Yardwork, and the Slow Realization That It’s Going to Take a Really, Really Long Time

After work, Liz and I spent a bit of time working on clearing out the back yard. While I was getting dressed in the bathroom, I heard Liz yell at me through the floor. Looking down, I spotted her in the kitchen, peeking up at me.

There used to be a small clean-out catch basin thing here, that came from the shower. But that was removed once we got new plumbing for the house. Unfortunately, we just haven’t gotten around to patching this up yet, so the hole has been something we’ve just dealt with, in the bathroom.

Outside, Liz setting up her area.

Me, with one of the numerous plants that have taken over in back.

We were hoping to ignore the back yard until the winter came, letting the cold and snow take care of everything for us. But we’ve heard rumblings from neighbors as to the state of the back yard, so we’ve decided to bubble it a little higher on our task list.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I got flustered when dealing with the back yard. My impulse was to just blow through as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Though I know to dig down and get all the roots, I wanted to clear a large swathe at once.

When Liz reminded me that I needed to go back and ensure I dug up all the roots, I got deflated. The task of clearing the yard suddenly became more tedious than I had thought, and my energy and desire was to stay in motion.

We got a decent amount done while the sun was still out, but a large part of me felt slowed down. I guess I need to readjust my concept of what yard work is, and focus on clearing a small patch thoroughly (as opposed to a large patch, quickly).

For those who find gardening and yard work relaxing, I found it incredibly frustrating. But perhaps what we’re faced with now isn’t so much normal yard work as it is clearing vegetation.

A Path Through the Wilderness
Backyard Wilderness

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I was always taught to clear the top layer first quickly. Then go back and kill all the roots. The concept was that in an overgrown weedy yard at least one variety is in seed or pollen at any given time. If you thoroughly clean a patch that area then can become home to the dropped seeds. If instead you lop off the entire top layer and clear it, then nothing will grow other than the roots until you kill them as well. Could be an old farmers tale or it could be expert gardener logic. I have used the practice to limited success – my yard is a jungle anyhow…

    joe Reply

    • Wow, you really had me convinced there… up until that last sentence. :D

      I’m fighting the impulse to just raze the topmost layer, as I’ve already found it difficult to go back and locate the roots from stuff I’d taken down previously. Hopefully with Liz and I working together, we can cover twice as much ground (and leave it “open” for half as long).

      avoision Reply

  2. gardening is fun! but what you are doing is not gardening, you’re land clearing, and that’s not fun :(

    when you eventually muscle through it, and have a blank slate, then build up that blank slate to something functional and pretty, taking care of that is gardening. you’ll get there :)

    derrickito Reply

    • Good point, here. Thanks, Derrick!

      avoision Reply

  3. 1. Level it. I would use a mower.
    2. Rent a roto tiller. Loosen the soil and then pull the roots.
    3. Control weed regrowth with something that blocks light, like tarps.
    4. Make a plan. What are you after? Lawn? Patio? Garden beds?

    Garden beds: read up on “lasagna gardening”
    Raised gardens: ask to borrow Bob’s mitre saw and go to town
    Lawn: call a landscaper, or hurt your back hauling sod. I’ve done the latter, wish I’d done the former.
    Patio & paths: bring in a professional. These are easy to do poorly and hard to do decently. We put one in this summer, hired a landscaper. They dug the entire area down a foot and used surveying equipment to get the drainage perfect. After watching it done well, I would never attempt it myself.

    Alex Reply

    • Great advice! You’ve been doing the house thing much longer than me, so thanks for the tips and suggestions. Not sure we’ve thought terribly far beyond “let’s try to clean this mess up” but lots to ponder, here. Thanks, Alex!

      avoision Reply

  4. Also, having a garden/backyard sanctuary repays itself constantly. We find it completely worth it.

    Alex Reply

  5. I keep on finding that I have more to say, things that I’d share with myself of the past if I could.

    Raised beds for gardening are better than in-ground, it’s easier to control the variables and somehow just more enjoyable. I made mine about 24 inches high, and I like that height. If you go this route, then include some kind of irrigation.

    Perennials are wonderful. We’ve bought very few of them, but we keep on splitting and propagating them around. Day lilies are very invasive, so be careful with those.

    Do not plant herbs in-ground. Most of them are very invasive. Sage is the exception, it’s very robust and perennial. Chives are great.

    Consider a berry patch. Planting a red currant bush was the best thing I ever did. I’ve now upped it to three currants, plus blueberries and raspberries next year. But you have to get a little nerdy about your soil first.

    Map out the sunlight. Full sun = more than 6 hours. Partial is 4-6. Build your backyard around your “sun map”.

    An outdoor ‘dining room’ is a great thing to have. If you’re considering having kids in the future, have space set aside for a sandbox and/or play set. People ask us how we get anything done, the answer is sandbox. No joke. Your future sandbox could do double duty in the interim as a ‘cold frame’.

    Build in an outdoor sink. This is something that I will probably do next year and wish that I’d had from the outset. It’s useful for washing up garden vegetables, general utility, and can double in some kind of outdoor kitchen set up.

    Some kind of fire.

    Alex Reply

  6. Can you tell that I think about backyards a lot? Weeds. You will not be able to eliminate them ever. You can reduce them, but they will come back. The best strategy is control. Landscaping fabric, mulch, healthy turf, etc. If your landscape is healthy and full, then weeds will be easier to control.

    Alex Reply

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