Friday, May 10, 2013

Just Shake it like a Dead Rat.

"Just shake it like it's a dead rat!"

Those were the words my mother was yelling at me the whole time we turned a dead patch into a flower bed.

Why that is the first thing that came to her mind, I don't know. I don't question.

This is the same woman who instilled such phrases in me as;

"It's colder than a bear's butt in a snow bank!" and,
"Slick as snot" (or the long version) "Slick as snot on a doorknob"

The woman says weird things. I don't know, I go with it, and when I pull one of those out on Nate he just laughs at me and says, "Okay, CQ" (by the way, we call my mom CQ)

So, CQ was visiting and helping me revamp my front yard and about twenty minutes before she was about to leave, I looked at her and said, "Do you think that could be a flower bed?"

And she said, "Do I think...jeeze oh pete's...get in the car."

And just like that...this happened.

Our house is equipped with this odd shaped patch of grass between the driveway and the sidewalk. I don't know if it is something to do with code that you have to have a separate walkway and driveway, but that's the way it is. The person before us had planted some grass there, and even though it wasn't offensive it wasn't pretty.

I like pretty.

A logical person would have gone and rented a rototiller, but...I didn't feel like dropping the rental money so I had the brilliant idea to nearly kill myself by doing this by hand.

That's right. I murdered that damn thing with my bare garden gloved hands.

The trick with grass is that it has to be pulled out. For something my dogs can kill so easily it certainly is a bitch to get out. This was especially true since we discovered in this process the soil was infested with grubs (bad for grass and soil okay!) and was compacted to dust. We did find a few worms so we knew there was hope and the Robins appreciated all the grubs I was throwing onto the driveway for them.

To make your own garden bed from scratch you will need:

-A shovel
-Lots of land waste bags
-About 6 large diet cokes and copious amounts of water
-Bubble Bath
-Peat Moss (ours was premium Canadian with fertilizer mixed in. In our delirious state by the end we were calling it Wolverine Moss because obviously Wolverine is from Canada and he's as premium as you can get- he is full of adamantium after all...)
-Stuff to plant

Note: The bubble bath is because your back will wish that you were dead after doing this by hand. But hey, what's owning a house without a little bit of sweat equity?

Remember, we started the day looking like this. Well...without the dug up bits at the top. I realized after I started that I should probably be taking pictures.

We had a system. I went through with my shovel and chopped up sections of the lawn about 6 inches deep. Make sure you get it completely out of the ground.

While I was ripping the lawn up, my mom was going through with her hoe chopping up the clumps trying to get the soil separated from the grass roots. Then, by hand, we'd go through each clump of grass and "shake it like a dead rat" and throw the remaining clump of grass into the yard waste bags. The soil would also be broken up by hand just to make it more aerated. Some clumps are okay, but nothing ridiculous.

Whatever you do- do not water this thinking it will be easier! You'll just be working with mud!!!

This process continued the whole length of the bed.

Shovel, shovel, shovel...

Hoe, hoe, hoe, dead rat, dead rat, grub throw... Until we were left with this.

It was this point that we spread that premium Pete Moss into the soil, just for some extra oomph since some of the soil wasn't salvageable. The good news is that since your soil will be so fluffy and aerated, don't be afraid to throw soil in the yard bags that is completely dead (i:e, clay, dust, or just nasty looking shit)

After we raked in the Peat Moss, we planted ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTY FOUR impatients.

I know. It sounds amazing, but it was really only 4 flats and about $50 worth of flowers.

But just in case you wonder what we were calling these 144 impatients while we were delirious and exhausted:

"That is a metric fuckton of impatients" (not my mother. she laughed when we said it, but I was told not to give the impression that she said it)

"Damn, why did we get so many impatients?"

"I feel like we need more impatients" 

"Jesus Christ, more impatients"

"Who the hell's idea was it to get all these impatients?"

"Why doesn't someone go buy more impatients?"

"This is literally a gross amount of impatients" 


It was worth it though. And I actually think we could have gotten more impatients. They'll be about bread plate size, but damn, they're sexy.

We did a mix of red, orange and white impatients and topped it off with red mulch.

As much of a pain in the ass as this was, it has made a huge impact on the front of our house and it has motivated our neighbors to work on their yards. Our neighborhood is getting quite the case of "Keeping up with the Wagners" (Their words, not mine) but that is how neglected neighborhoods change. Our block has been very good, but if it starts to trickle into the other blocks our neighborhood could bounce back at an amazing pace. I'm loving having cars pull over to tell us how nice our yard looks!

After all, she does now look like this.

I hope everyone has a wonderful mother's day, and I will see you guys next week!

Linked Up To:
Our Fifth House


  1. Color just does something for your soul, doesn't it? :)

  2. Holy crap that's a lot of impatients! (And a lot of work!) Can't wait to see them when they fill in and bloom!!

  3. I envy you your soil. My yard is hard packed clay mixed with pea gravel, which was discovered when trying to dig up the grass to put in beds. Nothing makes a gardener's heart sink faster, lemme tell you... Thankfully, I had plenty of cardboard boxes left over from moving, so slapped them on the grass in a pseudo-lasagna style gardening way and threw compost on top. So far so good!

    Your impatiens will look lovely when they fill in, so I hope you plan to update the pictures through the season!

  4. I'm pretty sure shaking is one of the last things I'd do with a dead rat ;). But that garden bed looks great--I can't wait to see it when it's all filled out!

  5. It looks amazing. I can't wait to see the flowers in bloom. They'll look great. And they will always remind you of dead rats.

  6. Wow you had a lot of patience with the impatients :) What a great idea to sift the dirt first. I don't think I would have thought of that. That makes so much sense :)

  7. We have the same odd shaped patch of grass between our driveway and sidewalk full of grass right now! We plan to tear it out and plant boxwood and vinca vine or phlox there because my husband hates mowing it (I don't ask, I just go with it). I can't believe you did all of that work yourself! I tried tearing up some grass for my herb garden and was done before I started.

    The impatiens will look beautiful when they fill in!!!

    Thanks for linking up.

  8. That's really cool that you can see the effects of all your hard work on your neighbors.

    Can't wait to see your flowers when they really start going! Great job!


Please leave us a comment! We love to hear from you. We promise your comment will appear as soon as possible :)