Summer brings the opportunity to do a lot of home improvements, especially in the outdoor living spaces. While we’ve had numerous DIY successes throughout the years, I wanted to take a moment to share one of our biggest failures in hopes that others could learn from our mistakes.
A few years back, we were building a home, and the construction company offered us the opportunity to sod the front/side yard for $4,000 or all the lawn yard for $6500. We were being cost conscience with the house and felt that we could shave $2500 from the budget by leaving it unfinished and then sowing grass seed when we moved in. The backyard wouldn’t impact curb appeal, and I had noticed that about half the families who had already build in the complex were taking this approach, so it was a decision that we gave little thought.
Time of Year Matters
We signed the paperwork in the Spring to build the house, and we accepted that it would be several months before it was finished and we could move in. However, we completely ignored this fact when thinking about any changes we planned to make to the house. We had observed our neighbors fledgling grass that was easily growing in with the April showers and assumed we’d have similar success. It wasn’t until we moved in during October that we realized it was too late in the season to plant grass so we were forced to wait several months for the colder weather to pass to plant the grass seed. In retrospect, I’m sure we could have worked with someone who understand lawn care to find a solution, but we had a lot going on and decided it’d be easier just to punt on the yardwork.
Accept That You’ll Face Surprises
Our decision to leave the backyard with open dirt seemed to be a reasonable decision to two people who had lived in apartments their whole life; however, we were wrong. When we would get an accumulation of snow, the ground would become saturated with water and eroded long divots in our backyard creating miniature streams where the water drained in our neighbors yard. If we had grass to soak up the water and hold the soil, we would have been fine. But as we had neither, we ended up with ridges in valleys in the backyard.
Save Money Wisely
We were so happy when the weather cleared enough for us to be able to plant grass. We watched several videos on the process and realized that we had none of the necessary tools like a seed spreader or long garden hoses. Additionally, we were surprised that grass seed was about three times the price we put in our budget. We had no right to be surprised as we didn’t price it, but rather just asked a family member how much he paid for grass seed over dinner. His number was likely accurate the many years since the last time he had purchased it. Instead of trying to match the grass in the front yard, we bought the cheapest grass seed available. This turned out to be a colossal miscalculation on our part as the grass in the front/side of the house was a Kentucky Bluegrass which had nice textured blades. In the back of the house, we purchased some Perrenial Ryegrass that was on sale. This type of grass grows in a more clumpy manner and the two plants look very different. We didn’t realize the issue at first as we were just happy to have some grass in our backyard. However, when the grass began to sprout, we immediately realized we had made the biggest mistake. There was such a dramatic difference between the two types of grass. The ryegrass wouldn’t have been that bad if it were the whole yard, but just divide between the back and side yards just accentuated the issue.
Know When to Cut Your Losses
We later later unsuccessfully bought Kentucky Bluegrass seed and tried to grow that in the backyard along with the ryegrass as a bit of a cover up which did improve the looks a bit especially from a distance, but when anyone got close the backyard looked liked a huge mishmash of plants. We were living in a very nice complex composed entirely of new homes, and in our attempt to save a few thousand dollars we had become the proud owners of the worst lawn in the neighborhood and hurt our home value by far more than we would have saved by just doing the sod. Our lessons from the grass were painful, but serve as a reminder to do our research before diving into a DIY project. All the issues were caused by us trying to outsmart the systems without putting any real time, thought or energy to ensuring we were on the right path. Now that it’s been close to a decade, I’m glad we had the experience as I’m sure I helped us avoid other mistakes going forward as we remembered our fun times with the backyard grass.