Home Made

Thinking about a remodel? Tired of your circa-1985 kitchen? Want to jazz up your walls or have the house all your friends are talking about? We’ve consulted the experts, tracked down the craftspeople, crunched the numbers, and shared our own DIY stories. Ready, set, renovate.

April 2012

My Personal Hell

How we turned the worst part of our property around.

We bought our cute Tudor in Park Hill four years ago and since then, nary a month has passed when we don’t find something to fix. First, it was landscaping the backyard. Next, we painted nearly every room in the house. Then, it was rewiring all the light fixtures. But there was one thing that remained the bane of our existence: the hell strip (otherwise known as that swath of land between the sidewalk and the street).

Our historic neighborhood is lined with 100-year-old trees that shade homes and grass from Denver’s harsh summer sun. Two such behemoths used to grace our boulevard, but by the time we bought the house, they’d perished, leaving two stump holes and some battle-worn grass that did nothing for our curb appeal. Each spring, the green stalks would peek out cautiously, but by June the sun had beaten them back. The only things that flourished were weeds, even after we planted two reed-thin plum trees to provide a tiny bit of shade.

After spending yet another back-splitting evening weeding the hell strip two summers ago, we finally hit the proverbial wall. My husband fled to Home Depot and rented a pickup truck, a sod cutter, and a tiller. We cancelled all weekend plans, bought a new bottle of aspirin, and spent the next 48 hours tearing up the sad-looking grass, installing edging, and planting a smattering of drought-resistant plants. We watered, and watered some more. We raked a pickup load of red mulch across the ground. And then we waited.

There were a few casualties (a lovely sedum called “Old Man’s Bones” didn’t make it past two weeks), but slowly, the new plants began to thrive. Irises bloomed. Ribbon grass spread. Russian sage lined the sidewalk with violet stems. In spring, our plum trees (with trunks too thick now to wrap a hand around) set off tiny white blooms; in autumn, the leaves turned a deep, festive red. And each season, I’m thankful that we sacrificed that one weekend to turn our dusty hell strip into, well, a hell of a strip of landscaping. —Natasha Gardner

Hell Strip Budget Breakdown

Rented pickup: $60

Rented sod cutter: $63/half day

Rented tiller: $63/half day

Edging: $35 Mulch: $80 Plants: $25

TOTAL: $326