Our Landscaping: Before and After!

posted by Andrea | 09/23/2013

landscape before and after

Over the past 7 years — owning homes with 2 fixer-upper yards — Dave and I have done our fair share of yard work. And if I’ve learned anything after these 7 years it’s this:

  1. Yard work takes WAY longer than we think it will (especially when we’re waiting for grass to grow)
  2. Yard work rarely produces amazing before/after pictures like interior projects — because you need to wait at least a year or two for the plants to mature.
  3. Yard work is really hard to photograph so it actually looks good (especially from a phone!)

So while Dave and I are absolutely THRILLED with the results of our summer of yard work, I will say that the “after pictures” aren’t quite as jaw-dropping as I was hoping for — certainly nothing like our recent garage makeover or the kitchen makeover last summer!

I think that unless you actually walked through our property before and after, it’s super hard to accurately document the changes (and I tried really hard).

But speaking of walking through our yard, here’s somewhat of a bird’s-eye view of our property and the proposed landscaping plan. Don’t look too closely at the plan because we didn’t end up following a lot of it — but at least you can get a sense of where our house, garage, and outbuilding are :)

yard plans

A Summary of What We Accomplished:

Cut down several massive trees and had the stumps ground out.

Installed 300 feet of fencing along the side and back of our property.

Removed (and sold) over 300 landscaping bricks.

Hauled multiple trailer loads of landscaping rocks away.

Removed a large cement pad in the middle of our back yard.

Planted (and transplanted) hundreds of new bushes, trees, and plants.

Spread over 30 yards of mulch.

Created a fun play area for Nora in the back corner of our yard.

Whew… I think that’s it! And for the record, we had several different people/companies helping us with all the items I listed above.

Also, if you missed any of my preliminary posts, you can read those here and here.

I literally have hundreds of pictures I could share, but I’ve whittled them down to about 20 that I feel most accurately show the before and after progress. And for the record, the before picture is always first!

Also, if’ you’re wondering why I took the “after” pictures on a gloomy cloudy day, it’s because every time I tried to take them on a sunny day, there were tons of weird shadows and glare. Plus, it’s pretty hard to come by a sunny day in West Michigan this time of year :)

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The front yard from the road looking straight back. If you’re wondering what all the green junk is on our roof, it’s from when they cut down the trees. I wish I would have taken the before pictures prior to the tree removal, but it was so cold and rainy I just never got around to it.

landscape after

Another picture from the road looking towards the driveway.

landscape after

Front of the house, a little closer up (after the trees on the left side of the house were removed).

landscape after

Left side of front porch.

landscape after

Right side of front porch.

landscape after

Front yard from the end of the driveway looking across our property.

landscape after

Down the driveway back by the main garage. 

landscape after

By the second garage / out building (first garage is on the left).

landscape after

The side of the second garage / out building.

landscape after

Side yard looking into the backyard (after the trees were removed).

landscape after

The side of our house from the front yard (after trees were removed).

landscape after

Looking at the side of our house from the side yard (before trees were removed).

landscape after

The side of our house from the cement pad.

The cement pad area looking towards the front yard (after the trees were removed).

The cement pad looking back on the swing set area.

landscape after

Another view of the jungle that used to be where the swing set is right now! 

landscape after

The swing set area (after some of the jungle was cleared).

Pathway between our house and garage — leading to the second garage (house is on the left).

landscape after

Looking back the opposite direction (garage is on the left).

landscape after

Looking at the back corner of our house. 

landscape after

Same view — just after the trees were cut down.

landscape after

Looking at the back of our garage. 

landscape after

 

OK, so I think that’s enough!

Like I mentioned earlier, it was pretty hard to accurately photograph stuff — and although the plants have grown a lot this summer, lots of the flowers already dropped for the season so it’s not nearly as colorful as it was even just a few weeks ago.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more pictures next summer — but for now, we are officially DONE with yard work (besides raking leaves.)

