Growing Green and Saving Big

There is something to be said about teaching your kids with manual labor. Truly. In this world we live in, with modern conveniences and ease, getting our kids to muck-up and get dirty alongside Tyler and I is the best thing we can teach them. As a SAHM, one income and four kids, we cannot always hire out our big jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to have projects done without sacrificing my already pained neck. However, as money is tight, the budget does not allow for a $10,000 bill from a landscaper. And, as a bonus, they learned how to sod the front yard. It is a win-win-win! We taught the kids, saved a small fortune, and are now Growing Green and Saving Big!

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Published June 20, 2022
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Total cost for this project

When looking at the cost to do a yard project, you can either have it cost in the tens of thousands or really cheap. We wanted to do this project, and have it look like we paid a small fortune, and yet didn’t break the bank.
If you have followed our journey in DIY and our life, you know that we have one income, four kids, and a strict budget. In doing projects, Tyler, my husband, takes quite a long time to plan. He finds the best place to buy seed that will be the perfect fit for our yard, who has the best sod, finding the perfect prices and deals. Tyler is a master at planning which has really helped him succeed at his job as a foreman and sometimes Superintendent at his job with a nation-wide construction company. At the end of a large construction job, what can make or break a budget really can come down to material cost and good planning.

That being said, when we first bought this house in late 2019, we had no idea what we were getting into with the landscaping. The house, for at least a decade, had been left to the wild and somewhat neglected due to the owners’ physical limitations. In early spring 2020, we realized that the backyard, along with too many dead trees, was overgrown with weeds and needed a spruce-up. The front yard was ninety percent weeds and desperate for a redo. As much as the previous owner had put into landscaping back in the 1990’s when the house was first built, the methods and materials were outdated and breaking down.

sod rolls in the driveway for growing green

Prices of all materials used:
240 Rolls of Sod $962.00
Pulverized Dirt $422.00
Tiller Rentals $174.08
Landscaping Cloth $101.82
Mulch $232.10
Landscaping Staples $9.18
Marsh Hay $7.99
Grass Seed $63.00
Lawn Rake $59.99
Hi-Yield Weed Killer $33.99
2 Hose Splitters $15.98
2 Sprinklers $17.98
Fertilizer $13.99

The total cost for our yard, front sod and seeding the back was $2,114.10
I love Growing Green and Saving Big!

Free is good

Additionally, to doing the yard, we were able to pick up these awesome landscaping paver stones that will be a temporary border between the sod and mulch. These were picked up off of Facebook Marketplace for free, we just had to remove them ourselves. Not too shabby for free.

mulch in the front yard with pavers

Below is a really neat tool that helps calculate the cost to do a sod installation. Had we hired out our yard, just the front, it would have cost us an estimated $4,000-$7,000. Now, we did seed the backyard and side as well, which this does not include. So, as an estimate, if we were to have hired out the entire yard, front and back with some smaller bits we did, it would have been anywhere between $8,000-$20,000 respectively. I’d say paying $2,114 to do it ourselves, was a worthwhile investment. Check out the sod estimate tool by clicking the link below.
Cost to Install Sod – 2022 Cost Calculator (Customizable) (homewyse.com)

Planning is key to Growing Green

Our first plan for the house was to completely overhaul the yard, but it was not to be our first project. Why do grass and make it pristine if you are going to dig up the foundation the next year to put in a patio and egress windows? This is why Tyler is the planner, he chose when we did certain jobs on the house based on needs and the overall finished look. He knew that we should not do grass first if we would then have trucks and wheelbarrows driving on the lawn to the backyard for larger projects. Much to our patient neighbors dismay, and my desire for a picture-perfect front yard, it would have to wait for the backyard to be done before it was started.

adding black dirt on the side of the garage to growing green

On the side of the house last year, we poured this nice little slab to hold the garbage and recycling cans. This being the north side of the house, it does not get much direct sunlight and only has grown moss. However, we added a few wheelbarrows of black dirt, leveled it off and planted the shade resistant grass seed in hopes that we can have some grass over here. The problem with this spot is that the gutter downspout pours out here and it is just a literal mud-pit ninety percent of the year. Here’s to hoping we can be successful at Growing Green next to the garbage cans.

marsh hay on top of freshly planted grass seed to growing green

Lush and green or dead and sparse

We have never done yardwork or landscaping to this scale before. As a planner, Tyler literally asked landscapers and people in our neighborhood with pristine laws, how to do a yard. Which tools work best, and what products to use. He has spent the last two years, literally, planning this massive project so it is set up to succeed and not die. Literally. We want the grass to grow and not die. It was, and still is, a project that keeps us up at night with math running through our minds as we think about the inches of water needed for the grass to really take root and if it was watered enough to not actually die. If you do not know, sod takes a lot of water to take root. Like, A LOT of water.

