by Connie Oswald Stofko
Looking at her yard when it was torn up during construction work, Pamela Rose was at first horrified. Then she stopped and thought, “What’s the opportunity here?”
Turning a calamity into an opportunity is one of the tips she shared with gardeners on how to deal with household construction that damages your landscape during the Parkside Garden Tour on Sunday, June 25.
You can also see the property on Open Gardens.
She and her husband Joel have lived in their home on Woodward Avenue for 35 years. They have had more than one occasion to deal with landscape-damaging construction.
Several years ago Rose’s front yard was dug up for work on a water line and a sewer line.
“Well, as long as they’ve got it dug up, I might as well put in another garden bed,” she thought. That’s when she created the peninsula bed, which extends off of the bed along the porch and curves into the lawn.
She was presented with an even bigger opportunity when the couple decided to add a new kitchen– an entire addition including basement– onto the back of the house. Construction work began in March 2016 “and it’s still not done,” Rose said, though it looks great from the outside.
The project took its toll on the landscape.
“A lot of the damage was just from people tramping through the yard because there were so many bodies in the area every day,” Rose said.
There was so much damage to the yard, they called in professional landscapers to help. The landscapers finished last Tuesday, but there is still much to be done to bring the landscape back.
Here are tips for gardeners on how to prevent and deal with damage to your yard that occurs during construction.
Fence off the construction zone
Rose set up a temporary fence partway into the yard to allow space to be used as a staging area for the construction crews, but to block off the rest of the yard.
“That prevented a lot of damage to the rest of the yard,” Rose said, and it allowed an area for their two large Bernese mountain dogs to roam.
Fence off gardens
Rose couldn’t weed and maintain the gardens in the backyard during the construction, making it more difficult for non-gardeners to tell a prized plant from a weed. The work crews sometimes ate their lunch in the Roses’ backyard and they would unknowingly set a chair on top of a perennial or otherwise damage plants. So Rose got some expandable green garden fencing to block off garden beds.
Look at the damage as an opportunity
The couple also lost established lawn and garden beds when they decided to add quaint street lights to the backyard. That project required digging tunnels for the electrical lines.
“But here’s the sunny side,” Rose said. “That allowed me to put in a path.”
Dig up and pot your perennials
Rose dug up some of her perennials and they came through beautifully, she said, but “I should have dug up more stuff.”
Use straw to deal with mud
Your yard could turn into a mud pit during construction, Rose said. Buy bales of straw to keep the mud down, especially if you have dogs. Straw works wonders to cushion foot traffic and limit the amount of mud tracked inside, plus it helps to protect the grass.
Consider renting a storage unit
“I can’t remember how many times I had to pack up and move stuff, then move it again,” Rose said.
Because there was work done on her basement, she had to move items out of the way of construction crews, but the new spot she chose was soon in the way of other work.
Plus she had a new shed built, so all the things from the old shed had to be stored somewhere else.
Since she couldn’t do gardening in the backyard while the construction was going on, “It’s not like I could use those things anyway,” she said. It would have been easier to store many things off site.
Protect your soil
The couple noticed that when soil was dug up and replaced, the good top soil might end up at the bottom of the hole and the clay on top. If you’re doing a small project, you might suggest to the construction crew to try to put the clay back first.
Figure out a way to remember what you have planted
Rose is a member of the Western New York Hosta Society, and was disappointed that half of the labels on her hostas disappeared. Have a back-up plan to remember what’s what in case labels are lost.