Fix-It Friday: Landscaping

Fix-It Friday is an occasional series that details the projects I’ve done around the house. Check out some past posts here and here.

I’ve been pretty stingy with the spending for our home improvement expenses. Our kitchen walls are still primer white, the countertop is ugly, cracked white Formica with little yellow designs, and our living room furniture still looks like it’s from a 20-year-old’s first apartment.

But that’s the inside.

As far as the outside is concerned, I really care about how it looks to others. That’s why I gave in and hired a landscaper to “neaten up” our property.

Our little sliver of land (all 50×100 feet of it) is the messiest lawn on the block, without exaggeration. All of the other homes have lush, verdant and green grass that is neatly trimmed to the proper length (whatever that is), and none of it spills over the concrete sidewalks.

Ours, on the other hand, is a crabgrass/clover/weedy mess. The crabgrass’ tendrils look like pompoms on crack, the clover runneth over and the weeds, the bane of my existence, are making a comeback. But it’s nowhere near the jungle we had growing on the front lawn when we moved in. Well, let me correct myself: the jungle was only on HALF of the front lawn. The previous homeowner went to give the lawn a final mow, and the lawnmower broke halfway through. Thus, we were left with gross, milky-stalked weeds that were easily 3 feet tall.


Last year, I pulled the weeds in a marathon effort on a hot summer day. One of our neighbors came by while walking his dog and prounounced that our bare-dirt lawn looked THAT MUCH BETTER than the weeds. Now that was saying something.

Knowing nothing about gardening or seeding, I tossed out a bunch of grass seed I’d purchased at Home Depot (that claimed to be hardy for our summers), tilled a bit of the soil, and watered often. I was rewarded after two weeks with the first tufts of grass (see picture above), which grew around the tree stump that also decorates our front lawn.

Unfortunately, there are still some barren patches, but I hope to rectify that this spring with another round of “toss out the seeds and pray the sparrows/crows/cardinals/fat-birds-you-can’t-ID don’t eat it.”

Where the Money Went

So this spring, I decided to fork out some cash to spruce up our property. I called my in-laws’ landscaper — who happens to be a friend of an old boyfriend, but I didn’t mention that on the phone — and asked him to give us a quote. I knew the work would include clearing out all of the old leaves from the shrubbery in the front and back yards, edging the dirt where it met walkways, and cleaning out the pile of debris left in the backyard between the 15-foot-tall holly tree (who knew they grew that tall?) and the bushes that separate our property from the rear neighbors’.

He quoted $200, which I thought was more than fair. So I told him it was a go.

The landscaper and his crew came by on Wednesday as I was getting ready for work. When I got home, I couldn’t believe my eyes — even our patchy front lawn looked wonderful. The beds were edged and there wasn’t a leaf to be seen. The landscaper even called me to ask if Mr. Saver and I were pleased, which we were.

“We took out 22 barrels of leaves!” the landscaper said. Wow. At least we got our money’s worth, I think. My dad wasn’t so sure.

Dad: “You spent $200 to have them get rid of the leaves?”

Me: “Sort of. But they took out 22 barrels’ worth!”

Dad: “Barrels?”

There was some confusion about whether the landscaper was going to get rid of the aforementioned bushes in the backyard, since my dad thought my brother told him that’s what was happening, but that’s not the type of work the guy does. Anyway, with the bushes gone, that would mean there was no buffer between our property and the rear neighbors’, and our yards are pretty small, so it would be weird. I’m still trying to decide if we want to do a fence (yeah, I love my privacy) or just plant a bunch of arbor vitae (Mr. Saver’s idea, since he thinks a fence would be too isolating).

5 comments to Fix-It Friday: Landscaping

  • $200 seems good to me. We live in Houston and battle weeds year round…stupid weeds.

    I understand second guessing yourself due to parental opinions (you should see my parents when we mention using a CPA or paying $25 every two weeks to have our lawn taken care of…).

    If you’re happy and less stressed, it was worth it IMHO.

    As for the lawn boundary, I am pro fence if it won’t look dumb in your neighborhood. Everyone in our area of Houston has 6-10 feet fences, so not having a fence seems odd…

  • Great to hear that your land is the new envy of the neighbourhood! I used to work in landscaping and I think you paid a fair price. My boss charged around $500 to clean up, he also resold anything people wanted off their land if he could. Think it great to hear about your financially efficient landscaping!


    • Nicole

      We don’t have that much land, and definitely didn’t have anything that could be sold off — just the usual organic material (leaves, brush, twigs) that needed to find a new home elsewhere. Thanks for the comment!

  • Nicole

    @Little House: I thought it was more than fair once he told me how many leaves they pulled out from the brush! But I do the seeding/tilling myself — it’s easy and I like being outside. The winter killed the “good” side of our lawn, so I had to reseed that already. Just need to fill in, now!

  • I think $200 is a fair price. When we moved into our rental house, and were spending our own money on it, we paid a gardener $400 to “clean it up.” He raked, tilled, and seeded. A few weeks later, we had a lush lawn. Too bad the California summers are brutal on a lawn! (We’ve reseeded 3 more times since then!)