A month ago this was where we were at. And then I got all gloomy and felt like nothing was happening so I got a little envious over someone else’s awesome (finished) space…
But I’ve just collated all my photos of the last few weeks, and lo and behold – progress!
If you feel like playing “spot the difference” you’re welcome to. If not, here are the answers:
– New deck joists
– Plants in planters
– New side garden
– All tidied up
– Decking timber ready and waiting!
So, starting with the biggie, here’s deck progress.
We are extremely lucky to have Andre’s dad doing our building. Not only do we get a deck built, but we get babysitting at the same time. I feel pretty guilty about him trying to get a job done with them underfoot, but I’m assured he doesn’t mind, and I know he adores them and they him. It’s like trying to prise an oyster off a rock to get them back inside or playing in the front yard out of the way. So I’ve about given up, and just send regular trays of coffee and hot chocolate out to keep the grizzles to a minimum.
These are from a couple of weeks ago, so there are now spacer bits (technical term!) between the joists to keep everything straight. You might spot them in another photo further down, but no promises.
For a simple deck we seem to spend a lot of time in contemplation over the details. Andre and his Dad have had numerous discussions and quite a lot of mutterings over the confusing nature of the building code. I had a quick look and left them to it. I’m better at the grand scheme stage.
Polka dot gumboots definitely help with grand scheming (although my feet are starting to swelter in these so it might be time for some new DIY jandals).
This is us trying to visualise the couple of steps down from the house, and a balustrade along the eastern side. And the usual messy state of affairs:
So, we’re excited to have some decking timber now ready to go, but builders between big jobs are in hot demand to complete lots of little jobs so we’re sharing him around and just grateful for the days when the white van pulls up in the drive!
Next. After shovelling a trailer load of dirt out of the backyard, the last thing I felt like was shovelling another load right back in. But it had to be done, and don’t tell Andre, but I kind of don’t mind jobs like this. At least not when I’m nearing the end… there’s satisfaction in shifting a cubic metre of soil!
It was destined for these gigantic planters now never to be removed from our backyard in a million years. There have been many small steps with these planters in getting to this stage, but I won’t go into the detail just yet. I’m still mulling over my original plans for finishing touches.
But one sunshowery day I got them all planted up. I wanted both screen-the-neighbours and fruit trees, so I picked out a couple of feijoas (two varieties is recommended because even though most types are self-pollinating, they still prefer company) and a mandarin. For now, I’ve underplanted with strawberries, just for fun, but once we get a few nibbles off them I plan to replace them with some more permanent ground cover like baby’s tears or Irish moss. We’ll see!
In the biggest pot I’ve just popped in a trio of daisies, for some colour, until our plum tree in the corner is dormant (next winter) and we can gently transplant it. It’s a great producer so I already have my fingers crossed we won’t harm it by shifting it.
Last Saturday saw the remaining smaller pipes sitting in our drive cut up into planter sized bits. So we’re not done with planters yet…
Last Saturday also saw a scruffy little strip of weeds transformed into a promising garden bed. Down the western side of the deck we have a narrow garden space alongside the neighbours fence. Originally it was full of all sorts of jungle-variety plants but gradually we have sent them all to the tip and these scrappy weeds took over for a while.
Up against the house
are were these trees, which we’ve been trimming away at for a few weeks, hoping if we take it slowly the neighbours won’t mind so much that suddenly there are no trees in the backyard offering privacy between us and them. But with a full height panel due to go up along that side of the deck I decided it was now or never and recruited Andre and his long arms to put them (me?) out of their misery.
The pink flowering one was first to go (it was always a little neglected and scrappy looking, as well as scraped annoyingly on the windows in the slightest breeze) and bit by bit we started cutting down the tall one. At the very last minute, it got a reprieve. We decided it’ll probably be happy to share with the new planting we had planned, and will actually be helpful in providing an illusion of shade (it’s on the wrong side of the sun to really give any shade) over the deck. So it just got a severe trim in order to fit the panel alongside it.
While Andre had yet another discussion with his Dad over the finer details of the deck plan, I got busy with some rocks that had been put aside after the big hole dig.
Then we all pitched in to clear those pesky weeds and fill in with some leftover topsoil, before planting some gorgeous scented jasmine, and a few ferns that were growing mad up under the trees. Originally we were going to use some of the old decking timber to re-edge this garden bed (the railway sleepers that were there were a bit rotten and fell apart during the clear out stage) but the spur of the moment decision to make use of the rocks was a good one, even if we can’t remember whose it was! It’s the little unexpected jobs like this that really make a day feel like an achievement – completed in less than half an hour, and only using what is to hand. (A bit like this temporary sandpit of many months ago.)
As for the jasmine… I chose it because it ticks a few boxes like fast-growing, minimal maintenance (once it grows it’ll be a bit tricky to get to in this narrow space), and good screening, but also because of its bonus smells so good factor. Because we need it to fill the space and not grow primarily on either the neighbours side fence, or the panel on the side of the deck, we have staked out (hah!) a frame for it to climb on right between the two. Of course it’ll grow where it likes, but I want to be able to trim it back off the fence or deck panel if/when necessary so this middle-ground structure is where I’ll do my best to train it to. I did underestimate my staking requirement initially, but now have another pack waiting to be added to this frame so there is somewhere for my little jasmines to aim for next.
And that yucca-y tree at the north end… days are numbered. Neighbours love it, I hate it, Andre’s somewhere in between. So until my little jasmines grow a little, it stays put. But the day is coming when the jasmines and I will slowly but surely prove it’s ugliness and uselessness. All it does is drop those annoying fronds and it doesn’t even smell nice – right jasmines?!
It’s a little hard to tell in the latest “after” photo, with the new stack of decking timber under cover (here it is again so you don’t have to scroll all the way back)…
…but Andre had a huge tidy up out the back here. Piles of timber got shifted and nails and sawdust cleaned up. I was out first thing on Saturday and came back expecting some “real work” to be underway, but was pleasantly surprised with this. If ever you’re feeling disheartened about progress or lack thereof, just opt for a real good tidy up instead. It works wonders and feels just as good as progress.
While we’re on the progress train, here’s another something to keep it going…
The front yard is looking fabulous with spring helping the front garden flourish. My hydrangeas have taken off, after more than a year of being less than impressive, and sending me running for more ground cover plants and some sweet flowers to fill in the gaps, and even wondering if I’d have to pull them out and put something else in. But they’re telling me “not so hasty naive new gardener – good things take time!”
Delighted to bring them inside to enjoy too!
Enormous post – thanks for sticking it out to the end!