Monday, June 27, 2011

Blood, Sweat, and 24 Bags of Dirt

One of the positives (and negatives) of living in a building with other families is that you don't tackle any outdoor project entirely on your own. Our front parkway (the area between the sidewalk and the street) has been dirt pretty much since we moved in three years ago. Our building has tried a number of things in the past couple of years, but the combination of a ridiculous amount of tree roots, full shade, and neighborhood dogs peeing on everything have managed to keep reverting the space to dirt.

This year Nathan and I talked about actually planting a number of shade plants in the space, hoping that if we used one of those small fences, it would keep out the dogs. We still had to discuss the plan with the building though, and when that conversation happened, our day long project seemed to morph into something a great deal larger. The root issue was discussed, and we determined that we would actually need to dig out the roots and add more dirt, and what if we built an actual structure to keep the dogs out? Nathan and I looked into various types of stone, and as a building we eventually settled on the tumbled concrete pavers from Lowe's.

Our parkway losing the battle of the shade, tree roots, and dog pee.

We placed an order at Lowe's for a whole bunch of dirt and a load of bricks to be delivered to us on the day we were tackling the project. That day we spent about 6 hours digging up roots and leveling the ground before we were able to start laying the bricks (which took another 3 hours). Our pattern left some spots that required us to cut bricks to complete the pattern, which only sat a week before we got them cut (luckily, one of our neighbors is a contractor who volunteered to cut the three bricks for us or it's hard to guess how long they would have sat before one of us tackled it).

Plant box mid project, losing the battle with the oak tree helicopters.

A couple more weeks went by before we could all get together to go buy flowers for the space. This past Sunday, we made the trip to amazing nearby nursery where we had our choice of dozens of shade plants. We got about half annual and half perennial, with a mix of plants common to the Midwest, like a fern, coral bells, bleeding hearts, and astilbe, a few tropicals like begonias, coleus, caladium, and fuchsia for color, and Irish moss to fill in as ground cover.


Choosing the flowers and the layout was probably the hardest part of the whole process because we were dealing with all of our differing visions of what the final product should look like. Though the final look is somewhat different than what I alone would have chosen, I'm happy with the compromise, and it looks a million times better than the previous barren ground!

Sadly, we have another space next to this one that's almost twice this size that we're tackling next. I was under the impression we were doing that next year, but the second the last plant was in the ground, my neighbor turned to me and started talking about getting that started on Labor Day weekend.

Photos by my neighbor, Wayne, on his iPhone.