The Slope of Most Resistance

Posted on February 15, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

You know how I said a long, long time 2 years ago that Adam would be writing something for the blog? Well, he’s still allowing his creative juices to percolate. I know he wants to talk about a major project that we’ve been working on since we moved into our house. He may want to wait until we’re completely finished with it. But I’m too excited to keep it in any longer and I don’t know if we’ll ever “finish” it.

We have a patio off of our den that is built at the top of a steep slope. This steep slope was covered – no, consumed – with Old English Ivy. See these pictures:

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The ivy went all the way around the side of our house, surrounded the patio, and traveled down the slope and into the wooded area of our yard where it climbed trees 100’s of feet tall. It was so bad, it ate our playground. Just kidding. We got rid of that within the first few months of home ownership.

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It’s like the pink slime in Ghostbusters. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it ooze out of our shower faucet. Not only did it take up a lot of surface area, it was very dense and deep in several sections of our yard.

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Adam may get into the nitty gritty of how we removed it. I’ll summarize it by saying that it was back-breaking, hard work. Round-up does not kill it. We could’ve doused it in gasoline and torched it, but it was too close to the house to risk it. Our tools: our hands, a weed eater, a lawn mower, and stiff rakes and pitch forks. Shout out to Ryan and Gannon who helped us pull ivy one weekend and they were compensated with a strong dose of another kind of ivy: the poisonous kind. Sorry about that.

There isn’t much of a slope off of 1 side of the patio, but it is very steep on the other 2 sides. We decided to plant low-growing junipers that will eventually have a 5-6 foot spread on the slope. These are popular plants for slopes because they help with erosion control, they are extremely low maintenance, and they are attractive ground cover. We bought 10 Old Gold junipers at Lowes and spent the better part of a day digging the holes and planting them. We also planted a butterfly bush among them. I’ve always wanted one. We spread lots of pine straw to help with erosion and to serve as filler until the junipers reach maturity. Almost a year later (yes, bad blogger here), I am thinking about planting a few more junipers. We’ll see. In other plant news, I bought 8 5-gallon double knockout roses which we planted at the top of the slope around the perimeter of the patio. But the roses have struggled until recently. About 2 weeks ago, I noticed A LOT of leaf buds/new growth. Roses are dormant in winter, so I’ll have to update with pictures when they’re in full bloom.

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I fertilized them like they say to do when this happens and I’ve been watering them like crazy. I want to observe them and care for them for another warm season. If they don’t do well, we will have to dig them up, transplant what we can to the front yard, and replace them with something else. I will be bummed, but these things happen. I’m sure I’m not the only person to plant something in their yard and watch it die. I’m hoping that the reason they struggled last summer is because they didn’t get enough time to establish themselves (I planted in May) before they were inundated with Georgia heat. I’ll let you know how they do. We’ve had multiple pest issues with these roses. One pest is sucking the chlorophyll out of the leaves. The other pest is furry and four-legged and likes to dig, pee, and eat at my roses. Oh bother.

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This slope is a major project that requires a lot of work and takes time, and going in you think you can knock it out in a few weekends. Not so. You have to wait for the right time to plant things and pull ivy. You also have to wait for everything to mature and fill-in – which could take a few years. And we have to replenish the pine straw every few months – or at the very least rake it over some bare spots.

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Overall, we are happy with the way this is looking – a little more cultivated and usable. I mean, I wouldn’t walk in that ankle deep ivy, would you? I really don’t want it to swallow my Labradoodle either. Ignore the leaves. They are a constant battle between November and February, but it’s worth it to have super cheap utility bills because of the shade those trees offer.

We thought about hiring a landscaping company with a Bobcat to come in and rip all the ivy out. We even considered calling in a consultant for landscape design. We didn’t. We did everything ourselves: labor, design, planting. We’re proud of what we did.

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Yes, it took a long time. Yes, there are still issues. But this problem was in the backyard (no one could see it) and we tackled it in the winter when we don’t have much company outside.

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Of course this space still needs work. Here are the things we’d still like to do with this section of the backyard:

  1. Spread more pine straw – it’s going to take a lotP1020670
  2. Get gravel, stepping stones, and hedge borders to help with water on this side of the house – DONE.
  3. Pull weeds and ivy – this will be constant for a while, maybe forever
  4. Stampcrete the patio – long-term
  5. Install stampcrete stairs off of the patio instead of the wooden ones – long-term
  6. Purchase patio furniture
  7. Have a few container pots full of colorful plants
  8. Plant shrubs along tree line for a nice landscaped border and to add a purpose to the flat space at the bottom of the slope.
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