Here at Old Town Home, one of our members is particularly well known for wanting to rush success and put the proverbial "cart before the horse." This sometimes results in more effort or angst when completing a project, but always makes for a slightly more adventurous journey.

If you're wondering who this could be and you guessed that person is Lulu or Mel, I'd have to tell you to keep trying. If you thought to yourself "it's gotta be Alex!" Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. Hmm, that only leaves one member of the crew as the primary culprit.

You see, Wendy can be a little bit, how do I put this, agressive when it comes to the actual execution of a project. This has to do with a slight lack of patience and an ever growing desire to get things completed. I can't really blame her all that much, I mean, she's been working on this house for over nine years now. At this point it's just become a fact of DIY home renovation. If I'm cutting in while painting a room, I'd better speed up because Wendy is already on my heels rolling the wall. If we're staining something and I'm not done sanding, I'd better wrap it up otherwise we're going to have a lot of dust in the stain. Do you get my drift?

Last week Wendy's slight impatience reared its head when we decided to jump forward a bit with the front tree box before getting the fence installed. I must say, Wendy's opinion that "we won't ever get anything done if I don't force us to move forward," though a bit abrasive, may not be that far from the truth. 

Last week we talked at length about those pesky tree roots and the bone rattling and knuckle crunching effort that was necessary to remove them. We'll, we were so excited to finally be free enough of roots that we headed out to Home Depot the very next day to pick up some plants that we could put in the ground. We also bought several more bags of soil and an eight foot length of metal garden edging, then rushed home in an attempt to beat the rain.

Just as we got home, the rain started up, so we decided to just get the plants in the ground so they could get a good soaking. To establish the look she wanted, Wendy placed the plants in their various future homes so that we could take a step back and assess.

It's a good thing I bought Wendy a good pair of Wellies for Christmas, they really came in handy when we were planting in the downpour. I don't know why we felt so gung-ho on getting the stuff in the ground that day, but we were undeterred by a little rain.

In the end it was not too shabby. We were able to take a final step back, give a few approving grunts and head nods, were able to appreciate just how far the bed had come, then we headed inside to dry off.

A few days later we turned our attention to the curb to install a hold back the would help keep our soil in place. The curb was left low due to the old tree's roots and, if left unadressed, was absolutely going to present a problem of erosion during any significant rain. You can see just how bad it is on the right side of this photo.

Our plan was to use the eight foot metal border and sort of insert it between the dirt and curb. Good plan? Yeah, but wouldn't you know it, there were lots more leftover roots in the way. 

So, once again, I became an axe wielding fool in front of our house. This time it was in the evening as the sun was setting. There's nothing like a bunch of stubborn tree roots and some more backbreaking labor when your hands are already blistered and sore to make you pose with an axe as you stare pensively at the very bane of your existence. I'm so dramatic.

While I was cutting away the roots, Wendy removed the stakes that were put in to stabilize the tree until it took root. The fact that the tree didn't immediately fall onto either one of us was a little bit of a triumphant moment.

After quite a bit more root clearing we had cut a nice little trough to wedge the metal border into. It was getting pretty dark by this point, so our photography was somewhat limited. At one point, Wendy was standing next to me and pointing a little keychain flashlight at the area that I was hacking away at. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. 

We drove a few metal stakes into the ground to hold the metal border in place, and bent it slightly to conform to the curve of the curb. After filling it in with a bit of leftover dirt, we had a pretty decent barrier that will hopefully keep the soil from heading off to the storm sewer. 

We wrapped up the very final step in our current front bed beautification efforts (pre fence, of course) just two days ago. After a slight alteration of plant placement, we filled the remaining areas with one more bag of soil and then decided to mulch the area.

We took the advice of a blog commenter and went ahead and covered the water meter cover with the mulch. After all, we know that it's there, and if we need to get access to it we can just push the mulch aside.

After a few minutes of spreading, and a few neighbors stopping by to say that it was looking good, we were officially the proud caretakers of our very own nicely manicured tree box. I know it may not seem like much, but when this essentially amounts to our entire front yard, every little bit of improvement truly goes a very long way. I know it doesn't look like a ton now, but all of these plants should double in size rather quickly.

Here's a reminder of what it looked like last year at this time.

And here's what we have today. Thank goodness! (We were afraid we were going to be referred to as "that house" by neighbors and pedestrians.) 

We've been waiting for a very long time, and we finally feel like the front of our home and sidewalk area is really starting to take shape. Now if we can just get that fence install without having to dig everything up and repeat all of our steps, we'll be golden. 

Oh, and as far as Wendy's tendency to jump ahead a bit goes, I guess I'm glad it happened this time. At the very least we ended up with a very nice front tree box.

What do you think of our little bit of curb appeal improvement? Much needed or should we have spent our time elsewhere? Do you have anything that's officially "city property" but it makes a big enough difference in your home that you opt to take care of it? Do tell. 

Comments 8


threadbndr (karla)
4/30/2012 at 12:37 PM
Looking good! That edging really helps. I just had a bunch of concrete work done (and need to do more) to level the sidewalk in front of my place. It's my responsibility to maintain the sidewalk and curbing. And the trees on the parking area between the sidewalk and the street are my headache, too.

My neighbor just put in a shade garden on his parking and it looks so pretty. He's got a total green thumb, though - you should have seen all the spring bulbs on his place this year! I may steal some of his ideas.
I love it when neighbors have ideas you can steal. It makes for so much easier of a project and a more consistent look.
4/30/2012 at 4:48 PM
Great wellies! Nice looking tree box! What plants did you decide to go with? All perennials or are you going to accessorize with some annuals every year?
4/30/2012 at 10:48 PM
Thad, it looks like the flowers Alex and Wendy used are perennials but the reddish grass is an annual -- I buy it every year but the name is escaping me now. It's not hardy in Virginia.

In our small city in southern VA, some of the E-W cross streets intersecting the main N-S streets have significant (like 15-20') city easements. Soil and lawns have long since taken over and narrowed the streets so people garden on city property, extending their "legal" yard space. (These streets don't have sidewalks and curbs, while the N-S streets do.)

While we now live on a N-S street with no "free" space, we used to live at the dead end of an E-W street on/in a very deep ravine. The deed and survey showed that our street extended through our property into the ravine; this included but went well beyond our driveway. We treated it like our property with no unpleasant consequences. Another interesting thing was that the city didn't meter our water in the winter -- they wanted us to leave a tap on with a trickle of water at all times so the water main up the street wouldn't freeze.
Cool info on your city, and always interesting to see how others treat that sort of an "no man's land" on your own yard. It's our dream to have the city take up the concrete and replace it with a brick sidewalk. Though it is 100% the city's property, as I understand it, we still have to pay for it (or at least a large part of it). However, we're not allowed to hire non city people to do it, and we're not allowed to do it ourselves. Very odd.
5/1/2012 at 8:16 PM
Alex, nice guns. Almost as good as your father-in-law.
5/2/2012 at 10:45 PM
As usual, awesome job!!
6/19/2014 at 2:50 PM

Adding those special touches to concrete areas makes all the difference. Keeping your concrete clean and level is super important too. Thanks for the tips! I especially like the edging to keep it all in place!

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