Front Patio Makeover: Getting in Touch with the Great Outdoors and Spiders

Curb Appeal is not an easy phrase for those of us who live in condos. Mainly because we have so little control of what the outside of our place looks like even if we do own our own condo. We are limited by HOA regulations, space, and shared areas. My condo has two patio areas, a back patio that is fully walled in and a front patio which looks out over the lawns and common area of my complex and just has a short wall. Like most of my condo, these outer spaces were highly neglected by the previous owners and the year of vacancy. However, these areas were not on my radar when I first moved in because they are not necessary for habitation like my kitchen or bathrooms were. But every spring my intention was to get started on these eye sores but every year there was something else to sideline me.

This September marked my third year in my condo, it also marked the end of a spring and summer long project to spruce up my front patio. It was a long, difficult process and one of the few projects that I worked on almost on my own. My parents did help me at certain stages but I spent many hours alone with a shovel and broke my new SUV in by hauling mulch and garden pots. I plan to work on my back patio this coming spring, if other projects don’t take away too much of my budget.

But before we get into what I did to my patio, lets talk about what I started with.

When I moved in my front patio had a number of dead plants, species no longer recognizable by their dried fossil outlines, old lava rock mixed in with years of leaves twigs and other nasty things, some stepping stones which were either buried in lava rock or so much dirt and mud they were almost nonexistent, and two very health and unruly succulent hedges that were both ugly and so large they were actually wrecking the low stucco wall. There was also the original 70s light fixtures complete with a few decades of bird poop and bug infestation, and a front door that was warped and water damaged. Paradise!

Well in a sense it is paradise because despite it’s terrible neglect it looks out into the lovely park like grounds of my complex, it just wasn’t very inviting to spend time out there looking out over these grounds.

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Now before I go to far, because I will inevitably get lectured by some well meaning commenter about HOA rules, let me remind everyone that HOAs greatly differ from complex to complex. Legally speaking my condo is a PUD, and I actually own the land under me, this is why the responsibility of certain exterior things on my condo can fall into a grey area as far as who is responsible. My roof, their responsibility; my garage outer eaves, my responsibility. Architectural changes must go through a committee, though this committee has been far easier to work with than other HOA elements. Wall colors, installations, new doors, new windows all HOA. Changing plants, patio furniture, all up to me. They only care that you keep things clean and trimmed. Lights fall into a grey area, they have a lot of rules about holiday lights and string lights, but don’t really care about garden lights or even the light fixtures which though out the condo are a mix of old and new.

The light fixture was an early fix because its was horrible and didn’t provide enough light for me when I got home late, but it was relatively easy and cheap for me to fix myself.  I posted about the project earlier, in the Miracle of Spray Paint. Once again this was not an HOA issue, I was not replacing the light and most of my fellow residents have changed their lights from the original fixture completely

The real move to start working came over a year ago after my HOA started finally cracking down on overgrown plants, which they hadn’t been bothering to keep tabs on. We had some unfortunate run in’s with the HOA over this. Mainly because they were unclear of what they wanted done in their letters, and they also informed me in the hottest week in August 2013. The truth was the succulent we had planned to rip out anyway, but we were waiting for cooler weather. This plant made for a terrible hedge, it was impossible to get it even and it grew like a weed. Although I was not ready to start the full renovation, we decided enough was enough and just ripped the entire thing out one weekend so I would no longer have to deal with trimming it.

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After getting these monsters out and applying a lot of soil sanitizer to kill the stumps and roots, I neglected the area for the rest of the fall and winter. Then spring came and I woke up one morning thinking, I should go buy a shovel and start getting rid of that lava rock. This took months of evenings and mornings spent shoveling rock, taking rock out by the handful, pulling up old weed paper, and breaking up the rotting stumps left from my hedge. I ran into ant hills and lots of spiders. It took a long time and caused a lot of pulled muscles.

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But finally I hit smooth dirt. Then the fun part started….

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