A neighbor who walks his dog past our house on a regular basis offered us this little tractor to water the lawn. It moves along the hose and has two spinning hoses on the top that expel water in a circle. It is super adorable, yellow, extremely heavy, and useful!

adorable tractor that self-waters the lawn

Which products to pick

Before we began this massive project, Tyler found the best weed killer to use that is not Round-up. Not that it isn’t a bad product, but because there was a controversy involving it that it leads to a lot of health problems. So, on his journey to plan, he found a product that will kill the weeds without that cancer-causing chemical.
The only drawback was this product, without the chemical, does not show quick weed-killing progress and therefore gives the applier anxiety as to its effectiveness. And by that, I mean one will want to reapply sooner than needed because the effects will take 5-7 days instead of an overnight brown blotch on the yard like the leading competitor. Tyler did however wait the week and the weeds did die as it should, and we were left with a sparce, and desolate yard compared to our lush green neighbors. If you want a successful yard, killing the weeds before you begin is key.

Not having the green and having a dead and brown lawn really is quite depressing. I felt bad every time a neighbor walked by or drove by and gave the old “drive by stare” and had the look of wonder on their face as to the state of our yard. I wanted to install a sign that read, “don’t judge, we killed it on purpose” or something along that line. Our close neighbors knew that the yard would soon be lush and green again.

Put the tiller to work

tilling the front yard before growing green

Tyler sure put that tiller to work! He made sure the entire backyard and front yard were tilled before any big work was started as the dirt that was there had been resting for over a year prior to this point. Before we could begin Growing Green, we had to do the prep work and kill the weeds, add black dirt, till it up and level the yard.

Backyard seed before Growing Green

In the backyard, around our newly completed poured and stamped concrete patio, we planned to use seed instead of sod. As the backyard is mostly shade, we needed to find the perfect fit for the sparsely sunny backyard. There is a lot of companies that sell grass seed, however as much as Tyler plans, he wasn’t going to just buy one off the shelf of a retailer. We ended up buying a hybrid seed that is perfect for shade from our local sod farm. They recommended this as we were buying the sod for the front from them. This seed is actually a hybrid that grows in the rainforest where the sun does not reach the ground. This seed will grow where the sun does not shine, how cool is that?!

backyard ready for grass seed to growing green

Click the link to my published blog post on how we completed this stamped concrete patio on the backyard.

Before we could sow the seed, we had to have pulverized dirt delivered in the large quantity of 4 yards. Tyler then used a wheelbarrow to bring the dirt to the back and add it around our patio to level off parts that were low. Samuel, our almost 13-year-old helped shovel the dirt and man the wheelbarrow at times. In addition to days of wheelbarrowing and raking, we also had to pick up rocks, rototill the dirt, pull weeds and fertilize. As Tyler says, “Prep is most important step”.

Rake before you sow

Once the dirt was leveled, we added fertilizer and used a yard rake to rake it into the newly placed dirt. Then the fun part began, and we got to add the grass seed! At first, I used our seed spreader, but that literally just dumped a pile. Eventually, we ended up hand spreading the weightless seeds over the yard. To make sure the seeds stayed put, adding a thin layer of Marsh Hay was necessary. Along with helping the seed to stay, it helped keep in moisture and will then act as fertilizer.

The final step was water. Water, water, water! Since first sowing the grass seeds, we have (mostly) watered the seeds twice a day. I say “mostly” because some days it rained and some days, I was unable to water. If you want to be successful at Growing Green, you have to water it a lot!

Right smack-dab in the middle of this landscaping project, our family succumbed to influenza. As I write this, we are still recovering and feeling better, however days after we began, we delt with kids sick with fevers, chills, body aches and more. This is now week four, finally recovering, as the kids kindly shared the illness with the rest of the family. Why did we teach them to share so well?!

sick kid

Replanting, rocks and more rocks

When we initially bought this house, the plants were unknown to us as it was November, and everything was dead or dying. That first spring when everything bloomed and showed its glory, Tyler and I were shocked at the wonderous plants that were available and plentiful. We waited two years before we did any major yard projects. Additionally, we knew that the plants that were there were amazing and useful.

black dirt delivery

Along the foundation, the plants were rooted only 6-8 inches away from the walls. This we knew needed to change as they were far too close and needed to be replanted at least a foot further away from the walls. Not only to allow them to grow better, but to mainly get them away from the foundation walls. In addition to being planted in clay, there was a lack of mulch or rock or any other landscaping materials around the front of the house.
Our plan was to dig out the plants, add black dirt, lay landscaping cloth, replant the plants and add landscaping stone. There were stones that we found a perfect match and added the same around the newly replanted plants.

Landscaping the front

We were able to spread out the existing plants, split some up and extend the flowerbed around the side of the house. After a hundred wheelbarrow trips, the stone was placed around the plants on top of the landscaping cloth. I do have to say, this was a huge transformation and really helped the look of our house.

