Yard / Process

Despite its dated look, there are several things that attracted us to our house. Primarily, the house is situated on a 5300 SF lot (above average by Seattle standards), which means a good sized backyard and room for a detached garage and carport. Storage and parking are at a premium in the city and we were thrilled to find a house with both. On the other hand, the outside was in need of some major tlc. For example, the planting strip between the sidewalk and street had been paved at one point. The fence on the north side was relatively new, but the old white picket fence was barely standing on the south side. We also didn’t have much in the way of landscaping. There was one italian plum tree in the backyard and few other scraggly plants that we eventually removed. The front yard was grass with some sad looking shrubs at the top of the retaining wall.

About 6 months after we moved in, we started to tackle a few of the smaller outside projects, mainly in an effort to spruce things up while we figured out the big picture design goals. In 2008, we rebuilt the fence and gate on the north side of the house.  2009 brought a major exterior overhaul that made all of our neighbors happy. In 2011, we got crazy and dug up our front yard to waterproof the foundation and add proper drainage. 2012 brought the (long-awaited) end of the bare yard when we bit the bullet and acquired some proper landscaping.

February 2007

For functional and aesthetic reasons, the big swing gate separating the back and front yard had to go.


Old gate and soon to be new gate. We posted the old gate on Craigslist and someone picked it up to use as a deer fence!


Kyle built the gate out of cedar 1×2’s attached to a pressure treated frame.


Here, Kyle is filling the post holes with concrete for the short wall section that spans between the gate and wall of the house.


The completed gate, such an improvement!


Removing the buried oil tank was one thing we could not do ourselves! Sometimes old tanks are drained and filled with an inert substance, but we decided to play it safe and just have the whole thing removed.


The company we chose to go with also donates leftover heating oil to low-income families.

March + April 2007

Next on the list was to yank the 50’s-fantastic shrubs. After a little creative thinking, we devised a pretty effective removal system.


Shrub + chain + car…


…equals uprooted shrub. Unfortunately, this technique only worked for the plants closest to the driveway. The others required the sawz’all.


Unfortunately, Seattle Waste Management did not see this as an acceptable amount of weekly yard waste, so it went to the “clean green” section at the dump.


Same house, no shrubs. We’re not quite sure what the overall landscaping plan will be yet. 

May + June 2007

Our concrete planting strip was driving us crazy so one weekend we rented a jackhammer and went to town.


Getting it started was a challenge, but once the first chunk was broken up it went faster (though you may not get that impression from Kyle’s body language)!


Ahh…marital bliss at its finest!


After we were done, we stacked the bigger chunks along the sidewalk and slapped a “FREE” sign on top. We also posted an ad on Craigslist. Within a couple days, all the concrete was GONE! We couldn’t believe it, but were thrilled that we didn’t have to take it to the dump or Pacific Top Soil, where the fee is based on weight!


The next step was to rototill the dirt in the planting strip to aerate it. Since we had the rototill for the whole day, we decided that the front yard could use a little work too.


Kyle is trying to decide what to rototill next!


We purchased two dogwood trees for the planting strip.


After we eliminated most of the plant life, we covered the dirt with filter fabric to keep weeds at bay and primed the concrete retaining wall.


We had never really lived anywhere where we could have our garden space, so our first spring in our house we built a raised veggie bed. We decided to locate the bed in the narrow strip between the driveway and the fence in the backyard. This area is wide enough for plants and gets full southern sun. First we laid filter fabric over the dirt, then built an enclosure out of Trex decking that we bought on sale.


Next, we filled the bed with “gardener’s delight” soil. Bailey felt like the soil needed to be tamped down a bit.


There’s probably little that’s more appealing to a dog than a big container of fresh organic dirt.


We decided to paint the retaining wall a neutral brown and installed pavers connecting the street to the sidewalk and then the driveway to the main entry walk.


Bailey is happy with the results, but perhaps more happy that he found a pine cone to play with.


Here is an official “before” shot of the backyard fence. One weekend, Bailey actually escaped through a section with a missing picket. Fortunately, some of our neighbors spotted him running down the street.

March + April 2008

In the spring of 2008, we decided it was time for a new fence.


The price of cedar had come down and Kyle found a good resource in Tacoma, so he and Orange Crush made the journey down to pick up everything we would need.


On the back wall, we had the advantage of using the existing structure from our neighbor’s fence. In an effort to make the backyard feel bigger, we decided to install the boards horizontally. The “trellis” at the top adds a bit of extra privacy and follows the “openness” requirements for city of Seattle fences.


Not surprisingly, the old fence came down easily. Our neighbor, Chris, helped us out.


Unfortunately, the old fence did not do well on Craigslist and had to go to the dump.


The difficult thing about building a fence is ensuring that is is level in two directions before you pour the concrete for the footings.


After the posts were set, Kyle went to town installing the 1×6 cedar boards.


Want to see more on the front yard? Make yourself comfortable!

Yard / Before
Yard / After