Dakota Farmer

Landscaping for the first-time homeowner

Young Dakota Living: Life lessons learned from the ins and outs of gardening.

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

May 17, 2024

3 Min Read
Sarah McNaughton in garden center with bags of mulch
LOADED DOWN: We realized our garden beds needed more soil and mulch, so we headed to our local home improvement store with the goal of having our lawn and gardens in tip-top shape. Courtesy of Sarah McNaughton

When we purchased our first home in the summer of 2023, one of the things I loved most about the house was the extensive outdoor landscaping. Fast forward through winter and into spring, and I’m realizing just how much work goes into keeping those lush garden beds in top shape.

I did research on the best ways to get garden beds ready for the growing season and was ecstatic to see the hydrangea bushes emerging this spring. Window boxes in the front of the house are now filled with blue and purple pansies, contrasting the bright red siding. The front lawn is lush, green and free of weeds.

I researched native grasses and plants and added a few into the existing landscaping. A trip to the garden section of Lowes suckered me into adding flowerpots to the front porch as well, with contrasting white flowers. From the street, it looks like we have the greenest of thumbs.

But those who step into our backyard see a very different story. Our fully fenced backyard is where we can unwind and enjoy summer evenings; where our two dogs can run, frolic and, lately, enjoy digging holes. The back lawn was patchy, full of dead patches of grass and littered with holes.

Aside from getting rid of the problems (known as Ripley and Roscoe), we decided the best way to fix the issues was to till up the worst of the lawn and start over from scratch. The previous owners left us a garden tiller, which we put to work to clean up the largest problem area.

Of course, it sounded like an easy project. Till up the dead sod, plant seeds and keep a close eye on it to make sure that the dogs left it alone. Naturally, we had more difficulties than expected. The project started strong, with the tiller making light work of the patchy grass — that is, until Cole tilled up one of the in-ground sprinklers.

To be fair, neither of us even knew there was a sprinkler there, as the sod had grown over it last summer. Another trip to Lowes later, we had all the parts to fix the sprinkler.

Or did we? A couple more trips, and the sprinkler still is not quite back in the ground, which means we’ve been watering the new grass by hand.

Who else likes the hose, you ask? Our favorite heelers. This has led to many muddy paw prints across the kitchen floor and a few places that have been reseeded to hopefully achieve an even lawn. We added mulch into the backyard garden beds and topped off the raised beds with fresh soil for an eventual cut flower garden.

I am hopeful that as the spring turns into summer, the fruit of our labor will help make the backyard green and colorful and serve as a place for pollinators to gather.

But who knows what will happen next? It’s a good thing Lowes is just a short drive away.

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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