We’re super happy with what we accomplished this summer and we’re excited to hopefully finish the rest of our yard next summer — maybe Nora will even be able to help next year!

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42 comments

  1. Stel

    09/23/2013

    That’s quite a few changes! Looks very nice, crisp and neat. What on earth was the cement pad used for?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thank Stel — and for the cement pad — we’re honestly not sure. It was cracked, super dirty, and not even level (it slanted back towards the garage) so it really wasn’t great for anything except collecting dirt, leaves, and sticks!

    We are SOOOOO happy with our decision to remove the cement pad and add more grass. Our yard feels more open and much larger now. Plus, Nora was always tripping and scraping her knees on the cement!

    [Reply]

  2. Rebecca

    09/23/2013

    Wow! Your landscaping looks beautiful! I can’t believe you accomplished all of that in one summer! It is kind of fun to re-do it all, but a little overwhelming. You were smart to have a plan drawn out. I just fly by the seat of my pants and then as things grow, I end up moving them around. LOL! What kind of shrub / tree is that next to your 2nd garage? The one that looks almost pink in the picture. It’s so pretty!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Rebecca,
    I’m not sure if you read my first landscaping post from the beginning of the summer — but I basically said that at our first house, we made the mistake of “flying by the seat of our pants” and ended up re-doing our landscape THREE times in three years! So yeah, I totally know what you mean!

    We were 100% committed to the fact that before we did any amount of yard work or spent any money on our yard, we would first have a professional design drawn up with an over-all plan. It cost us $200 to have that plan drawn up (totally to scale) and I can’t even imagine how much time, energy, stress, and money it will end up saving us over the years. No more doing things 5 times before we get it right! It was definitely a good investment for us!

    Oh, and the tree is a Japanese Maple Tree. it is bright purple in the summer/fall and is very pretty. It was already here when we purchased the house and since they are insanely expensive trees, we decided to leave it for now. Eventually we feel like it might look better to just have it all open — like a grass pathway to the driveway, but for now, the tree is staying :)

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Reply:

    Yes, I agree that was money well spent! I will keep that in mind for the future. We will be adding on to our home and a lot of the back and side of the house will be torn up. I’m already excited to think of what I want to do with the landscaping after we are done.

    Those Japanese Maples are so expensive – you can always move it to another location later on perhaps? Or sell it on Craigslist with your ferns. Wish I lived closer to ya, because I’d be all over that!

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Reply:

    Andrea, I jinxed myself talking about the addition! We got our prints back from the village with 24 items that have to be changed. Back to the architect it goes… UGH!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh no! Sorry :)

    [Reply]

  3. BarbaraL

    09/23/2013

    Wow……what a huge difference! That must have been some job. Some of those trees were enormous!! You must feel so much” lighter” after that purge. Does it feel like you’re living in a different house? Looks wonderful.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes! Every time we’re outside, we say “I can’t believe how different it looks without those huge trees” The INSIDE of our house is actually much brighter too now that all the windows aren’t blocked by massive dying trees :)

    [Reply]

    Tammy @ SkipperClan Reply:

    My first thought in seeing the photos was, ‘you must have so much more light in the house!’ Love it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes we do Tammy! It’s wonderful :)

    [Reply]

  4. Anna

    09/23/2013

    I love it – it looks great!

    [Reply]

  5. Julie H

    09/23/2013

    The yard looked nice before, but it looks so much neater and tidier after. Great job!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha thanks Julie — and let’s just say “they yard looked nice from a DISTANCE before”. if you got up close, it was getting pretty bad :)

    [Reply]

  6. Olga

    09/23/2013

    Wow! Great job! The landscaping looks phenomenal. You guys sure put in a lot of work into it, but it was worth it, I’m sure. You have such a beautiful home.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Olga!

