bungalow versus backyard year iii: grand ambitions

it’s hard to believe — especially if you use our backyard as a guide — that this is our third spring in the bungalow. granted, the first spring (2011) we were still operating under the idea that we were going to add a second storey that coming fall, so there was no point planting anything, or doing much more than simply observing the yard, going for walks around its perimeter, marveling that it was ours, and sidestepping dog crap while doing so.

spring 2011
spring 2011

last spring, armed with the knowledge that we were going to nix the second storey addition in favour of a more affordable basement renovation in the near future, we got to work on the yard.

yard_5
spring 2012

right away, too. mid-april we were back there, plotting, planning, and digging (must’ve been warmer last year). we did a lot of work without it looking like anything was getting done. there were trees to take down, shrubs to transplant, a shed to dismantle, and bricks to dig up. the chainlink fence along the back of our lot was replaced with a wood one. hours and weekends of sweat and labour, and nothing all that encouraging to show for it.

but, close to the end of the summer, things started to come together. my dad helped install a gas line for the barbeque my parents’ bought us for christmas 2011 and then my dad installed a central air conditioner a few weeks later (an “early christmas” 2012 gift). in august, my dad and pierre built a cement pad in the spot our shed used to be. two guys from duroshed came and built us a carriage house to replace our aluminum shanty. we put rocks and mulch down around our maple tree and at the back of our property. i planted a sand cherry tree! and painted our new shed. then, the piece de resistance: a lattice fence dividing our property from our neighbours’, which has kept their beagle at bay for the past five months. we’re so excited to properly enjoy a crap-free yard this summer.

fall 2012
fall 2012
fall 2012
fall 2012

toronto ice storm warnings and crazy fluctuating temperatures or not, spring 2013 is here and, with the main floor of our house recently finished-ish, i can’t wait to continue our assault on the backyard. in no particular order, here is our super ambitious outdoor to-do list:

  • plant shade-loving perennials in the shadows of the shrub and tree to hide the chicken wire and lattice concoction (known as “the beagle barrier”)
  • get some fruits, vegetables, and herbs into pots that can be moved around to follow the sun — i’ve had good luck with strawberries, basil, oregano, and parsley in the past, and our thyme and chives have come back robustly
  • sweep out the shed, plant annuals in the shed’s window boxes, and touch up any spots that need it with paint
  • plant tall grasses and climbing vines along the side of our property that is still fenced with chainlink
  • create a stone pathway in the laneway next to our house using 8″ x 8″ pavers
  • level and put pavers down under our kissing gate
  • clean up the narrow strip of land between our house and our eastern neighbours’ garage, put down landscaping fabric, and fill the space with river rock
  • define a garden bed along the chainlink and plant native flowers — the garden market at the evergreen brick works is a great, albeit expensive, place to buy plants native to the don valley
  • carve out, level, and tamp the land for a gravel pathway leading from our barbeque pad to the back of our lot
  • create a level, tamped, gravel seating area at the back of our yard for a dining area
  • sand, clean, and stain a teak bench, dining table, and set of 5 chairs that my dad bought off a friend for $300 and gave to pierre for his birthday
  • deal with a possible grub situation and aerate, fertilize, and seed our lawn and laneway
  • install a holder for our garden hose at the side of our house

…but before i can do any of that stuff, i need to spend a solid amount of time back there with some gloves, a rake, and a leaf bag (or ten). after filling a dozen bags in november, i raked the rest of the leaves from our big-ass maple tree into our beds, thinking they’d insulate and nourish the soil and the few plants we have put in over the winter. well, that’s what i told myself so that i wouldn’t have to bag any more leaves. now, those plants, an ambitious daylily in particular, are trying to poke through the inch-thick layer of leaves i tucked them in under last fall, and i’m hoping to get my hands dirty this weekend.

bbq_1here’s some more evidence of last year’s hard work. i want to continue the beach rock along the side of the house — good for drainage and it’s a jungle back there come july. more importantly, is this not the biggest tree trunk you’ve ever seen in a city yard? now, imagine the leaves.

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