Eventually, we are going to have concrete curbing installed around our house and also a nice little area in the front. Just not this year. Tyler, Matthew and Sam hauled 4 1/2 yards of mulch onto this landscaping cloth. The goal is to place the trampoline on the mulch. This little area will also have curbing to keep the mulch out of the newly planted sod. The mulch will be perfect in this area that never gets sun.

mulch on landscaping cloth in front yard

Kids are free labor

While Tyler and Sam were spreading the black dirt and finishing the tilling, Matthew and I went along the curb and driveway with a hoe and rake to clean up the edges. The tiller could not get near the edge, our task was to make sure the dirt was mixed well. This, seriously, was a job! Matthew helped me with this job and the edging looked so clean and great after we were done.

matthew cleaning dirt out of driveway and road

Oh, happiest of deliveries

This delivery, above dirt, mulch or stone, was by far the best ever. Accepting 240 rolls of sod that looked like cute little cinnamon rolls was the happiest moment. As the tilling was still being done, the sod had to wait for another hour before we could begin. None of us could wait to lay the sod and have the yard finally Growing Green!

delivery of sod to growing green

This is a man who is equally excited and yet just experienced the mass amount of work ahead. Roll one of 240 done.

Tyler laying first piece of sod to growing green

This may take a while. But look at those little grass rolls!
Tyler started rolling out the sod along the curb and I went to return the tiller. And get lunch as we were outside for five hours already and had no food. I may be a scratch kitchen, however, there comes a time when cooking is not an option. Additionally, having just got over the influenza bug, this momma is seriously going to hit a drive through. It was worth it y’all.

Laying the sod down

When I got back from returning the tiller and getting lunch, Tyler, Matthew and Sam had really gone to work! They rolled out one entire pallet of sod and were well on their way to finishing this job. I am not going to go too much into laying sod, as this was my first experience in doing so. However, I do know that one needs to make sure there are no stones or deep prints in the soil.
The edges and corners need to me matched up well with no gaps. Along with that, making sure the leading edge is folded backwards so it can then lay flat helps a lot in making sure the next roll can match the seam. This was a day’s work, and as sod only lasts up to a day or two once it is cut. We were really down to the wire to get it all installed in the front yard the same day.

Matthew and Sam were troopers in bringing the rolls out to Tyler to have him lay out. Like I said before, free labor when they are your kids, is legit.

halfway done with growing green

Keep on rolling

On and on the sod was laid down! When the last roll was laid, we placed the sprinklers down and let them soak the lawn. The first 3-4 days, the lawn needs 2-inches of water. The next 10-days it needs 1-inch a day. After that it should be good to go! One cannot express the pure joy this completed job has produced! Growing Green sure has been a fun job.

As we worked, Levi, Elliana and at times Mattew were resting on the porch. They had the best view as the dirt could no longer be walked on. These kids will be so ecstatic once we can use the front yard! Myself, I am so excited to have grass and not an endless mud pit.

kids on bench watching sod being laid

The grass we planted in the backyard, around the concrete patio, is doing amazing as well. It loves being watered and Tyler cannot wait to get out there and mow it soon. For the time being, it is Growing Green and strong.

grass growing in backyard for growing green

Growing Green Before and After

This was the front yard before we began to lay the sod. As we looked up and down the road, to our neighbors’ yards that were lush and green. I felt a moments envy until turning around and seeing my Growing Green grass rolls just waiting to be rolled out on our desolate yard.

front yard before

And this is the front yard now, with the sod all installed! This project was SO much work. Not only the day we installed the sod, but the many days leading up that included spraying the weeds, tilling, adding black dirt, replanting the front flowers, adding landscaping fabric to the side and front flowerbeds, moving mulch, moving stones, and the watering. All in all, we spent $2,114 on this project to seed the entire backyard and sod the front. But to save close to $15K is totally worth the sweat equity for our home. Thanks for stopping by!
~Monica

front yard after

Published by Monica's Scratch Kitchen

I have not always had the skills to cook and bake from scratch. As a young wife, I bought every meal frozen or boxed and presented it to my husband with a flourish, believing myself a decadent cook. As our budget shrunk, and our family grew, I looked for ways to stretch our money to nourish our kids with the best for their hungry appetites. Hoping to find recipes and meals that they would love to eat. Through the last 5 years, I have learned so many cooking and baking lessons, and experienced many wins and failures. Come along with me on this journey as I share my recipes that work, how to make them on the cheap, and my tips and tricks to get my kids to eat homemade deliciousness! I will also share updates to our house that we have done in the last year since our move. With one income, we do most of the work ourselves and with amazing family and friends to help out, cutting costs but keeping style and money in the bank! I am a wife and mother of 3 boys and 1 princess. When I was a kid, I remember being asked what I wanted to be or do when I grew up. My response was, "a mom", and I am proud to grow up and be a mom to 4 amazing kids! Samuel is 11, Matthew is 8, Levi is 4, and Elliana is almost 2. We have been blessed to have kids who love to explore foods, to try new recipes, and enjoy helping us around the house. With 4 kids, you better believe they help clean! My husband Tyler and I have been married almost 13 years. We love our kids, we love outdoors, camping, canoeing, grilling, watching movies, and just hanging out making memories. A few years ago I gifted Tyler with his own "menu" book, where we write meals and foods we have loved to eat. Weekly our family decides what our meals will be and I make up a grocery list with what we need. It literally is my favorite chore! I love to shop, so shopping for food on a budget is my biggest win! Thank you for taking the time and visiting my site, Subscribe so you do not miss a post! Keep coming back to hear about new recipes, updates on our home, fun times with our kids, and how to make homemade deliciousness! ~Monica

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