Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Front Yard Page 1 of 2

Fence, Finished!

After five weeks of hard work, our DIY fence was complete.

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Do you like it? WE DO. A LOT. ūüôā

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Besides a few weeks of planning, this fence took five weeks of physical work to build, including demoing the old chain link fence. Here is a week-by-week task breakdown:

Week 1: Preparing the ground for the fence

Week 2: Concrete work – setting fence post

Week 3: Attaching bottom pickets

Week 4: Demoing the old chain links and a mid-project clean-up. Slav also finished attaching the top pickets during this week.

Week 5: Building Gates

The goal of this fence project is to replace the old chain link with cedar fence for both privacy and curb appeal:

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And here are the new fence we built in the place of old chain links:

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The north front fence¬†is the perfect backdrop for the front yard landscape we installed this summer. To accommodate the slope, we divided this 20 ft of fence in four panels and stepped down after each panel. We also made each panel 5′ wide so we would not end up with a short panel on one end.

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The new south front fence on the other side of the house is only 15 feet long. It consists of a 4-ft walk gate and a 10-ft drive gate:

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You might remember how much trouble we went into building these gates. Now we are fully rested, all the effort feels worth it. The choice of simple black hardware and the decision of having them hidden resulted in a perfect seamless look from the street.

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For finishing touches, Slav mounted address letters onto the new fence, which we have been holding onto since moving into the ranch, 17 months ago.

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The new south side fence is the longest stretch of this build – it is a little over 90 feet and also sits on a slope. Slav incorporated several step downs to keep the height under 6′.

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You may notice that the pattern of the side fence is a bit different. The side fence is constructed with only 1″ x 6″ picket, whereas the front fences have decorative details on the top.

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Slav did 90% of the work. Despite being his first fence DIY, Slav did a fabulous job. Don’t we all expect this though? He is a perfectionist and we all knew it. ūüôā

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As expected, the new cedar fence has been the biggest upgrade to our curb appeal. Here is what the north side yard looked like this Spring:

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And here is the same angle today. I loooooove how the color and the texture of cedar play with the evergreens, black mulch, and river rocks.

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This is what the south side yard looked from the street before:

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And today:

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The new front fences not only added privacy, but also enclosed two side yards which we can now access from the back. The northern side yard used to get lots of afternoon sun and had to irrigate. But now, with the 6′ cedar pickets to its west, this area is in shade and a lot cooler.

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Without the chain link running along the northern fence, we can finally landscape this area. It will be a great outdoor project next spring:

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We needed a “utility yard” for a long time and the new south side yard is just that. Behind the drive gates is the perfect spot for Slav’s trailer, and we are thrilled to keep the waste bins off the view from the street.

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With two dogs we always had a poop bucket outside. Someday I would like to have a beautiful porcelain planter just for that. But for now, a Lowe’s bucket with a¬†“bullshit corner” plate mounted above will do.#pitbullmom

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Here you have it, our new horizontal fence. As our first DIY fence, we are proud of ourselves for pulling it off in 5 weeks. Most importantly, we wrapped it up before the harsh winter set in. It is beautiful, it is sturdy, and it will become the perfect backdrop for more pretty things РI am talking about pergolas, climbing vines, and solar powered outdoor lighting. But we will save the fun for next Spring, because the mountain is calling!

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Front Yard Video Tour – A Year Long Transformation of Our Curb Appeal

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Thank you for all your kind support through our front yard overhaul. We could not be happier with the newly mulched flower bed in front of our house. It is such an improvement of our curb appeal, and many neighbors stopped by to tell us how much they love and appreciate what we did. ūüôā

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Adding curb appeal has been a goal of ours from day one. It is not just about changing the appearance, but also to improve the function. The unsightly are often not maintained, which means they do not perform well or even cause issues to the house.

When we moved into our ranch last summer, the front of our house looked like this:

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Immediately we could see three water issues: the flower bed right against the foundation, the sinking patio that directs rain water towards the house, and several rusty window wells failing to protect basement windows.

