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Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

Posted by three_daisies (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 11:43

This mud and zero curb appeal is the reason we're finally turning to a professional landscaper. We have muddy runoff likely because our grass is sparse and unhealthy. Our house is on a slope and lower than the street. The ground seems to drain fine (not spongey) so it seems to be just surface water issues. That's #1 priority, then we'd like to re-sod the yard and neaten everything up. A new walk and recovering the existing stoop would be great, but not sure it's in the budget.

I will post more photos in subsequent posts but don't know how to get more than one photo per post, sorry.

I have talked to 3 companies so far. One landscape designer wants to regrade and put fill dirt in the area between the walk and the windows, in the curve of the walk. Another two landscapers want to put a 100lf French drain underground along the house. I hear French drains are not only expensive, but might cause problems we're not currently having (I have scoured the forums for drain advice). As a side note, we are not having any water issues in our basement which is right under the front windows.

We also have grass that will not grow under our large oak tree (near the walk), and a tree swing that's not negotiable due to the amount of joy it provides my kids.

Our main goal with a budget of $10K max is to have the yard not look so jarringly awful and to not have mud. I don't need fancy plants. All suggestions, comments would be welcome. I don't know which landscaper to trust and what's most appropriate.

Follow-Up Postings:

Front view of house

Front of the house, yard slopes down towards house. There are dying old azaleas along the front which are not lovely.

Oak tree, swing and driveway area

Grass (was fescue) struggles under the shade of our oak tree, lack of which contributes to the mud runoff and debris along most of the stretch of the narrow walk.

Again, any ideas/help on the drainage issue would be much appreciated, and any ideas on helping the aesthetics of the yard as well - factoring in the kids' swing traffic - would be great too.

RE: Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

French drains are usually not the way to go to improve drainage (if indeed it's a problem ... and it sounds like here it may not be.) It is normal for grass NOT to grow under trees that produce a fair amount of shade. Putting new grass in such locations will not solve the problem. Sometimes, limbing up the tree to allow light to enter below the lowest branches is a workable solution, but it depends on factors around the tree as well as with the tree itself. It's hard to advice you as the pictures you show do not include a wide-shot view of the front yard. I'd suggest backing up farther until you can get in the whole house and some flanking space. Try to get a sharp picture with good lighting and post a large enough rendition of it. You can't post more than one pic at a time with the Gardenweb photo system. But if you upload the pics to a photo-hosting site, obtain their (each) html code and paste it in your message, you can include many pics in a single post.

RE: Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 15:34

I would take the problem to an engineer to address grades. Putting soil up against the house is not a good response. Regrading so a low point is away from the house, perhaps on the outer side of your paved path, combined with a plan for where the water should go using channels or drains will eliminate the mud problem.

I agree it will be difficult to get sod to grow in the shade, debris, root competition, and activity under the trees. Not a criticism, just an acceptance of the realities present. You'll need some kind of aggressive and tough grass to thrive under those conditions. It's hard to tell, but maybe a continuous program of intensive grooming and conditioning of the existing grass will encourage denser growth.

RE: Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

When we bought our RI house, a former summer rental cottage lower than the road, grass erosion was a major problem. We brought in soil and rocks and made a berm along the frontage line, to catch the rainwater into a flower bed, a friendlier look than big bare patches, and a little bit of privacy for the front of the house.

What's wrong with the azaleas? They usually like partial shade. Maybe worth saving?


RE: Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

Thanks, all. Yardvaark, I'll post a wider view of the house with better resolution.

Catkim, I have accepted that the grass won't grow in certain areas; we've tried for 9 years. The oak has only gotten bigger. But for the areas of the yard that do get enough light, I think we will be replacing the sod and starting over (then nurturing it). We're in the Atlanta area so it'll either be fescue or zoysia.

Carol, there are some boxwood that definitely will be salvaged, but under the garage windows there are some bare azaleas that seem like they're dying. My photo turned out grainier than expected so I think that's hard to see.

I feel like I've been researching and interviewing landscapers for months now and surprised at how many issues come into play! I thought this would be an easy hire-somebody-and-get-it-done project.

RE: Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

When you take the new pictures, we just need to see wide even if it's in pieces. It doesn't matter if it's panned and broken into overlapping pictures.

Don't know if anyone has mentioned the sunken front walk and giant step, but that's something that should be taken care of at the start of your project.

"...I've been researching and interviewing landscapers for months now and surprised at how many issues come into play!" While the lines in real life can be fuzzy, a difference between landscapERS and landscape DESIGNERS, is that the former are the muscles who build the project. The latter are the brains who think through what the muscles will be doing. (Sometimes these skills are combined in varying degrees.) One can run into problems when one talks to the muscles about what work should be done. It's a bit "hit or miss" as to whether you'll get a muscle with sophisticated enough thinking talent. It would be better to begin with a landscape designer.

RE: Muddy eyesore yard and confusing recommendations

Hope you'll not rush into making a choice. I'm trying to find a contractor for a project here in Sugar Hill, GA and have been shocked at the lack of knowledge some of them have. Catkim is correct in her statement about not placing soil by your foundation.

A DIY first step could be to kill grass, establish some nice lines around the oak and put in wood mulch.....should say a lot of mulch. That would define the area. It would also lessen the runoff towards the home.


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