Mission accomplished! Operation: Garden Party was a complete and utter success, as we hosted our very first back yard gathering this weekend with my family. The past two weekends have been grueling, with almost every daylight hour devoted to yard work. Photos below, but I wanted to give a big THANK YOU at the top of this entry to everyone who helped out with all these projects. FfEspecially January's dad and step-mother, Rex and Shirlene, without whom this project would have taken twice as long and been done half as well.
First up, the most ambitious part of the project: the back patio. Last I mentioned it, the back half of our yard looked a little like this:
After digging down 5" in a 15' x 8' area, we were ready to start building the patio. We laid down a 3" bed of crushed limestone and smoothed it as best we could. Our original plan was to place the patio stones directly on the limestone, but we quickly realized that the large rocks weren't going to provide a very stable base for the stones. Rex and Shirlene went out for leveling stand while my dad and I did our best to tamp down the limestone by hand.
Once we got the leveling sand, we started the painstaking effort in laying down the patio stones. It's not as simple as spacing them; You have to pay attention to the overall direction they're going, making sure the seams line up so it will look good, plus you need to keep a close eye on the overall direction the patio will slope. If you don't, you'll end up with giant pools of water every time it rains. We tried to design the patio so it sloped toward the back corner of the yard, where the excess water would go to the surrounding garden.
All told, the process of spreading out the limestone and placing the stones took just about 9 hours. To make sure the stones stayed put, I spent the next week sweeping playground stand across the entire patio, filling in the cracks between the stones, and wetting it down so it would settle. Add in a couple of lavender plants, mulch, a used fire pit from Criagslist, and patio furniture courtesy of IKEA and local garage sales, and the patio project was finally complete!
Finally, we got our square foot gardening boxes all filled in and ready for growing. I'll give you some updates and a rundown on what we're growing a little later on, but a quick picture for now:
As you can see, the lawn filled in fairly well where we put the patch seed, but there are still a few bare spots that need to be filled in, and the back yard will be perfect!
This past weekend was also devoted to getting the front yard back in shape after getting our water line replaced several weeks ago. Once again, Rex and Shirlene came to our rescue with their roto-tiller and turned what would have been an all-weekend job into a 6 hour job. Behold, our front yard, completely redone and covered in grass seed!
So, after a little over a month, we're about 95% done with our big yard projects, and it feels pretty great. It was a ton of work, but it was absolutely worth it for all the fun we're going to be able to have out in our yard now. Hopefully we'll be able to do the little work required to maintain it in the future, rather than lose whole weekends like this again.