I’m unimpressed with my landscape design skills, but that shouldn’t be too surprising as A. I’m not a landscape designer and B. Technically Brian was supposed to be in charge of this outdoor project because “you’ll take too long and make it too expensive”. He’s not wrong, but mostly that’s because unless we want to DIY it ourselves good design takes time and landscape/hardscape design and materials aren’t cheap. DUH. This is a GREAT example of “doing it ourselves” not really panning out. I didn’t have time to really dedicate to it properly, so we rushed things a bit. Before winter came (when landscape work stops) we found a small window of time where we could snag the turf, snag a firepit, and we found the last hot tub on the mountain that wasn’t a three-month lead time. So we threw them together and VOILA! I love the turf, “stream”, and hammock, but the firepit was put in too big the day before the turf arrived, the plants have died because they need “water”, and the hot tub area is surrounded by a dirt patch full of literal dog shit. It’s actually hilarious and we’ve gotten used to it, but when people come over and see the pile of dog shit next to the hot tub, it reminds me that we aren’t quite done with this yard.
But we did get a new table and while this is a terrible shot of it (It’s Friday morning with an iPhone), we are one step closer to making the lower deck much better.
It pains me to show you this, but it’s all a process. The old table was an indoor table from Ikea that we happened to have so we shoved it out here and y’all it did not fare well. It was totally disintegrating and falling apart (and became kinda disgusting to eat on). The new table is AWESOME because our needs were very specific – we needed an insanely durable dark metal table and no it couldn’t be outdoor quality wood because the weather is extreme up here and that might last a few years but not 10. Of course, you can put “outdoor covers” on it but up here it will dump 2 feet of snow one day (which comes through from the deck above and piles on the table) and then 4 days later you can sit outside for lunch it’s so warm. So putting covers on and off is annoying, PLUS it’s right outside our scenic doors which means that we would be staring at a big covered table all winter while we hang out in our family room. Finding a black rust-proof metal table that is long enough to seat 8 comfortably and is not ugly is virtually impossible. I found this last summer on Williams-Sonoma (and it’s commercial quality – YES) but it was out of stock before I could snag it. So this year I DID. I know it doesn’t look that exciting, but the proportions are at least modern and I love how seamless it is with the deck. It’s tonal, monochrome, and modern – so now I need to make the whole space look, well, better. I would love the chairs to have a warmer element to them (like wood or wicker) but I also don’t want to just buy new chairs when these are perfectly good and comfortable. New lights, a few plants, style it out with people, food, and fun, and call it a day.
But honestly, we use the heck out of this yard (upper deck reveal coming soon – I LOVE IT and will NOT be embarrassed to show you how it turned out). We still love the faux grass (real grass is not permitted up here and the bark was driving us NUTS with these two muddy pups). We’ve made some good changes (we upgraded our BBQ, ordered this outdoor kitchen counter instead of customizing anything, and got that dining table). But the hot tub is still surrounded by dirt (on a cement pad) and the chain link fence is not exactly pleasuring my eye.
THE DEAD BUSHES
But so many projects left undone. I know I’m slammed designing the farmhouse, so I need to not be so hard on myself but we did kinda have a year to do this…
Now I must defend ourselves – where we live (Lake Arrowhead) has had a population EXPLOSION. Being only an hour and a half from LA and historically pretty inexpensive (comparatively), all of LA basically migrated up here during covid which skyrocketed the real estate but also made it virtually impossible to find subcontractors to do small jobs. No one wants to prioritize some lady to build a deck around a hot tub – it’s just too small of a job.
Besides, before we were vaccinated and knew that being outside was safe, we weren’t psyched about having people working at our house. That’s all to say that we are moving in two months to Portland and not only do I want to enjoy this backyard a lot this summer, but also we’ll likely start renting it out and as a source of pride, I want it to look BETTER.
Two summers ago for the reader event (woah time flies), I hired a gardener to plant these laurels along the fenceline to disguise the chain link fence and provide privacy. Normally they thrive up here in both freezing winter and hot summer with minimal care, but they were too new and they didn’t fair well without enough water in the summer/fall to make them strong enough to last through the winter. The ones near them (same plant) had deep enough root systems to live with zero maintenance. So now that we are leaving I don’t trust that anyone will water them, we don’t want to invest in irrigation and yet just digging them out and having a line of turf does NOT sound beautiful.