So, soon after we moved in, the foundation planting bed was removed. Last fall, we replaced old window wells, and graded around the foundation with drainage rocks.

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To address the sinking patio issue, we had to remove the front patio completely. The rusty awning went with it, which might be our biggest curb appeal improvement yet!

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Before winter hits, we also replaced the leaky roof and gutter, painted the soffit and fascia, and restored the front doors (1, 2, 3)

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All these actions not only made the house water-tight, but also improved its appearance from the street. We went into out first winter with the front of the house looking like this:

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And this is what the front entry looks like today. The glass storm door has been the pups’ favorite spot to look out:

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Not too shabby, especially when compared to the Before:

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This summer, we decided to give our front yard a large overhaul, consisting of the removal of >600 sqft turf, planting a privacy hedge, and adding a retaining wall and a dry creek.

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And today, our front yard look like this:

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Instead of this:

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We packed 64 perennials in this 600 sqft space during the last 6 weeks. It is nice to see all of them started taking roots and showing growth. Here is a short video walk-through of the garden area:

The mulched flower beds and evergreens not only improve the curb appeal, but also save irrigation water and are more inviting to native wild life. We want our house to be a safe haven not only for us and our two dogs, but also for native insects, birds, and small mammals that need a home they deserve.

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These arborvitaes were planted at the peak of the summer in 95 degree heat. They definitely struggled a bit during the first a few weeks. But most of them bounced back nicely and have put on an inch or more new growth.

The mock orange we planted last weekend:

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The winter berries were planted a month ago. They did not grow taller, but are definitely getting denser around the base.

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This dwarf pine was also planted in the middle of summer, but has been growing fiercely.

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This sandcherry was the last one planted, just five days ago. It is still recovering but I have high hopes for some delicious berries next Summer.

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Of course we had to have Colorado’s state grass – the Blue Grama grass – in our yard:

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And the Shenandoah switch grasses have already started coloring up for Fall. So pretty.

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These larkspur and bubblemint hyssop were planted last weekend. And guess what Рthey bloomed!

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More hyssop – they bloom red and have a more low-mount form.

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Isn’t this silver brocade sage gorgeous?

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Penstemon, butterfly weed, and sedums. Love the colors!

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So GORG:

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We also planted lots ground covers, including prairie winecups, creeping phlox, and veronica:

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To make the garden more inviting to wild life, we put in a bird feeders and bird bath. We also installed drip irrigation and a new hose reel to make watering easier.

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This area under the mailbox did not get as much attention this year, but the plants we put in have done very well.

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Here we have two rosemary plants, one lavender, a red hot poker, and a rose bush:

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Here is another short video in which I talk you though the additional upgrades in the front yard, including the under-the-mailbox planting:

I hope you enjoy to see our “new” front yard in these videos. They are filmed just yesterday so this is truly what our yard looks like now. We are proud of this little corner garden in the making, and hope you like it too. Please consider to start a pollinator garden, put out a bird feeder, or add a bee house too! I just learned that native pollinators feed up to three-story high, so even¬†you are living in an apartment, they can benefit from your flowers too!

Planting It Up!

After overhauling our front yard for months, it is finally planted!

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Landscaping the front yard was never on our 2018 to-do list. But summer rolled around and our front lawn started to look really, really bad. We booked a landscape consultation to get some ideas on how to rejuvenate the front yard, which led to the decision to replace 600-sqft of tuft with a perennial garden. Once we had the idea, we just couldn’t shake it off and had to put it in action right away.

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Following professional advice, we removed the turf of the northwest corner of our front yard and amended the soil. We also built a retaining wall and a dry creek to help to keep the topsoil and precious water in our yard. We are new to landscaping and needless to say, there was a lot uncertainty and self-doubt. Did we add enough compost? What about PH? Is the retaining wall tall enough? What curvature should the dry creek have? Which color of mulch looks the best? And most importantly, what plants should we get for the front yard?

The last question probably took the longest time to research. We wanted flowering perennials that look good but low-maintenance, pollinator friendly and diverse, strong yet xeriscape, and we want as many native and edible plants as possible. There is a high bar to meet.

