Before and After: The Great Grass Growing Project

Before & After House & Home

Ok, you’ve asked for it on Instagram, so here I (Mike) am with a birthday (happy 33rd to me) update on a project I’ve been working on for the past 15 months.

I intentionally split up this project into 2 phases for sanity’s sake because planning a wedding and actually trying to get anything else done can be quite challenging.

Phase 1 (2017)

  • Remove dirt from the side of the house to place as 2-3” of topsoil under the tree
  • Clear out the former flowerbed next to the house & heavily shaded side next to the fence
  • Clear out the front tree, removing rocks & other accumulated debris

Phase 2 (2018)

  • Use an obscene amount of Glyphosate (Roundup) & Preen to kill off all the weeds in the back of the backyard
  • Clear out the dozen or so dead stumps, trees & brush
  • Use a rototiller to disrupt any remaining roots, loosen up the topsoil, and provide as ideal of grass-growing conditions as possible

After completing the above…

The Process

After clearing the existing messes in each of these areas (more on that in a later post), I was ready for the first round of seed last spring. Speaking of, remember when we had a season in Ohio known as spring? It seems as if we went straight from winter to summer this year. Anyways, here’s some chronological photos from phase 1:




This particular spot (above) was my first priority, as it would turn into a muddy pond every time it rained.




Next up were a couple of edges that not only had full shade but also visible tree roots to contend with. I purchased specific dense shade grass seed for these areas.




As far as the front tree is concerned, I’d been desiring a bit of consistency with the rest of the yard.



Moving on to the far back, this area has long been a pain point that has held up nearly every other landscaping goal as we work to “redeem Hampton.” At one point in its glory day, I’m told it was a beautiful garden, but those days are unfortunately long behind us at this point.

A friend of ours graciously offered to use his tractor, which saved us a ton of time, investment & effort and gave us a beautiful 6” till of what felt like carpeting. Due to working a full-time job along with freelance work, yada yada yada, it took me a few days to complete seeding & fertilizing (follow those links to see the specific products I used), but we began seeing results quickly (within a week) and it’s been doing pretty well ever since, albeit with a setback or two.



Back 2

I had to address a few different places after Kristin identified an invasive invader (say that 10x fast) in our midst known as Johnson grass. After proceeding to tear up & reseed those areas, we’re in pretty good shape and hope to fill in the patches & continue keeping the ever-present weeds at bay as much as we can. All in all, I can’t complain for this project costing less than $100 (besides the many hours of manual labor).




Phase 3 (as soon as this fall) includes a plan to purchase a 60′ row of arborvitae trees to plant along the fence line. Follow along to stay tuned for all the updates!

Current Challenges

  • Weed control (“I fought the ground and the ground won”) & keeping the Johnson grass away
  • Roots from trees, heavily shaded areas, patches
  • Trying to not be too picky about having multiple shades of green grass



Additional Tools I Used

We’re far from “arriving” (and let’s be honest – will we ever) at this point, but I’m happy with the progress we’ve made thus far within the short time that we’ve owned our home. Most likely, we’ll have a tree removed within the next couple of weeks that’ll set us back with the Great Grass Growing Project as well as financially, but we’re beginning to look at the long-term view and what we can invest in now to create a better future. Redeeming Hampton is a journey; a process – more of a marathon than a sprint.

Have you delved into a similar undertaking recently? I’d love to hear about it! Share your experience with us in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Before and After: The Great Grass Growing Project”

  1. Well first off a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!! I hope you have a fun day celebrating! It looks like you are off to a great start with a lot of determination (that being the operative word “determination). A big shout out to your friend for the use of the tractor, friends with tractors are friends to keep. HA! Taking on a beautiful, weed free, grow in shade/sun, picking out the correct grass seed/fertilizer, when to plant, when to fertilize, when to cut, how high/low to cut was such a challenge. It is an art most don’t want to bother with. Many have given in to the task & took the outlook of mulch everything in the shade & keep the grass/weeds mowed down & it’ll all blend in to look green. Living in the south we have the climate of warm, hot, hotter & everything must be watered. When we first built our house, our yard was a blank canvas. On the advice of our builder (which he should stick to building & not lawn maintenance) we tilled the yard, laid down seed, got a couple loads of chicken poop ( a spreader truck did that task) & then (with rubber boots on & in need of a gas mask) we laid straw down. Alas! We had the most beautiful green yard that year! Thinking it would last forever (at least until the next year), we neglected to fertilize, treat for weeds, etc. The following year was not so good-ugh! Trees grew taller, blocking from getting the proper sun, weeds grew more than the grass, life events happened & we were one of the many that took the outlook of “if you keep it cut short, the weeds & grass all look green from a distance”. ** A footnote to this process of the chicken poop. Poultry is a big business in this area, so there is ample supply. It is very common for people down here to have it spread on their lawns & pastures. Depending on the weather, the smell can last from a 1-7 days. Personally…I will never do it again! HA! After a few years of weeds & grass are both green, just keep it mowed, we went to sod. More heat resistant, we liked the look & instant grass! We took on the challenge of laying it ourselves. We prepped the yard, the pallets of sod were delivered & the muscle work began! Who knew small squares of grass could weigh so much?! One pallet, two pallet…we were in the groove! Not being a woman of muscle & strength, I would take a square or two off the pallet, left it up off the pallet & throw it up against me to carry it to it’s final destination. Getting into the final countdown of the second to the last pallet, in my routine of lift, throw, place…I suddenly felt stinging all over my body! I dropped the sod, looked down at my upper chest & it looked like a mobile ant farm! FIRE ANTS! The middle of the pallet was full of them!! I ran stripping my clothes off, yelling profusely (words I never think of using) & headed to the pool! Thankfully, we don’t have close neighbors & other than a few days of pain & looking like a lumpy-plumpy, all was well. Mark finished laying the sod & we now have a lawn guy come do the fertilizing, weed & bug maintenance. The saying “nothing comes easy”…yep…that would be us. 🙂 It is a continuous job of weeding flower beds, trimming bushes/trees, etc. but so well worth it when you look back & enjoy! Keep us posted on pictures/updates. The two of you have a beautiful home & love what you have done/doing to it.

    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes! It sounds like you’ve got quite the experience with this subject! Thanks for sharing & keep us updated on the sod (which I think needs watered a TON, especially at first).

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