A back corner of the yard, pretty much bare of any growth, would receive a garden-encased planting.  This area fortunately gets some sun. On Michele’s recommendations, I recently planted it with a pair of Skyrocket Junipers, a smaller juniper, a pair of Gold Mops, a Butterfly Bush, and a lovely flowering Little Henry Sweetspire. (Update: For disclosure – the Skyrockets did not do well in this location.)

Once my wife and I decided on the shape of the bed (I liked an irregular shaped triangle that fit only the bare spot), I built the bed up slightly using top soil while integrating a soil conditioner.  I did this mainly to get the bed off of our cedar fence.  Adding a flat vinyl edging, I also lined the back edge of it with flat stone. (I did this almost more to protect the fencing, which you may see has already suffered some damage.)

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I thought about incorporating drainage, but did not, feeling that the natural pitch of the yard and a high stone border would work well to shed any water aside. Trimming the bed as I did with field stone actually accounted for the largest majority of work.  I have a rich abundance of this stone. Many were retrieved over the years from the various beds that scattered around the once overgrown yard.

While the Little Henry got the bulk of the attention, the pair of junipers I named after the girls.  Eva (pictured) on the left and Evyn (my oldest) on the right. This of course engaged the girls, and they had fun helping plant their namesakes.Be Nice or Leave Tee Shirt - Little Girl Helping to Plant Tree

The hope is with this back corner, and yes I know I should have worked in a powerwashing of the fence (the misses overruled) the addition of a few lively colored annuals to this bed with actually help draw the eye to the once void area of the yard, essentially making the yard feel a tad bit bigger.


And anyway, this is where I’m at and I still lots to do.  But as I go, I can’t help but feel that it is a little bit like building, but with plants.

Stepping Stones Rows of Vinca Measured by Story Stick

Much like a wall in a home can provide partition, and in some cases, it can be bearing.  It always includes such things as plumbing or electrical, and it is contained by drywall or some other finishing material.  It is then papered or painted and then usually things are mounted to it.

Finding Level Running String Line Garden Bed

I realize — this is the way I want my landscape to come together, almost structurally. And a good build only occurs when and if you can successfully bring all of this various elements together as a whole.

Thanks for reading.  Next: Patching the Grass after Adding a Stone Border Edge. For more on lawn care and/or to read more about creating a beautiful landscape, please see our category – Landscaping.  Thanks. ~jb