HOUSE: Newburgh

Is this progress?

First of all, THANK YOU for all of the feedback regarding my hesitancy to post progress photos. A couple of the comments nearly made me cry (yeah, I’m a total crybaby), but in a good way. I really take to heart the fact that sometimes we all need to see that there are other people who don’t get things done immediately, and who also struggle with making decisions and getting motivated.

Speaking of not getting things done immediately . . .

This is the current state of our garden. If you take a look through the past couple of years of garden progress posts, you’ll see that this has been taking us FOR.EV.ER. and ever. The fact that this is our 5th summer in the house and we have yet to actually enjoy the backyard is just depressing. We had really hoped to get it DONE this year, but the temperatures in New York have just been stiflingly hot and humid—it’s very difficult to get much done before exhaustion kicks in.

I think we’re kind of getting somewhere, though? Yeah, half of the garden is still just dirt (and it’s bad dirt, too), but the pavers are in, and we planted a border of dwarf mondo grass around the deck. The Japanese maple has gotten HUGE (look how tiny it was two years ago!) and the pachysandra has really filled in. I’m especially excited that we’ve started to bring gravel in (one bag at a time, carried through the basement) to cover the ugly asphalt.

This is the end goal, at least for now (Photoshopped, of course—thanks to Carin Goldberg’s garden!). Eventually we’d like to plant ground cover between the pavers, but for the time being, I’ll be fine just staving off weeds with a layer of mulch. Vegetables and herbs will be grown on raised planters on the porch—a concession to “our” omnipresent groundhog (we’ve named him Haggis).

I just really want to be able to sit out there and look at something other than a giant pile of dirt.

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  • Reply Monica August 1, 2010 at 4:20 am

    I have been wondering about your garden. You already have a great structure established and I love your photoshopped version. When did you plant the pachysandra? I just put in 50 plants in my front garden yesterday and I can’t wait for it to look like yours. I also have similar pavers and just planted Soleirolia soleirolii (baby tears) in between them. It is usually a house plant but my grandmother planted some in her garden years ago and it worked beautifully. I had also considered a creeping thyme but I didn’t think it would get enough sun. Anyway, your garden perfectly reflects you and your house.

  • Reply Brismod August 1, 2010 at 4:38 am

    It’s definitely progress! At least, you’ve not let the garden get overgrown. I’d struggle with the whole access part via the basement, so I’m in full admiration that you have achieved what you have so far. I hope you get some cooler days, because your garden will look great.xx

  • Reply Natalie August 1, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Definitely progress! You’re almost there. It’s going to be an adorable little garden…

  • Reply amy goodhouse August 1, 2010 at 8:31 am

    It looks great so far! It looks like you have a lot of the hardest work done.

    Yeah, this summer has totally killed off our first front lawn. Brutal!

  • Reply elissa August 1, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Look back at pictures of your yard when you first bought the house and you’ll see how far you’ve come. You’re much closer to your “goal garden” than you are to what you started with. This year is my year of the front yard/porch (to steal from the Brick House-sort of). We are trying to make our house _not_ look like the oldest, most rundown house on the block, and even though we’ve done a bunch of things, I still always feels like we’ve got a long way to go. I need to folow my own advice and look at the photo we took of the front when we were in contract.

    On a side note, this spring we planted a row of boxwoods in front of our house, but they look so silly-like little green balls with all this space in between them. I can’t wait for them to start filling in. How long did yours take? When you posted photos of your painted front porch (which looks awesome btw) they looked like they had grown alot. I hope our grow soon!

  • Reply paule August 1, 2010 at 8:54 am

    you can still work on it during the fall… snow doesnt happen until a looong way in the season, in new york…right? its so much more easy to work on the garden when its fresh crisp weather.

  • Reply Lauren August 1, 2010 at 9:46 am

    This is definitely progress! It will be such a great space when you’re all done and you’re smart to have planted a few things that have now had time to establish.

    I’m going on four years of pavers and mulch…in our front yard. Next year? Next year!

  • Reply Jenna @ sweetfineday August 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I think the garden looks awesome! I definitely see progress here. And I love that you photoshopped the future plans together. I thought I was the only one to do that, ha!

  • Reply Adam August 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Anna, I remember your backyard first hand (and that evil dog kennel that was there) and you have made a lot of progress! This is my 6th summer in my house and I’m still struggling with making my landscaping look how I want it. You and Evan are busy, hardworking people and this stuff unfortunately takes a lot of time. By my outsider’s estimate it looks like you are 75% done, so I say job well done so far!

