Curb Appeal: from Tattered to Terrific

garden beds When we bought our first home, there was so much to do on the inside that we kind of forgot the yard existed. But now that the rooms are painted, the basement is renovated, the furnace and fixtures have been replaced, and the furniture (finally!) has been arranged, we find ourselves glancing out the windows and being horrified by what we see.

This winter was a long one. And like a lot of yards in Madison, ours emerged from the ice and snow looking pretty tattered. Leftover dead leaves line the flower beds; a massive brush pile in the back has turned into an unruly habitat for birds and rabbits (note to self: don't miss the City's brush pick-up next fall!); the ground is an uneven mix of grass, weeds, bare dirt, and gaping holes, left over from our spur-of-the-moment decision last year to tear out a bunch of old garden beds and move them across the lawn. And though we've refinished the back porch, the concrete patio that surrounds it is a cracked, crumbling mess. Basically, our yard is a forlorn disaster.

So this summer we're rolling up our sleeves and, with the arrival of this thank-goodness-it's-finally-warm-again weather, we're treating our front and back yard to a full-fledged beauty treatment. Here are the highlights of our summer-long DIY Yard Extravaganza:

  • replace the sagging fence
  • build a new front stoop
  • add foundation plantings
  • fill in the holes in the ground
  • build planters for the patio area (using leftover concrete pavers, like this DIY idea from Shelterness) to disguise the garden hose and mechanicals
  • finish building and planting raised vegetable garden beds
  • tear out the grass along the perimeter and add in a big, winding garden bed, all around the property.

One of the best things about investing so much time, energy and money into your yard is that those investments can have a real impact on your home's bottom line, such as your appraised value if you ever choose to sell or refinance (and can even affect your neighbors' home values, too).

But for us, the most important result of tending to the wild space outside our windows is the sense of community it can create. Last night, while raking and mowing and weeding, we stopped half a dozen times to talk with neighbors across the fence line and visit with folks walking their dogs. In fact, something incredibly potent happens when we all take time to step outside and care for our green spaces, no matter how large or small. It means we're far more likely to know our neighbors' names, to have the opportunity to help and be helped (moving brush piles, loaning wheelbarrows), and to feel like we're truly part of a community. That's worth all the blisters that are sure to come.

We want to hear your summer yard-related projects. And we'll be following up next week with a list of tips and resources related to improving your curb appeal and giving your yard a beauty treatment of its own!