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Fortunately, Colorado has a long tradition of urban permaculture¬†and lots of helpful resources. We have been attending water-wise seminars and visiting garden centers/exhibitions full of native plants. The “bee heaven” garden-in-a-box kit we have been growing since Spring boosted our confidence. And the free (!) landscaping consultation we received from Resource Central provided a long list of plants we could choose from in order to assemble a successful high country garden.

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Most of the plants arrived last Saturday and we got busy at planting.

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In total we packed 64 perennials into this 600 sqft space, including evergreens, large flowering shrubs, berry-bearing shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials, ground covers, and irises.

Six evergreens (North Pole Arborvitae) functions¬†as windbreakers along the north edge of the front yard. They should grow into a 10~15 feet tall privacy hedge between our yard and our neighbor’s driveway.

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In addition to the arborvitaes, we planted a dwarf mugo pine in the middle of the landscaping. I love the color and the low mount growing habit of this pine. Colorado has long winters and most of the trees in our yard are deciduous. We could always use more evergreens for winter interest.

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Speaking of winter interest, I want more color on top of evergreens. So we chose to plant 4 Berry Poppins (one being male). The three female shrubs should bear bright red berries next winter once they put on more growth, which not only look great against snow, but also provide food for hungry birds in winter.

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Another fruit-bearing shrub we planted here is a western native Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry. This shrub produces edible berries in summer which are delicious. It also has a mahogany-red foliage in the fall.

To create a mixed and soft-looking hedge, we planted a mock orange tree called “Snow White Sensation”¬†at the northwest corner of our yard. It should grow to be 6’~8′ tall and mask the street light pole behind. It will carry some height to the corner, provide some shade and privacy, without being too tall while being right next the sidewalk. It also has a softer look compared to the arborvitaes – it has multi-stems that arch gracefully and will bloom white flowers in Spring and early summer.

Mock orange, at the lower left corner:

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Little dog sign hopefully prohibits neighbor’s dogs to poop in our yard…

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I used 14 irises (white and purple) to align the dry creek, and ground covers along the retaining wall.

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On the slope, in between the house and the street, we planted xeriscape perennial grasses and flowers. These plants came from another garden-in-a-box kit called “Cool Connection” from Resource Central, which has a color palette of pink, white, purple, and burgundy which I adore. I am really happy with the quality of the plants from our last garden-in-a-box purchase, and I think the selection of native, drought-resistant plants really sets the garden for success. All the perennials included are either native to Colorado or have been shown to do well with little water in our weather.

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This is how the garden-in-a-box plants supposed to look like on their third year – with our experience with the Spring garden, I expect most of the plants to reach their mature sizes in their second summer!

Before we put down mulch, Slav and I put in drip irrigation for the entire garden bed. We divided the whole planting bed into two zones according to the water need Рone for the arborvitaes, and the other one for all the other perennials.

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We then put down 4″ of wood chips to cover every inch of the bare soil. (We get our mulch for free from our city park service), then top dressed the planting bed with¬†additional 1″ of black mulch. Slav and I both love the look of green plants again black mulch. However, we want to use as little dye as possible, even though it is advertised as a natural, non-toxic high quality dye . So top dressing is the best solution for us.

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With >4″ of mulch, we only need to water once a week to keep the soil damp and cool. Mulch also allows everything in this flower bed to naturalize and spread. We only used landscape fabric under the arborvitaes and at the bottom of the dry creek, since we do not want anything (else) to grow there.

Here is our finished flower bed. ūüôā

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Cherry on top, I made a fall wreath for the front door and Slav replaced the rusty and old hose hanger with a brand new Eley hose reel.

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Remember the sad before?

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And this is the happy “after” after we replace the¬†600-sqft of tired grass and weeds…

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We. Love. It!¬†We will be keeping an close eye on all the tiny plants and baby them over their first winter. I think it might be time for another video walkthrough of the yard, don’t you think?

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