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Guest Post: Getting the Backyard Ready for a House

Hi folks,

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The new hedge location.

It’s me, DD (dear daughter, of “Main House”). I’ve been enjoying reading my mom’s posts about her purging and planning and prepping. We’ve been busy at the main house too, so I thought I’d contribute a little about what’s been happening on our property as we prepare for the new structure.

We’re actually very fortunate that the majority of our backyard is a concrete parking pad. The excavator will take care of that. On the other hand, having an excavator arrive on our back doorstep will have quite an impact. We do have some yard, and it’s populated by some great plants: boxwoods, rhododendrons, heathers, a firebush, a wisteria, a fig … we have a lot of creepers.

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Mapoleon in his new spot. The first question DH asked was “won’t their branches get all tangled up?” Yes. Probably. Fine.

Our first plan was to simply transplant everything to the front yard and create an amazing garden up there. We hit a couple of roadblocks. First, the city won’t let the laneway house pull water service from the back alley – so our contractors are going to have to chop up our front lawn. They'[re going to run a bobcat up there and dig, dig, dig. Second, we are planning to re-do the front of the house in the next few years (including weeping tile) so we can’t really create permanent gardens of awesomeness. Anything not touched this round will be squished during that phase of renovations.

So for now, a compromise. First we moved Mapoleon, our miniature Japanese maple, from his spot directly in the path of the new water line. Yes, we moved him under another tree, and yes, there will be some branch negotiations. It’s really the only spot that was free.

We’re going to re-home some of the boxwoods to a new sidewalk hedge (leaving a 40″ space for the bobcat), and put the rest in pots on our deck and nooks and crannies out front. The contractors are going to lay weeping tile (drain tile) along the water line trench they dig on the West and South sides of the house. (The front and East sides will be covered by a future project). And we will have to get used to moving our plants to and fro until all the projects are complete.

Easy peasy? Not exactly. The goal with the Main House is to do as much ourselves as possible. But over the last weekend we learned we’re not landscapers. Here are some challenges we experienced:

Only one person can work at a time, because we have a toddler.

Root balls are massive. And heavy. We’re strong but. Really, they’re heavy.

Stripping sod is hard work, especially as you have to haul away the heavy sod somewhere else.

A wheelbarrow will not work if the tire is flat. (Did I mention we’re not professionals? We’re not even really amateurs.)

It rains a lot in Vancouver. So far we have timed every move to the rainiest possible moment. The bonus is the plants need moisture for successful transplantation. I guess there’s that.

We’re wet, sore, tired and we’ve barely begun. That said, it’s worth it to save our (sentimental and expensive) plants. We’d just caution other homeowners undertaking a secondary dwelling to budget for a landscaper to transplant for them … or budget a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen.

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