  • Reply maddy August 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Sure, you’ve made progress! Hang in there. Have you considered getting estimates for having someone come in and just do it? We ended up having a landscaping company come in and put in a wall (drainage issues) and they did some inexpensive landscaping while they were here. Well worth it, and it took them only a few days what would have taken us a few summers. (We are not as industrious as you all, though.) Then you could enjoy your backyard sooner.

  • Reply Mary August 1, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I am completely fascinated with these New York gardens. So intimate, so sweet. Your’s is well on its way to being a fantastic retreat! Don’t despair. It will happen in time.

  • Reply mommy August 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Your plan looks like something you could easily do, provided the weather stays cool enough. I’d start by leveling the ground and adding soil amendments. Then it will be ready to plant in Spring, just in case you don’t have time before frost. You could borrow our rototiller (we’ll “show” you how to use it). By the way, one small section devoted to herbs and a pot with an amazingly productive, compact patio tomato plant have been a satisfying substitute for the vegetable garden we had planned, but didn’t do this year. You could easily accomplish the same in the two barrels you already have.

  • Reply puck August 1, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Awwwww…. it’s progress! When it becomes difficult to remember how ugly something used to be, it’s progress! My front yard is great… very Cotswold-y. My backyard? Clampett’s.

  • Reply heather August 1, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Gardening in NY summer heat is awful. You’ve made an incredible start and once the weather cools down a bit, I have no doubt you’ll have your dream garden.
    Haggis! You just made the Scottish half of me laugh out loud. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Bethany Joy August 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Love it so far. What size pavers did you get? We want to do some in the front. Did you lay them in the existing dirt or put sand below?

  • Reply Valeria August 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Don’t feel bad. It’s our 4th summer here and we’ve had an unused fence sitting in our backyard for 2 years. All we need to do is put it up… I think the main issue is that we don’t know what we really want to do with it yet. We were planning on doing the backyard around the fall time this year but with kitchen renovations starting, I don’t think we’ll even get to it.

    Sometimes it’s just nice to spend some time sitting outside, even if you do have 60 feet of fence leaning against the shed and 4 foot tall weeds around the yard. Haha.

  • Reply Katie Stephenson August 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Oh my gosh, you are almost there. We ripped out all our front landscaping this summer and replaced it with more modern/current plantings and bushes. It’s so much better but was a lot of work for a short amount of time.

    Is it mean to say that you are only a few hundred dollars and a weekend away from your goal? The hard parts look to be already done. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

  • Reply Avant-Gardenist August 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    once that lovely landscaping is finished, you simply must have one of these

  • Reply ehalvey August 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    LOVE that space! That is my ideal right there. Just think, at least your space doesn’t consist of a pink flamingo in a pot of dead herbs, an astroturf rug, and 2 cheap folding chairs from Chez Target :).

  • Reply Gaelle August 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    It will look great!
    But if you want my advice,( you don’t know me because I rarely comment on your blog) , but I would put some colors in there. You have a nice little red table, my idea would be to put some red somewhere else too. Some red flowers, or red planters or….I don’t know, other colors, or colors on the fence or…

    Well you get my idea, I guess that some color is missing there. But this is just me.

    I love your blog, and the progress in the house are going great.


  • Reply Anna at D16 August 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    @Monica: We planted the pachysandra two summers ago, and it was REALLY sparse (pics here, but it filled in a lot after a full year.

    @elissa: We planted the boxwood in fall 2006, right before the first frost. It was 50% off late in the season, and we bought tiny plants! You can see some photos here that were taken early in the next summer. Three years later, it’s HUGE — we really need to take some hedge clippers to it soon, actually. ๐Ÿ™‚

    @paule: It usually doesn’t snow until January in New York, but we get frost before then, so the latest we can usually plant is in October. Still, though, you’re right — there’s plenty of time left to work on the garden! I’m determined to eat at least one meal out there before winter.

    @maddy: We did get an estimate before we started, and it was so high that we couldn’t even really consider it at all. We have so many other things that we CAN’T do ourselves (like repointing the brick, waterproofing the foundation, etc.) that we’ve had to pay a contractor to do — so we decided a while back that we really don’t want to pay someone to do work that we CAN do, even if it takes up forever.

    @mommy: Yes, you’re welcome to “show” me how to use the rototiller anytime you want. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Bethany Joy: The pavers are 18″ square, with a ~4″ gap in between. We did use some paver base (crushed stone) underneath, but we also used a hand tamper to compress the dirt. Our dirt is so hard and lifeless that it actually makes a decent underlayment! Honestly, though, we didn’t really worry about getting the pavers perfectly level. Our garden slopes quite a bit from side to side, and leaving a space between the pavers makes them pretty forgiving.

