Landscaping for Victorian with small lawn. Need Help!

new_homeowner1August 19, 2014

What should I do with my tiny crab grass lawn? I had a landscaper come by yesterday for some quotes. He said $1400 to re-sod and $600 to cover with mulch.

If I have him mulch over the lawn, what kind of design should he use? Should it be flat? Is my front yard large enough to add mounds to create some height?

Thanks!

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lazy_gardens

Forget lawn ... it's too tiny. Make it a small, slightly formal pair of parterre beds to go with the French Mansard roof.

Look up "Parterre" on Google images ... adapt to your size, but that's what I am thinking of ... bordered and formal.

For interest ... widen the walkway to be as wide as the pair of doors. If you remove that overgrowing grass you may find the walkway is quite a bit wider. You can bust it out and replace it, OR

A pair of **small**l flowering trees or Japanese Maple for fall color ... if they won't block view as you back out of the parking space. If vision is a problem, skip the trees and use a few flowering bushes that will stay low.

Do your garden planning this year ... concentrate on the MUST fix things like roof, insulation, interior repairs, interior paint.

THIS LATE SUMMER or early fall:

Increase the shrub border near the house ... plant some taller ones and plant some lower ones further away.

Cover the area of the shrub border with several layers of newspaper and mulch it thickly to suppress weeds.

In the center of the lawn area, plant your small trees so they can be growing as you work on other things.

Cover the remaining area with a several layers of newspaper or cardboard and mulch thickly ... the grass will die under there and so will the weeds.

NEXT SPRING QUICK FIX:

Add a Border of a fast-growing annual you can start from seed. , like alyssum, up the walkway and maybe along the sidewalk. Replace this with perennials after you do the walkway.

Plant some flowering spreading plants as a short-term groundcover in the old lawn area - just dig through the mulch and newspaper to make small holes. I have no clue what might grow in MA ... maybe spreading thyme?

AS TIME AND MONEY ALLOWS:

Widen the walkway if needed
Add more perennials and flowering shrubs to the middles

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:53AM
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lazy_gardens

NOTE: You can do everything yourself EXCEPT widen the walkway ... save a bundle of money and have total control about how it's done.

And ... consider adding a "landing pad" where the driver of that van steps out so they don't trample your flowers.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:58AM
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duluthinbloomz4

The walkway would widen itself by edging it - cutting back the weeds/grass that are overgrowing it. Crabgrass dies every fall then the seeds in the soil sprout in the spring. Checking for timing and ground temps in the spring then applying a pre-emergent would likely get you started on eliminating crabgrass. Simpler yet, in a small area, I might hand dig crabgrass and not worry about timing and soil temps for pre-emergents and weed & feed products. Hand cast some alfalfa meal pellets in the spring and fall - a 50# bag (@ $12 from your local feed & grain store would last you years.

Some more effective foundation planting would go pretty far too - like a smaller hydrangea variety on both sides of the stoop. (which do so well in Massachusetts and would be in keeping with the house style). Potentilla fruticosa is a no care shrub and blooms all season until frost - the "Pink Beauty" variety is a nice one and would go well with the house color.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:55AM
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yardvaark

I would go farther on widening the walk, bringing it to the full width of the steps. But I wouldn't line the edges of it with any additional planting. Would also widen the drive a little. I like the idea of lawn. It looks humped up now, so I'd flatten it out. Definitely would not create anything like berms in this small space. A groundcover that is very low and could be walked on would be fine, too, as an alternative to grass. Some small shrubs that form a hedge below the bay windows, wrapping the window footprint would be good ... like Duluth's suggestion of Potentilla. And then, seasonal color flanking the steps would cheer the picture up some. I think the yard needs trees but that they should be farther left and right, instead of directly in front of the house. But I think that might put them in the neighbor's yard. If there are trees in front of the house, I think they should be tall enough to frame the view instead of blocking it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:51AM
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birdlvr66

Could someone show what this yard would look like with shrubs covering most of the lawn? We are planning to redo the very small front yard of our two story rental property. We're thinking of mostly evergreens and some blooming plants that will look good with the house's yellow siding. The house is on a corner lot, but the side yard is also very small. We like the idea of ground cover instead of grass. Another possibility we have considered is planting a crepe myrtle on each side of the front yard. The yard is wide enough that the trees would not be directly in front of the windows. All ideas are much appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:43PM
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yardvaark

"Could someone show what this yard would look like with shrubs covering most of the lawn?" Someone may be able to do it, but not I. The only shrubs I could imagine that way would be low spreading ones that form groundcover, barely taller than the lawn ... in which case I would just imagine the "lawn" being slightly higher. I can't imagine shrubs that are higher than 12" and think that would be excessive. If you didn't widen the walk, it would be oppressive. Then, in such a small space with the drive so close, they would be subject to probable damage. Doesn't seem like it would satisfy the durability requirements.

Groundcover is great, but there is a maintenance curve attached to it. Many people fail to see it through to the point where weeds are not a serious threat. When that's the case, a mowed lawn is much preferred.

It becomes confusing if you talk about issues for another piece of property in this thread. It would be better to start a new thread for each separate project.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 4:58PM
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lazy_gardens

ADDING: "For interest ... widen the walkway to be as wide as the pair of doors. If you remove that overgrowing grass you may find the walkway is quite a bit wider. You can bust it out and replace it, OR "

Finishing the thought ... you could edge it with brick or stone if you want to.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 5:17PM
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Fori is not pleased

Do you have both sides of the house? Or just half the lawn? Is it (was it) a duplex?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 5:23PM
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new_homeowner1

Yes, we own both sides of the duplex. We will live on one side and rent the other.