    [Reply]

  7. Kristine

    09/23/2013

    I have some questions about how to hire ‘help’ for your yard! Maybe another post? We have a ton of extra trees we would like removed! How do you go about getting quotes and the best deal etc. Also have tons of ground coverage we would like to thin out and cut back. Do you hire one team of workers or many? Sorry to give you more work! ;)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well, I don’t have any super fabulous tips — especially since I’m not sure if you live in our area or not — but I’d suggest just Googling companies in your area, asking friends or family, asking on your personal facebook wall, or using a good old-fashion yellow pages!

    We honestly didn’t spend too much time making sure we got the best price. We always use the same company for all our demolition work (large stuff like the cement patio removal) and we had 2 different tree companies come out in one week. One company was literally 1/2 the price and they could get started within days, so we figured we would just go with them. As long as the company had insurance, we figured it couldn’t be too bad (especially since we didn’t have to pay until the work was completed :)

    [Reply]

  8. Jen

    09/23/2013

    Looks great! Where did you guys end up putting the vegetable garden? I can’t remember if you shared that or not, but I remember when you were trying to decide.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    The vegetable garden is one of NEXT summer’s projects so we haven’t put it anywhere yet. We were just getting ideas earlier this summer. At this point, we’re thinking of starting small and putting the garden on the side of our driveway. We figure that with a new baby due right before garden planting season, we better not “bite off more than we can chew!” and if worse comes to worse, we live walking distance from a farmer’s market!

    [Reply]

  9. Chalyse Meiklejohn

    09/23/2013

    I think the results ARE jaw-dropping! :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  10. AshleyB

    09/23/2013

    I’m with Chaylse–I think your results are amazing! Great work!

    [Reply]

  11. Kari

    09/23/2013

    Looks great! Our landscaping re-do is on our project list for next summer. We did get a swing set this year, so I’m curious, what kind of material did you put on the ground around the swing set? We’ve been weighing the pros and cons and can’t decide what to use.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We just used playground mulch. We purchased it by the yard and it actually ended up being $2 cheaper per yard than regular mulch and it decomposes slower and is less “sharp” for going bare feet. We’re happy with it — and as another commenter mentioned, mowing under the swing set would have been a big pain (at least in Dave’s opinion!)

    [Reply]

  12. Kimberley

    09/23/2013

    Looks beautiful! Lots of hard work, I am sure, but it has definitely paid off! Must be nice to sit back and enjoy it now!

    [Reply]

  13. kristin

    09/23/2013

    Looks awesome and will provide some much needed inspiration for my house and yard. We’ve done a few things since moving in 9 years ago- had several trees removed, several trees trimmed well above roof clearance, but we still have a “jungle” all along the back and one side fence (where the property easement is). We did install a swingset and mulch around it at the bequest of my brother in law who has a lawn service company. He said “you do not want to mow under that”.

    Thanks for sharing! It is beautiful.

    [Reply]

  14. Trisha

    09/23/2013

    Looks awesome!! So nice and clean/fresh looking! We just did a landscape overhaul in our yard too, it is a ton of work! Your hard work paid off, it looks great!!

    [Reply]

  15. Cindy

    09/23/2013

    Andrea, it looks so ‘light’ rather than heavy, hope you get my meaning, just looks so inviting & freeing. I love the curves of the pathway & the 2nd garage & covered walkway where you have your Boston Ferns hanging. I live in your area so if you’re ever open to doing tours, please let me know!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha –thanks Cindy,
    And yes, if you live close by, you can email me sometime and come for a tour :)

    [Reply]

  16. JoDi

    09/23/2013

    You really can see a difference! That is a massive amount of work you accomplished this summer, and it all looks great. I used to take photos of our landscaping every year when we first moved in just so I could see how much things grew and filled in. I haven’t done it in years, but it was fun at the time. We’re currently looking for a new house with a big yard like yours so I have a feeling I’ll be taking yearly photos again soon!

    [Reply]

  17. Kim

    09/23/2013

    I am exhausted just thinking about all the work. It looks super fantastic!!!!!
    Will you be doing a separate blog about your fence choice. Was it a DIY or did you hire it out?
    We need to do some fencing, so I was wondering.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We did the fencing all ourself — but I didn’t take nearly enough pictures to warrant a full-length post. Plus, I don’t think we’re “experts” enough to be instructing others how to put up a fence! We got all the materials from Lowe’s and they were super helpful in figuring out everything we needed.

