Backyard Betterment & Blunders

We’re about half way through a handful of projects in the backyard. While I don’t have any of those projects to completely “reveal,” here’s the down and dirty on the progress we’ve made so far. 

Project #1 : The Pond

If landscaping was like a Hollywood film, this would be my passion project. Maybe I would debut it at Sundance and talk about how it was the hardest project I’ve ever worked on or how unglamorous it was. But in the end, it was something I could fit in between projects, it will probably help my overall image, and it gave me some street cred.

Righhht, but, its not Hollywood, it’s Pittsburgh and let’s not forget this is what we’re talking about…a very bad, very neglected, man made pond.

It used to look like this.

image

Now it looks like this…and it’s no where NEAR finished! 

image

The rocks were left by the contractor to help make the pond look a little less like a giant bed pan buried in the ground, but it wasn’t enough. We decided the rocks would be fine for the bottom layer as a foundation, but we needed to find flat rocks to give the pond a better aesthetic. 

But first, we had to drain all of the unfiltered slime water out of the pond via a 5 gallon bucket. That was a job for Jay. I begged him to wear a mask and gloves but he’s too tough for that I guess. 

image

It was really gross. A mixture of leaves, algae, water, and … I don’t know what else. You get the picture, it wasn’t good. 

image

Once the water was drained, there was no greater pleasure than to power wash that sucker!

image

To keep it clean, I purchased a solar powered pond pump and light. Although we do have an electrical outlet outside, I was (and still am) intimidated by having to dig a trench to hide the wires for an electrical pump and filter system, and so solar seemed like a good alternative. After letting the panel sit in the sun for a couple of days to charge, it was ready to be installed. 

image

The pump is much smaller than I had anticipated but Jay assured me that we merely need to keep the water moving in the pond. We’ll see how it works out and if the water stays clear in a couple of days. I also read about adding natural pond filters, like water lilies and water lettuce to keep the pond oxygenated. Since we don’t have nature’s solution quite yet,  I added 15mL of water conditioner to purify the tap water from the hose. 

image

Once the pump was plugged in to the solar panel and anchored to the pond ledge, it started pumping water through. As a side note, I think if this pump were in a smaller pond or a bird bath (which I am still convinced is its true purpose!) it would produce a small fountain of water. Anyway, for now its fine, but I am using the next few weeks as a probationary period. 

image

The next step in the project was to find flat stone to cover our old, grey rocks. We went to Dragun’s Landscape Supply which literally had tons of Maryland Flagstone. We were told this was the most cost effective option. When we arrived at the sales office, a salesman said to take what we needed from the flagstone pile in the yard and to come back to the office and they would tell us how much it was once they saw how much had taken.

image

SAY WHAT?! This was a very weird way to purchase something.

Long story short long, the whole experience felt very shady. It felt more like we had just purchased something illegal, not a pile of rocks. 

Anyway, here is a sneak peak of the pond. It’s not ready yet, I need to go buy another $15 worth of flagstone from my dealer. I’ll show you the finished product after that. 

image

Project #2: Cement Patio Pad

We made headway on the back patio project but have encountered a pretty big stumbling block. Ya see, when you buy a house that’s over 100 years old, you’re bound to run into some settling issues. This is the case for the cement patio. Over the years, it has cracked. No fear, Rust-Oleum has a product that claims to do the trick! 

image

All you need is the Restore paint, the honeycomb brush, and a roller extender and you’re in business. 

The instructions said to first dab the paint into cracks (up to 1/4 of an inch). 

image

One gallon of the paint covered about 1/8 of the patio. I thought one gallon would go a lot further, so back to the store I went. I bought two, 3-gallon buckets of it since the instructions said that the first layer is only a primer layer and 2 coats must be applied to get the right look.

image

This paint is some nasty stuff! It’s like a mix of paint, cement and sand. It was a work out to apply. 

image
image

Even though the first layer is supposed to be a primer, it already looked much better!

image

Lu gave me these eyes from inside. She wasn’t happy that she couldn’t run around in her backyard for a few days. 

image

What we discovered during this project is that in addition to the cracks, the cement patio also slopes toward the house. Yeah, that’s bad. This is a big issue since potentially, we could get water in the basement. Jay, the problem solver that he is, bought epoxy and cement sealer to nip it in the bud. He did a great job. Except now when it rains the water pools where the house meets the cement pad. It has to be fixed and it has to be fixed right away to avoid a bigger and more expensive problem down the line. And so, that puts the kibosh (at least for now) on putting another layer of the Restore Cement Paint on until we level the patio or decide to take it up all together. 

Project #3: Landscaping 

image

Jay and I opted to mulch a couple of areas in the backyard. The “T” of land around the storm door and pond was all dirt. When it rained it was a mud pit and with the dog we needed a solution. Instead of waiting for grass to grow, we mulched. Eventually, I would like to plant some beautiful flowering shrubs. Maybe Rhododendron, Forsythia, Azalea, or Lilac. Maybe all! 

image

For now, I’ve planted this variegated ornamental grass that hopefully will grow to hide the AC unit. Eventually, I was told that it would grow to be 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide which should do the trick! 

image

We also mulched this narrow little garden that presented itself when the fence went up. 

Meet Yarrow and Catmint. Kind of sound like the newest Tributes in the Hunger Games - but they’re not - they’re upright perennials. 

image

Pretty, huh?

image

Catmint is the purple flower, Yarrow is the yellow. I absolutely love this addition! 

image

Project #4: Decorating (duh!)

We have a table and chairs…and that’s it! Much more work to be done here including (but not limited to) an umbrella, string lights, potted plants, and something to hang from the Magnolia tree (see those two chains hanging from the branch on the left?)

image

Whew! That was a long post! More to come soon on the end result!