One of the perks of living in the basement of a home in a residential neighborhood is that we get to share a good-sized yard with our upstairs neighbors. This also means that we have a yard to care for, which is something I’ve never done before. Growing up, I couldn’t care less about gardening or mowing the lawn, and I positively hated weeding.
Here, though, I find that I’ve developed an enjoyment of working with my hands to make the yard more beautiful, or at least, less ugly. See, when we moved in, the yard had been badly neglected. The upstairs neighbors at that time (the current ones moved in three months later) were getting discounted rent to “take care of the yard,” which meant that they mowed the lawn every three weeks whether it needed it or not. Every single flower bed was a mess of three-foot-tall weeds (sometimes taller), every bush or rosebush was wild and overgrown, the lawn was full of crabgrass and morning glory, the “sandbox” in one corner of the back yard was unidentifiable as such because it too was full of weeds, paint was peeling on the columns on the front porch and on the mailbox, and not a single pretty thing was growing, unless you count the roses that were occasionally peeking through weeds. I longed to attack the weeds, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d be stepping on toes since they were the ones getting the rent break, and I didn’t know them very well.
I started by weeding the flower beds at the back of the house, where the entrance to our apartment is. I figured that was probably okay. I also weeded the sandbox so that Lego could play in it. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the sand had been full of weeds for so long that it was very dirty and full of bits of plant matter, that it was horribly infested with ants, and that cats used it as a litterbox on a regular basis.
When our current neighbors moved in, it took them less than a week to weed the main flowerbed at the front of the house. I soon got to know them, and we worked together almost every day, weeding, pruning, mowing, spraying, watering, sanding, painting, sweeping, raking, whatever. We dug up all the gross sand and replaced it with garden soil, and planted a garden in it. This year we even got permission from our landlord to double the garden’s size (it was pretty small), which involved digging up grass. I have come in many a night sore from a hard day’s work—and loved it. While we work, the boys (our two and their three) play together. One or two adults will watch the kids while one or two work.
I am happy to report that the columns and mailbox look much better. The flowerbeds are usually weed-free, or as much as can be expected. I find myself wishing for mulch, though, because it’s almost a constant battle. The lawn is still full of weeds, though I hope the weed killer I sprayed on it today will start killing the morning glory. (Does anything actually kill morning glory for good? It is the bane of my existence.) The garden is thriving, and pumpkin plants are growing and even flowering in a strip of the leftover sand from the sandbox. Every rosebush now looks like a rosebush, and each is blooming beautifully, with the exception of one that may not be retrievable. The bushes are nicely pruned. The grass is mowed regularly (I can’t take credit for that, since the upstairs neighbors do it).
I’m still fighting the weeds in our gravel driveway, though. See, the gravel is on top of a weed blanket of some sort that is utterly ineffective. In fact, in early spring, the grass coming up through the gravel looked greener and lusher than what was growing in our lawn. When I finally sprayed, it took about three weeks for the weeds to look dead, and after that, they just looked like tall, dead weeds. Today I raked them all up and pulled about 40 thistles that were growing despite having been sprayed. It looks a lot better, but I am realizing that gravel = bad news.
Overall, I’m really glad to have had this opportunity to take care of a yard before becoming a homeowner. Now I know how much work it takes, for one thing. I also know that, if I can avoid it, I will never own a home with gravel anywhere. I also know how important constant upkeep is if you don’t want to spend hours and hours weeding because years of not doing it have thoroughly seeded your flowerbeds with all sorts of nasty stuff. I’ve learned how to prune rosebushes and other shrubs, and I’ve learned what to do with a garden. With time, I think I could actually develop a true green thumb.