To Weed or Not To Weed

imageWell I think we all know the answer to that question. And it includes having 7 yards of gravel dumped into your driveway on a rainy Saturday morning in late February, so you can finally put an end to the 24-hr. weed-breeding factory that is laughingly known as your side yard.

The area I’m referring to was an embarrassing empty territory that divided our front yard from our backyard and had been a thorn in our side ever since we moved in during the fall of 2014. Having just emerged from a very hot and dry summer, this entire 15′ x 75′ strip of land on the side of our house was nothing but dust when we arrived. Then winter hit and the rainy season began, covering the ground with moss, algae, and every type of hideous weed with the ability to grow on planet earth. Not even our Weed Popper, a curious little 1970’s gardening tool that I picked up at an estate sale for 50 cents, could help us now.

By spring our side yard looked remarkably like an abandoned lot. But given the similar state of our backyard during that time, I knew we had bigger fish to fry. And I wouldn’t have been overly bothered by it if this nightmare wasn’t fully visible from the road and could be seen by all of our new neighbors, none of whom had such a horticultural blight directly adjacent to their homes.


We barely kept it at bay, the weeds growing faster than we could pull and trim them due to the lush terrarium that is Pacific Northwest winter. We would go to work in the morning and I swear that by the time we got home, these weeds would be 6″ taller. It was like a field of broken dreams over there.

Whenever there was a break in the rain, David would gas up the weed-whacker to obliterate the new growth and I would follow up with the Weed Popper, in all of it’s funky, Jazzercize-y font glory. But that did little to satisfy either of us. We might as well have tossed a few car fenders and old dressers out there, because that’s the direction this area was definitely headed.

For a long time we were unsure of exactly what to do with this segment of land. Sure, it couldn’t stay like it was, but should we have it sodded like the backyard? Or concreted like the driveway? Maybe we could do pavers. Or strips of grass with even bigger pavers. Or it could be a sunflower garden of some type. Or fancy side patio with bistro tables and umbrellas! Or David could build a workshop out there. Or a carport. Or we could plant big flowering trees. Or rhododendron bushes! Those are nice! Or maybe if we just mulched all of it. Oooh– or we could do a rock garden!

I think you see my point.

And because of its very unmanicured nature (pun intended) it immediately became what we referred to as “project alley” and was the location for all of our this-can’t-happen-inside-the-house painting, staining, sanding, sawing and gardening projects. Until one day I had enough and couldn’t stand to look at it any longer.

By this time we had agreed that it would be nice if we had a little extra on-property covered parking and David was researching potential carport structures (retro-styled of course) and pouring the structural piers for the eventual posts. And since pouring a concrete pad costs about as much as a used Toyota Corolla, we determined that gravel was our best option. Lots of gravel. Gravel so dark and thick that nothing could grow out of it and nothing could survive underneath it. Nothing.


Plus, it’s a very period-correct addition to our midcentury home. They sure loved them some gravel in the 60’s.


To add visual interest, we decided to edge the area closest to the driveway with metal landscape edging and mimic the organic, free-form 1960’s style of our front lawn, and also contain the gravel. We had a hell of a time getting this edging to be level, eventually coming to the realization that the ground had gotten rutted over the past 24 months from the vehicles that had entered our backyard to execute other larger landscaping projects. David spent a few back-breaking hours digging it up and leveling it, as well as taking several more passes with the weed-whacker (damn you, Oregon rain).


Once it was level, we laid out roll after roll of thick, dark, commercial grade weed-block paper and staked it tight into the ground. Gravel delivery was the next step. And then just a few quick hours of prison-labor rock shoveling and I’d never have to yank weeds out of this hideous abandoned lot again!



999 shovels of gravel on the drive

999 shovels of gravel

You toss one down

Rake it around

999 shovels of gravel on the drive


And just when I thought my blistered hands had turned into permanent c-clamps like Lego people, it was done. Not a weed in sight. Just glorious dark grey gravel that matched the color our of house. Now all that had to be done was to add a little topsoil and grass seed on the kidney-shaped lawn by the driveway, and we’d be in business for carport construction.


We even purchased large concrete pads to ensure that our trash, recycling and compost bins didn’t sink into the gravel like slow quicksand. That’s how much gravel we had shoveled onto the ground. An impenetrable fortress of weed-free solitude.



Once spring hit and the temperatures began to warm up, I was a bit fearful that we would see those weeds popping through. I certainly didn’t want to be yanking them out of 4 1/2 inches of gravel all damn summer. But considering we’ve had the rainiest spring in Portland history and not a single weed has yet to rear its head, I think I can finally retire the Weed Popper to the shed, instead of keeping it leaning against the house for quick elimination.

But I may just leave it there anyway. Ya know, in case of a zombie apocalypse.



One thought on “To Weed or Not To Weed

  1. LOVE IT! My favorite line is “Like a field of broken dreams!” Very clever!

    BTY, the side yard looks outstanding!


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