Home improvement

The reinvention of the yard

And the ice storm said, “Let there be light.”

And it said that directly about my front yard, after seven trees had to be removed thanks to the oh-so delicate pat from Ice Storm Pax a few months back.

Our yard has always been very shady, which was beneficial on two fronts: (1) it provided a lovely woodsy look to our front yard and (2) it was a convenient excuse as to why I have no grass in my front yard. “Yeah, can’t grow grass with all that shade…”

Can’t really lean on the second one any more. Thanks, Pax.

It’s not a huge section of the yard that has grass potential. About two-thirds of my yard is covered by azaleas and ivy. The other third is currently the type of lawn experts refer to as “dirt.”

I used to have grass. When we moved in, we had a lovely little patch of green at the front of our house. Several years ago, a water main burst in the front yard. Here’s a fast fact: When fixing a ruptured main, plumbers do not use surgical precision. At least this one didn’t. A huge swath of yard was plowed up to repair the main, and my lawn had looked rather pathetic since.

I tried seeding it a few times, with a total yield of, by my estimate, 11 blades of grass. But, you know — the shade. Yeah, that was the problem.

And then Pax hit. It mangled most of the trees in my yard. The centerpiece of our yard is a huge live oak that fortunately survived. It’s fellow trees? Not so much.

The tree folks took the trees out in a day. It was actually a rather fascinating thing to watch. The guys were marching up the trees, big spikes on their boots, and then dropping enormous branches to the ground with a quick stroke of the chainsaw. My son, an avid climber, was fascinated by the climbing spikes and said he wanted a pair. I told him yes. His mother said no. Thus, we have a tie and will have to compromise, meaning he will not get them.

When the tree folks were done and had transplanted all of my trees to an enormous pile in front of my house, I stood out in the street and looked at the front of my house. And there was an awful lot of sunlight streaming down upon it. Goodbye, excuse No. 2.

So now I have to figure my next step. My first thought was to do nothing, and simply remind my neighbors that their yards look as nice as they do because they are being judged compared to mine. My wife suggested a different path, which involved exactly not that.

So we are going to look at options and the associated pros and cons:

  • We could seed. Downside: Birds will flock to our yard and steal our crop. Upside: I do enjoy bird watching.
  • We could sod. Downside: I have to water it and mow it. Upside: I just Googled “age to use a mower” and an American Academy of Pediatrics study that said 12 is that age, meaning I have one who can mow and another just a year off.
  • We could plant a whole bunch of other stuff and make the entire front grass free. Downside: I’d have to plant a whole bunch of other stuff. Upside: No more grass excuses needed.
  • We could put a sign up that says, “Dedicated to all that was lost during Ice Storm Pax 2014.” Downside: I’d have to make a sign. Upside: I’ve got nothing.

Whatever decision we choose, our yard will look far different than it ever has. And if we have to find the positives of Ice Storm Pax, it will be that it gave us the opportunity reinvent our yard. And it taught me that at least one of my kids is already old enough to mow the backyard.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can email him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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