Backyard Shame – The Grassless, Peeling Paint Edition

This winter was harsh, not only was it hard on us humans, but it also took a pretty big toll on the Storefront. You saw a sneak peek of my dirty little secret yesterday, but today I have even more shame to share.

This is our backyard:

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Look at all our beautiful grass…not.

Note the patch of dirt where a lawn should be. Our lawn isn’t much, at 250 square feet it’s paltry. However, it is a luxury in the middle of the city. We have room or Odin to run, and future kids to play. What we don’t have is grass. The poor lawn has had a rough start. Our first spring in the house saw us moving out, and the Holmes Crew coming in and renovating. As we are a house with no side access, all the materials had to come through the garage, and all the debris came out via the backyard. After the construction was over, the lawn was top dressed and seeded, and we had a good little bit of grass growing. That fall however saw a new four legged addition to our house, and he loves to run circles around the yard. As last summer ticked past, the grass started to falter, and by the time the snow melted this spring, you could count the number of grass blades on one hand.

Then comes the matter of the pathway. The previous owner must have laid the paving stones right onto the dirt. The path has sunk almost 6″ in spots, and now is the low spot in the backyard. Every time it rains, the water pools on the path, and with no grass to hold back the dirt on the lawn, we’re seeing a lot of it wash onto the path. The path is edged with wood, which also makes a little damn for the water to stay on the path and not drain.

Now if all that wasn’t enough, the beige exterior paint has seen better days. It is cracking and peeling at places. It’s starting to break down near the ground, and is showing signs of mold and mildew.

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Water stains, chipping paint, and rust. This paint has seen better days. (Oh and a spider web thrown in for good measure.)
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This corner of the house sees little sunshine, and water is taking its toll. The paint is failing, and mold & mildew are creeping in.

All in all, it’s a pretty big mess.

We were not planning any backyard projects this year, other than the standard gardening etc. However, I think we may have to prioritize the backyard before it gets worse.

Here’s our must do list:

  • Pull up path, pressure wash pavers, fill with stone, and re-lay the pavers. I know what you’re thinking, we don’t even like those paving stones! I know, I know, but it’s a ton of money to switch them, and that’s not in the budget right now. We were going to use those reclaimed bricks we have in the garage, but this winter saw pretty much all the brick paths in the city crumble. We don’t want that to happen to us. So until we have a couple thousand to drop on new paving stones, these will have to do. We will re-edge them with a proper edge, and re grade them to ensure proper runoff.
  • Next we will till and grade the lawn, add in some good new soil and fertilizer, and either sod or seed, and then overseed with clover. Clover is drought resistant, shade tolerant, and doesn’t turn yellow from dog “fertilization”. Fingers crossed that this works.
  • The house exterior will get cleaned, caulked, and a new coat of (not beige) paint. We may even have a little fun with adding a trim color etc.

Here’s our supply list and budget:

Pressure Washer (rent, borrow or buy)
Rototiller (rent, borrow or buy)
Muscles (borrow friends; pay with steaks & beer)

High Performance Bedding rock underlayment for walkway
Walkway edging
Top soil for lawn
Sod or grass seed
Clover seed
Deck wash
Exterior paint

Wish List Extras:
New exterior door knobs
New exterior lighting

BUDGET: $250 – $500 (*we would like to keep this as inexpensive as possible, so tool purchase is unlikely, and as is the sod.)

Now I need your help! Do you have experience with growing clover? Have you ever pressure washed or rototilled? Any good recommendations on exterior paint? I am interested in Behr Marquee (I love the Behr Premium Plus Ultra), but have yet to try the Marquee.

Author: Kristen

Kristen & her husband El Granto & their Vizsla Odin live in a converted Storefront in downtown Toronto.

11 thoughts on “Backyard Shame – The Grassless, Peeling Paint Edition”

  1. Using a pressure washer to clean concrete surfaces is real easy, not anything to worry about. If you use it on your house, be careful around the wood and trim. You can pressure wash the trim but start out with the wand about 12″ away. If you get too close it can cut into the wood.

    When you get ready to paint make sure it’s clean and there aren’t any stains. If so, you will need to to use a primer/sealer to keep it from bleeding through your paint.

    I’ve had some experience using a rototiller because I grew up on a farm and we had a huge garden. When you start it up and put it in gear, hold on because it is going to want get away from you. The rotary blades are turning and it is up to you to hold on to it so the blades can till up the soil. I hope you don’t have a lot rocks, it doesn’t look like it. They can really make it hard to hold on to the tiller.

    On the paving stones, after building up with the low area’s with a good base material, you can use sand as the final layer to make it easier to level out the pavers. Good luck, I’ll have to check back to see how it turns out. I’m sure it going to look awesome.

  2. I think this space has tons of potential! Can’t wait to see how you transform it! What popped into my mind as I was reading this was, after you pressure wash, why not do a concrete stain on the pavers? They do basement floors, why can’t these walkways be stained? Don’t know if you are into that, but I bet you could do something really cool. Not sure of the colour choices etc either but it may be much better than plain-Jane pavers until you can get your hands on your dream walkway. 🙂

  3. I love that you’re sharing your “befores” so honestly, Kristen! We had SUCH a huge backyard overhaul in our last house, and I know how daunting it can be. I’m sure you’ll create something spectacular back there. I can’t wait to see it!

    1. I think its only fair that you guys get to see the good, the bad and the ugly! 😉 What was your favorite thing you did to your backyard?

  4. I just seeded half our lawn (the half under the oak tree where grass won’t grow) with white clover this spring. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly and well it germinated, and I have high hopes for it filling in a bad area. It’s good for the bees, too, although we’ll have to mow it before our bee-phobic nephew visits!

  5. That back yard reminds me of the little yards in the St. Clair area where we had our first home. I can see it easily turning into a really charming space. What about keeping your eyes peeled for stone and other materials that someone might pull out of another backyard reno? We have given away stone in the past when we re-did some landscaping. The advantage of a smaller space is that you don’t need huge quantities. Maybe keep an eye on Craiglist free?

    1. St Clair west by any chance? We’re a bit south of St. Clair, but it does seem like the whole neighborhood has similar shaped lots & yards! Good Idea! I will keep my eye on free pavers. I keep meaning to check out the ReStore as well.

  6. Oh, and all my backyard lawns stayed green even during the hottest summers here Ontario because they were mainly ‘weeds’. My latest is crazy shaded, and my dog and the skunks make it holey, but the moss keeps it green. I think clover is a great choice!

  7. Sorry, no personal experience, but if I had to do it I’d wander over to the fabulous, sadly now defunct, She had stucco on the last house she bought, and she did ALL the work herself on the facade and windows. She SCRAPED mostly, if i remember right. Worth checking out. So stoked to follow your progress 🙂

    1. I’ll check out the blog now! Thanks for the suggestion. It seems like the whole exterior has went to crap in the last year. I swear last fall, it wasn’t half this bad! (Well it was still ugly beige, but at least it wasn’t falling apart!)

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