It’s amazing (literally) what you can get done in a day when you band together with family and friends for work days. Paint projects, building projects and yard work – like this major yard makeover – get checked off your to-do list in record time!
One fall my extended family took a few Saturdays in the fall to have work days where we tackle a major job at one of our houses. This is such a great way to accomplish a lot in a little bit of time (remember the adage, “many hands…” and all that) and also to have some fun and time to visit with people we love.
And free labor? Just amen.
This great idea came from one of my sisters and it can be done with a family group or a group of friends – or both, of course. Three or four families work best, so that it’s feasible that you can make time in all the schedules to get to everyone’s house. You can go through the list of families once in the fall and once in the spring or just once a year, depending on the projects everyone wants to get done.
Ideas that are perfect for group work days include:
- Exterior painting.
- Interior painting.
- Yard work.
- Building projects like fences, patios, etc.
- Seasonal clean-up (trimming plants, laying mulch, etc.)
To illustrate this in action – and inspire you to get your own group ready to go for your own projects – I’m sharing the amazing major yard makeover at my sister’s house that was the result of one of our work days (you can see a painting work day here and another yard transformation here). I know you’re going to love this!
Major Yard Makeover
We didn’t get the “totally before” shot, but imagine this without the hoses, leaves, or cardboard. Just a lot of weedy grass and flower beds, three full size standard apple trees the previous owner planted 10 feet apart (what were they thinking??), and a rusty old clothes “tree” dryer.
My sister said that she never wanted to go out into the backyard and be faced with all that “loveliness.”
Work Day Preparation
To make the most of the labor you’ll have on the day, you do need to do your homework in the weeks leading up to the scheduled date. You’ll need to:
- Map out your project. Writing down tasks, plans, or drawing rough outlines will go a long way to getting everyone on the same page.
- Purchase supplies needed.
- Call and ask if you need tools, etc. from those helping.
- Plan the food and buy anything you need (drinks, paper plates, etc.). We decided to all bring a salad for lunch to share and then the host provided drinks and any morning snacks.
In my sister’s case, I went to her house in late August and we sketched out a plan for the yard (this project took place in late October) and talked about everything she’d need to get it done.
Then she made sure to have edging, black plastic, soil, and gravel ready for the work day. Plus lots of newspaper and cardboard of course! I was providing some plant divisions from our house, so I made sure to have those dug and potted before the day, too.
When the day arrived, we all got to work. Here is what that same area above looked like when we were done:
Look at what nine adults can accomplish in three hours. Yep, I said three hours. Who needs Ty Pennington and Extreme Home Makeover?
What We Did
After removing two of the apple trees and the clothes dryer, we used a layering method to make the bed on the left right on top of the grass. We found lots of leaves around the neighborhood and laid them over the grass, then covered the leaves with cardboard or thick layers of newspaper (when we ran out of cardboard), before covering it with about a 4-inch layer of soil (mulch would work as well).
This can sit all winter, killing the grass and getting the bed ready for planting more shrubs and perennials in the spring.
You can plant right away, though, like we did along the path edges with the perennials I brought from my yard. Simply plant them right through the paper, digging out the sod in those areas and adding a bit of soil to the hole before bringing the paper and mulch back over the dug area, close to, but not touching, the center of the plant. Shallow rooted plants like iris were just planted right in the new soil.
For the path we laid edging and laid black plastic over the grass before spreading the river rock over the plastic. For all of this we did NO digging except to create the edges and add more plants. Letting plastic and cardboard kill the grass is the best thing ever, right?
Here are more before and after shots from different angles:
And, yes, my brother-in-law is kind of into water collection. He’s very proud of it – and no, these aren’t even all of his barrels.
Just don’t get him started talking about it.
My brother-in-law also didn’t want to give up that clothes dryer, eyesore that it was. But with a promise of a new retractable line nearer the laundry room, he reluctantly let it go.
Not only does it look better without the two extra trees and the metal dryer, it looks bigger, doesn’t it?
The Rest of the Plan
Imagine a winding path of stepping stones through the middle of the wide shrub and perennial border on the right (you can see footsteps where the path will be starting at the front corner), some larger bushes and tall, narrow evergreens on the right of the stepping stones and a bench at the end beside the remaining apple tree.
And for the kids, a play structure down at the very end where we left a patch of grass (which will become a play surface).
Raised beds, a place for play, wide paths, flowers, and easy maintenance- what’s not to love?
Ready to organize that group now?
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