Quarantine projects. Follow along this journey of a backyard project that the COVID-19 shelter-in-place-orders initiated.
What started as a small backyard project quickly turned into a huge undertaking for Kolby and Victoria Burkhardt’s household. Originally, the Burkhardt family planned to clean up some shrubbery around one tree, edge it, and mulch it. Then after seeing how easy it was, their plan transformed into something huge.
When the Burkhardt family bought their home in spring of 2019, they quickly began renovations inside. Mainly replacing all the flooring throughout the house with wood-look tile for their three large dogs. This project took a couple months with most of the progress made on the weekends. After removing all the previous floor tile and carpet, disposing of old flooring, waiting on products to arrive, laying the tile, grouting the tile, and sealing the floor they were finally able to move in.
During that time, their yard maintenance fell by the wayside. Landscaping in the front and back became overgrown. Now sitting on almost an acre more compared to their previous residence, they found that the weekly maintenance was a more grueling task, especially in the summer. The Burkhardts had always talked about cleaning up the backyard, but it always seemed like another task on their ever-growing to-do list. That was until COVID-19 hit.
“We had been talking about fixing the yard for a while, but with my travel schedule and Victoria’s aversion to manual labor, we just kept pushing it off,” Kolby explained. “Once we were put under shelter-in-place orders, it was obvious to both of us that we needed to use that time to get this done, especially since we didn’t know how long we would be home.”
The Burkhardts split their project into five phases: landscape removal, tilling, compost, sod, and water.
Phase 1, Landscape removal. This consisted of cleaning out 15 bushes and four small crepe myrtle trees. The Burkhardts decided to remove the bushes to protect their dogs. The bottlebrush plant attracted bees in the spring and their dogs could not resist a yummy bee, which resulted in one too many bee stings. They spent over 20 hours completing this and created 26 yard waste bags.
Phase 2, Tilling. Luckily, the Burkhardts were able to borrow a tiller from their grandparents, Ed and Linda Burkhardt, who live just up the road in San Marcos and are both retired faculty staff of Texas State University. While maintaining social distancing guidelines, they were able to get the tiller and a few extra treats from their grandmother to get the day started.
“The tilling was the easiest part in hindsight, just had to mix up the dirt,” said Kolby. “I thought it was hard though at the time, the machine is so clunky and bulky and I was worried I was going to cut through a sprinkler line the whole time.”
Phase 3, Compost. The Burkhardts explained that this phase wasn’t necessarily hard, but rather smelly. Repetitive shoveling and raking coupled with teamwork knocked this section out in three hours.
Phase 4, Sod. Three total pallets went down. That is 1,350 square feet of grass similar in size to a small house. This phase proved to be the most difficult of all the phases for the Burkhardts. It took them three days split out over two weekends to complete this portion. The first day they laid sod the temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit outside, which took an extra toll on their bodies.
“My forearms have never been sorer in my life,” said Victoria. “The pieces are so awkward in size and shape to pick up, that was half my struggle alone. I tried to keep them from falling apart, but eventually, we figured out it was faster and easier if Kolby brought them over and I put them in the right spot.”
Phase 5, Water. The Burkhardts described this phase as, “pure bliss.” After completing a 4-weekend long project in the heat, wearing themselves out, they were finally able to sit back and enjoy their work. The watering phase will actually continue for one to two months depending on how the grass takes.
“I don’t think there’s a lot I would have done differently, except starting earlier in the season so that it wasn’t as hot out,” Kolby explained.
Overall, they are very pleased with their work. They now enjoy spending each morning outside watering their yard while their dogs run around anxious to get on the new grass and make it their own. DIY is the name of the game at the Burkhardt household.