    [Reply]

  18. Jen

    09/24/2013

    It looks FABULOUS! I’m curious if you know what the porch on the side of the second garage was for? Entertaining? Seems like a funny place to add such a lovely big porch but now that your yard is so gorgeous, you can sit out there with a good book and a tall glass of iced tea and watch Nora and Baby Dekker play!

    We lived in GR for ten years (moved in 2002, sadly) and your home is very indicative of how I remember it-especially south of town. Your beautiful old farmhouse and lots of property, backing right up to what looks like a subdivision of newer homes! I’m so glad someone at some point thought to preserve your home and property in spite of what was going on around them! :-)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Believe it or not, we actually use the porch on our outbuilding WAY WAY more than the porch on the front of our house.

    I think you can tell from the pictures, but we have our picnic table and our Cracker Barrel rocking chairs out there so that’s where we sit in the shade to watch Nora play. It’s a nice covered spot if it’s raining and we want to eat outside and it’s fully lit (can lighting) for evening hours. We love our “back porch” because it’s totally secluded from everything and very private!

    [Reply]

  19. Kelly

    09/24/2013

    So fun to look through all the Before and After makeover photos! You and Dave did a fantastic job and I’m so impressed with how organized you were and how much you accomplished. Of course, that’s your forte, I know! ;-)

    I was curious about all the landscaping bricks that were removed and sold. Did you post them for sale and the buyer came out and removed them himself or did you all remove them and stack them yourselves (backbreaking work, I’m sure) and what would you sell them for?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We removed all the bricks ourselves and stacked them along the back of our driveway. Then we posted them on Craigslist and they were gone in about 36 hours. We posted them for $250 for all $300. The bricks we had sell for about $2 per brick at our local stores, so we figured that less than $1 per brick (for perfect condition) was pretty reasonable. Obviously, if you’ll need to figure out how much your own bricks would sell for new before pricing them use though :)

    [Reply]

  20. Cherie

    09/24/2013

    I hope you guys are very proud of yourselves!!! That looks AMAZING!!!!! Definitely a lot of work and some very HUGE trees, but it looks outstanding!!!

    [Reply]

  21. Debbie

    09/24/2013

    You did a fantastic job and must be so proud! What an accomplishment. I felt better replacing 2 dead bushes in our backyard. I can only imagine what it would feel like to make a major change like yours. Congrats!

    [Reply]

  22. Lizanne

    09/24/2013

    You have a lovely house and yard! I love how the property is spacious and open, yet you also seem to have a fair amount of privacy and ‘cozier’ spots. I thought the ‘before’ shots looked just fine, until I looked at the ‘after’ shots…well done!

    [Reply]

  23. Christy Holmes

    09/24/2013

    Looks great! Much neater and not as cluttered. Can a yard look cluttered? Yes, I’ve decided it can. I think the best transformation was taking out the cement pad. That part looks really great.
    Just a little leaf raking tip…We have tons and tons of leaves drop in our yard every year, thanks to several huge maple trees. Last year I was pregnant with our second and I work full time outside the home, so my very cheap self agreed to let my husband find some one to do the leaves for us. He found a few guys on Craigslist and we got all our leaves raked for $50. We rake about 40 yard bags of leaves a year, so I think this is a real deal. My husband actually haggled the guy up from $40 because he felt like that was just so cheap we would be taking advantage. We will be calling him again this year. It takes us hours and hours, over the course of multiple weekends.

    [Reply]

  24. Lonny Lambert

    10/08/2013

    Excellent job on the yard work. It certainly looks clean and ready for any activity. You can however add up some edible survival gardening to the yard so that you will have your own supply of fruits and vegetables. You have a wide yard anyway. Edible gardening can help you and your family save up on costs.

    [Reply]