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm not sure how I feel about widening the sidewalk. I like how the picture looks above, but widening the sidewalk would entail more work which we would want to reserve for later in the season. We're looking for a temporary "quick fix" so I can start showing the place to prospective tenants.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:14PM
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dekeoboe(7B NC)

I'm not sure how I feel about widening the sidewalk. I like how the picture looks above, but widening the sidewalk would entail more work which we would want to reserve for later in the season. We're looking for a temporary "quick fix" so I can start showing the place to prospective tenants.

But it looks like the front walk was the size of the stairs and all that needs to be done to make it that wide again is to remove the grass that has been allowed to grow on top of the concrete. That seems like a pretty "quick fix" to me. Keep it maintained by edging it every now and then until you complete the redesign later on.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:00PM
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new_homeowner1

Oh. I didn't know that grass could grow so far over concrete!

I'm going to go out and buy a trimmer or edger today.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:48AM
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yardvaark

it looks like earth has been mounded up in front of the house, spilled over the walk and grass grown on it and beyond. I don't think an edger is going to expose what's underneath near as well as a shovel would.

Sometimes pictures can be deceiving. If the soil has been bermed up -- which doesn't seem like a good solution for such a small yard -- it would be best to fix the grade before doing anything else. It could not be fixed after planting without destroying or disturbing the plants. If you just fixed the grade and put in new sod, it would surely look good enough to show to prospective tenants.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:54AM
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new_homeowner1

Why do you think it's mounded up?

Would it be a mistake if I tried to flatten it? I hate how it looks, but I'm wondering if the mound serves a purpose (water drainage, hide gas/electrical/dead bodies, etc)

A landscaper came by yesterday and said he could clean up and mulch the entire front yard for $600...good deal?

This post was edited by new_homeowner1 on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 10:40

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:30AM
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new_homeowner1

What do you think of something like this?

Do stepping stones need to be installed properly? Can I just dig a holes in the ground and put rocks on top? Temporarily, of course, so I can get the other side rented. I would fix it later when I have an actual well-thought-out landscape design to work from.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:38AM
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yardvaark

Personally, I don't like so much dirt/mulch showing unless it's a vegetable garden. While you can do something similar if that's to your taste, I think it would be more difficult to pull off in your much smaller space. (You don't have the room for much variety.) You might place a mixture of right-height plantings close to the house (where I showed a small hedge,) make it deeper (front to back) and then put low, lawn-like plantings without a lot of mulch between (when grown) at the front. If it were me, I'd put steppables because it's going to get walked on.

One thing to note in the new picture is that the stepping stones are quite large. I notice that most people put in stones that are 1/4 that size ... automatically making it look much cheesier.

Why do I think the soil is mounded up? Because someone saw berming done somewhere else, liked it, and copied it ... though their yard wasn't really appropriate for installing that kind of solution. For such a small space, it should be a "floor" ... not a floor full of things.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 11:43AM
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new_homeowner1

If I decide to "flatten" my yard, do you think I should construct one or two "hills" or mounds (with some large round rocks or small shrubs/trees) to create some interest?

What about placing two 8-foot long wooden planter boxes in the front near the street to create a little border/fence? If you're viewing the yard from the street, the raised planter boxes would also block your view of the middle portion of the yard, in case it happens that I have too much dirt/mulch showing.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:45PM
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emmarene

Even if the only change you make would be to open up that path where it is hidden by grass and soil it would be remarkably better. You should do that first. Plan the rest later.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:08PM
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new_homeowner1

The lawn in the new picture isn't as large as it appears...

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:18PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

first ...

do NOT widen the sidewalk... it will look like another driveway ...

second ... i am not sure this has been asked ... and i guide you to the opposite season you are talking about ...

where will you pile snow in winter ... if you put in a bunch of foo foo plants ... that cant cope with being buried under 5 feet of shoveled snow ... it does snow in MA... doesnt it???

with the sidewalks ... front and doorway .... and the driveways... where exactly will you pile 5 feet of snow ..

any chance you have a winter pic of the same area???

that would really answer.. what your options are.. with this space... beyond grass ...

i am slightly amused by these peeps .. from z8 and 9 .... when i think of a cold white winter .. and what is an option under 5 feet of dirty.. salt encrusted snow ... [and dont get me wrong.. i think they have some great ideas ... ]

its just the i lived in MI my whole life.. and i dont plant anything but grass.. for at least 4 feet on every side of pavement ... we have to do something with the snow.. if we plan on getting in and out of the house and driveway .... in jan/feb/march .. [and last winter.. late oct/nov/dec/jan/feb/march/april. crikey last winter just wouldnt go away ...]

think year around to conceptualize the space you have ....

and good luck

ken

ps: for 600 bucks.. i might drive to MA and do the job ...

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:24PM
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new_homeowner1

This is what I meant with the box:


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:26PM
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yardvaark

New_homeowner ... Emmarene's advice seemed like a good starting point. I don't know how we can look at the same picture and see such different things. For me, the Victorian is ultra-refined, highly detailed and finished. But the raised timber planters look something one would find behind a weathered barn on an old farmstead. You have a direction that you clearly want to go. I would just do it and observe things over time.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:20PM
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lazy_gardens

We're looking for a temporary "quick fix" so I can start showing the place to prospective tenants.

Tenants are much more concerned about insides than outsides, and I don't think MA has a rental surplus.

Just clean the rental side until is SQUEAKS, fix anything that leaks or wobbles, paint it a nice neutral color, and list it. Let them know that the exterior is an ongoing project. Get that income COMING!

From my experience as a landlord, there are TWO hot weekends: The first one in the month, when people have given or received 30-day notice and the last weekend of the month when they are desperate to find something and those that are deciding whether to give notice are checking out the possibilities.

I'd toss it on the market and start painting ... show it, dropcloths and all.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:10AM
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