    @Avant-Gardenist: HAHAH!! Man, my dogs are SUCH slackers!! ๐Ÿ˜€

    @Gaelle: There will be plenty of color from potted flowers and such on the porch and deck, and I’m sure we’ll wind up planting some flowering annuals here and there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Anika August 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Did your black lace elderberry not make it? I think you planted one a couple years ago…probably when I was planting mine.

    The pavers look fantastic! It’s totally inspiring me to work on my lame little paver area (see, your garden doesn’t have to be done to inspire other people).

  • Reply rose August 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I’d put some flowers in pots around the maple and then turn my chair to look at that! Sometimes I have to do that to feel good and then I can hold on to some motivation for later. lol

  • Reply JJ August 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    You’re not giving yourself enough credit! Look at where you started… Plus, I think it actually looks pretty kickass already – even if it’s not the Dream BackYard just yet.

    One question – where are the pups going to do their business once you’ve got the good dirt and plants in? This is my dilemma with my tiny yard design (with 2 chihuahuas + a dachshund.)

  • Reply tara August 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Oh. My. Goodness. If you could only see what the rest of us see. You have not one, but two amazing spaces to call home. And they are both the epitome of cool, wonderful, beautiful. You have a great spouse who not only likes Morrisey, but can demo tile. You have great taste in clothes. You need to feel proud of your accomplishments. I’ve always admired my grandparent’s home, and am continually bummed that my home isn’t “there” yet. I have to remind myself that it takes time to make things the way you like them.

  • Reply Design Love August 2, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Don’t be so hard on yourself! I was feeling like that as well, but life gets in the way, and we have to live it! It will get done and it will be beautiful! Maybe it’s taking so long for a reason, like your missing why…’ll see!


  • Reply Tim August 2, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I’d highly recommend getting that mulch in. We lived in a new house a few years back and had some horrible builder clay soil that was a complete mismatch for the area and climate. I was shocked that in less than 6 months the soil covered by mulch was so beautiful and the soil not covered by it was still a complete mess.

  • Reply Stacey August 2, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I agree with the others-you’ve definitely made progress. Also, it’s great that there are no weeds baring themselves everywhere! Nice,clean and weed free:-).

  • Reply Cecily T August 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Tell me about it! We’ve been in this house for 3.5 years. I was pregnant with #1 when we moved in, and I just had #2. So I’ve been pregnant or nursing (aka ‘not getting enough sleep’) for nearly the entire time we were here. Last summer, there was a brief time where I was sleeping through the night, and not-yet-pregnant. We got terrific things done in the yard.

    Baby #2 was born on the 4th of July. I apologize to my neighbors, b/c my new bed is full of weeds instead of the perennials I had planned to plant this spring.

    I figure in about 3 more years I’ll have enough energy to tackle things. Until then, everything’s a work in progress!

  • Reply Amy August 3, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I am in love with the fact that you spent time photoshopping instead of gardening – that’s copletely my style ๐Ÿ˜‰
    You’re a wiz at it too…. I almost thought it was real!

  • Reply MaryWynn August 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Yay gardens! Boo Haggis…

    I have a suggestion:

    Instead of one day figuring out how to get good dirt to your backyard, put in a compost pile for kitchen scraps – it’s super easy. You could use a lasagnae method for now, and it would help cut down on household waste. Then you can improve the soil with your own compost instead of hauling dirt one bag at a time through the basement!

  • Reply Anna at D16 August 3, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    @MaryWynn: We already have a compost pile! You can kind of see it over on the left in the top photo — it’s that round black plastic thing. We’ll be replacing it with something a little more attractive and durable soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Monique August 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    you are totally there! You are so close. you could knock that out in a weekend. I LOVE IT!

  • Reply Amy August 8, 2010 at 11:06 am

    We have the same inspiration garden. I love what you’ve done so far!

    Don’t beat yourself up about the supposed lack of progress. This is your home. You have to leave time to enjoy it instead of making it a to do list. [I think I’m writing this comment as much for myself as I am for you]

    You should sit back there and enjoy it as it is. I’m trying to do the same thing, even though my backyard has an out of control raspberry thicket, ridiculous weeds, and no patio, so we have to balance the chairs on cardboard (hello hillbillies).

  • Reply Cait @Hernando House August 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Haha I love the “Someday” picture. Actaully, I love the Today picture as well. I wish our backyard had some semblance of order to it. Eventually I’d love to have a patio outside our porch, but that is a long way off.

  • Reply Ann September 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Your garden is going to be beautiful! I love these geometric style boxed gardens! (what is the proper name for these?) I desperately want one of these for myself, but I am blessed and cursed with a really large backyard, and I’m not sure how to create the intimacy yours has.

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