Grandpa’s Garden

For the past twelve years, I designated one of the back corners of my yard as a rock/dirt debris pile.  As I completed various landscaping projects I would dump the remaining dirt/sand/rock in a huge pile, turn my back and do my best to ignore it. 

About eight years ago (having grown tired of the “mound” in the back corner) I went out and bought several retaining wall stones.  I surrounded the mound, creating the shape of a “half moon”. 

My intent was to convert the mound into a flower garden. 

At various points over the past eight or so years I did plant some iris in the furthest back corner of the garden, some tulips along both back sides of the garden, put a bird bath in, and added a bird feeder on a shepherds hook hoping that each project would provide me the inspiration I needed to fully complete the transformation. 

But, as the old saying goes… “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. 

Over the past eight or so years the garden has continued it’s downward spiral.  It continued to be overgrown with weeds.  The tulip bulbs were covered with more debris and on their third year in the garden they never germinated.  The bird feeder has weathered and fallen off the hook into the weed bed where weeds have grown up through the feeder tangling it into a death grip.  The birdbath was left out one winter and the bowl cracked all the way through.  It was later removed from the pedestal and flipped over into the weeds.  It too became lost in the overgrown weeds, no longer visible.  The birdbath pedestal (hollow) has weeds growing up through it like a volcano!   I struggled to even get a shovel into the soil because of the thick net of roots.   

The only thing that has survived was the iris (and even this year they have taken a noticeable “hit” as the weeds encroached into their area). 

The weeds in the garden have grown so dense and thick that little I have done to try and kill them off has worked.  Over the past three years the most effort I have done to tame the weeds in this flowerbed was to take a weed whip and cut them all off at the ground.  Unfortunately, they would quickly grow back up. 

A disastrous garden A disastrous garden

The photos above are from AFTER we started working on the garden.  I had not thought to get some “before” photos.  It’s hard to tell, but the weeds stand about four feet tall.  You can see the bird bath (removed from the garden), the shepherds hook (sans the bird feeder) – but the bird feeder is still entangled in all the weeds.  The iris is in there somewhere too…  This garden is deceiving.  It looks smaller than it really is.        

I have suspected that my dad (who is a amateur garden expert) has shuddered each and every time he saw this disaster area in my back yard.  Over the past few years he has mentioned that he wanted to come over and help get the garden established, but our schedules have never really meshed enough to make it happen.

Earlier this year my dad brought over a number of tomato plants for us.  The vegetable garden was already full so my dad and I cleaned a small corner of the half moon garden and planted the tomatoes.    

This was just what my dad needed to push him over the edge.

On what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, my dad showed up (unannounced) to work on the garden.  Well, “unannounced” to me.  He called while I was running an errand.  #2 of 5 (who answered the phone and took the message) failed to tell me until the doorbell rang with my dad and his gardening tools at the front door.

Grandpa gettin' started on the diggingDad told me not to worry – that he was going to just putter away in the garden and that I did not need to help him.  Well, I was not willing to let my dad toil away in my garden (on the hottest day of the year) alone, so I changed into my garden clothes, filled a thermos with ice water and headed out. 

We got the garden tools out and started working.

Once we hit the half way point we debated “calling it a day” but after a quick break under the shade of a tree with some cool water to refresh us, we decided to complete what we started.

3/4 of the way done!Here in this photo you can see the tomatoes we planted a week or so before (far left corner).

Yup, they are still there!!  There in the back of the garden (center) you can see the iris!

THERE IT IS!!  See the bird feeder??  Rescued from it’s all but neglected and forgotten grave.   

And in the far right of the photo you can see that we are still not complete.  The last 1/4 of the garden is still saturated with weeds.

Once we had the garden completely weeded my dad broke out some weed block that brought to put down and we started spreading some cypress mulch that he also brought.

Second bag of mulch down, and geraniums in the pot After the first bag of mulch End of day one.  Second bag of mulch down, and geraniums in the pot End of day one.  Second bag of mulch down, and geraniums in the pot

Thanks dad!


Dad had only brought a couple of bags of mulch (underestimating the size of the garden from his own memory) so after a very long, very hot day (were we were both starting to feel dizzy) we decided to call it a day. 

We cleaned up our mess, and dad took the birdfeeder with him promising to return it in a “refurbished” condition – but not before he had me scrounge up a pot he could plant some geraniums that he brought over.




laying more mulch down



First update: 

Several days after we de-weeded the garden, dad brought out four more bags of cypress mulch. 

Dad and I laid the mulch while #4 of 5 and #5 of 5 watered to tomatoes, geranium and iris. 




Second update: 

Yesterday (The 4th of July) Dad returned the remodeled bird feeder and we hung it back out on the Sheppard's hook.  Here are some shots of the bird feeder as it looks now (sorry, no before photos). 

remodeled bird feeder remodeled bird feeder

Left:  Here is what is left of the iris.. They used to take up twice as much space as they do now.  The weeds choked them out. 

Right:  Ice damage on a bird feeder.  As you can see, it’s cracked in a complete circle around (twice) around the base.  It’s a total loss. 

lonely iris ice damage to a bird bath

Left:  Tomatoes are starting to grow like gangbusters!

Right:  Here is the garden – as it looks today (July 5th).  A VAST improvement over what it looked like just a few days ago.

tomatoes growing like gangbusters the garden as it is today

Dad, I can not thank you enough.  Although it nearly killed us on that first day – the garden looks SO MUCH BETTER! It’s so nice looking in the back yard and instead of seeing a chore, seeing something that is so much closer to it’s potential!  Had you not “forced” the issue, that garden would still look as bad as it did a week ago. 

Thank you for all your help!


  1. Wow!!! Nice job you two!!! I heard all about it, but it is even more beautiful than I imagined! I love the bird feeder, too!!! Dad mentioned what he was doing, but it is so much prettier than I imagined!

    I wish I could help you with the bird bath. You could liquid nail it together, then do a broken tile or other kind of mosaic on the top to salvage it...could be fun for the girls.

    Great story!

  2. Ya gotta love the help of a Dad. When my Dad was healthy enough, he helped me with a lot of projects. He still tinkers for me on things that he can do, just not able to do as much as he used to. He spent an afternoon this spring helping me troubleshoot my rototiller from the comfort of a lawn chair. Sometimes I just need him there (or via phone call) for moral support.

    Garden looks great! I, too have an ongoing "pile"... every time I edge the sod out of mulch beds, I pile it, then cover it with plastic to bake the vegetation out of it, then use the dirt. My wife gets aggrevated with my pile, but I have to process it somewhere! Glad I'm not the only one... and glad you got your managed... I managed mine this spring... just used the dirt to fill some low spots.

  3. Soooooooooooo, my landscaping is in dire need of a makeover and since you guys seem so handy and do such delightful work, I've decided to give you the "honor" of doing some work for me! Please have your crew report to my yard at 7am sharp! Please don't make me regret my decision, lol.


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