But I feel a bit like my hands are tied. I don’t mind DIY’ing something with someone else, but Brian doesn’t love handy work in actuality (oh… he does in theory!), and we don’t have the right equipment. Besides the days go so fast, the weekends fly, and “building a new fence” shockingly doesn’t get done. I’ve also learned that no matter how much I try to manipulate him (It will be fun! You can have a sundae afterward! We’ll do it together!), forcing your husband to do a big house project that he doesn’t deem necessary is an absolute lose/ lose for your weekend and your marriage. He doesn’t care about the fence – he thinks it “goes away” and maybe he’s right. He normally is. He doesn’t see the point in investing in making it better. So without a handy person, a gardener, or an enthusiastic husband I’ve left to actually do this myself. And my fencing skills go as far as playing Peter Pan with sticks with the kids.
Oh and then worse/final of all I found out that we aren’t allowed by the HOA to build a solid fence – it can’t be enclosed. And let’s face it chain link fences do the job just fine. They keep the dogs in, coyotes out, and they are zero maintenance. Besides, we already have it, and spending $7-10k putting up a nice-looking wood fence that we might have to pull down seems crazy when we are frankly not that interested in investing more into this property as we have bigger fish/farms to fry.
You can barely see the chain-link fence in the photos, which I suppose makes them seem like less of a big deal. But I know it’s there, and green which definitely gets more disguised than any other color up here.
But then the other day the creepy Instagram Gods tempted me with this:
It’s an expandable privacy green edge, that you place in front of what you want to disguise. Let me be VERY CLEAR – this product is likely a garbage landfill and I don’t think anyone should buy it. It’s $39.95 and based on the website it reminds me of the time when I bought the Baby Shark that moves like it’s a real baby (so cute!) that was really just a fake CGI video ad. When I got it (for Christmas for the family!) it was just a foam shark. Like a $40 pool toy, shipped from the other side of the world that the dogs quickly ate. We now call this “baby shark shame” in my house (likely on the blog, too), when you make an idiotic impulse purchase that goes in a landfill. No more baby shark shame here!!!
But it’s just so TEMPTING. In the video online it’s so satisfying. They just open it, extend it, and voila! Bu Bye chain link, hello beautiful boxwood hedge!
Now AGAIN, I’m not condoning this product. In fact, I really don’t think it should exist unless it’s for your wedding and you need to disguise something disgusting. But it got me thinking that if this product exists for this cheap, surely someone has created some sort of product that doesn’t involve rebuilding a wood fence inside the chain link fence for people like me. This existence of this product proves there is a hole in the market, and surely there has to be a better way to fill it than this???
But we all know that “cheap, fast and good” solutions aren’t a thing. So maybe I’m SOL. HELP.
So maybe what bugs me the most is the gate and behind the hot tub. Maybe I should replant in the areas where the new-ish laurels died and set up a drip system just for this for the summers until they get established. Leave the perimeter of the fence as -is, but maybe upgrade the gate and make the hot tub area better, but accept the perfectly good, functional fence. Heck, we are lucky to have a fence at all.
So with a quick search I found this chain link fence upgrade idea –
We could paint it out the dark green of the house and maybe where you see the fence the most it would just be a nice painted wood?
Then for the hot tub do a similar version in green that makes it feel like a “room”? I know in LA I would easily be able to hire some people to execute this in a weekend, but up here I don’t know how to get it done.
I know that that isn’t terribly inspirational but that seems doable with a handyman? Something like this, but even simpler?
I just want to not step from hot tub to dirt – OH AND I FORGOT TO TELL YOU THAT IS WHERE THE DOGS POOP. Not IN the hot tub (picture that if you want to LOL a lot) but currently right to the right of it, in the dirt patch. So it’s like a poop patch. Right outside the romantic hot tub. Now you fully understand the lack of appeal of our hot tub. Now I’m not complaining about the hot tub just would love to not have it surrounded by dog poop and chain link fence.
Looking at this the hot tub area seems WAY more of a priority than the chain link fence (poop removed for your Pinterest pleasure :)) I might even reach out to Yardzen (which I should have in the first place) and see if they can come up with a plan for the deck, hot tub privacy surround and any sort of fencing solutions. We are going to be living here for 2 months before we move to Oregon (sob) and then we’ll be down every winter and summer (and literally every 3 day weekend until someone in the family starts complaining that they want to “experience the world” or even “go somewhere new”). I know it seems crazy to invest more into a house that you are not going to be fully living in, but leaving it in this state feels sad/wrong when the inside of the house is so pretty. But yeah, I just don’t know how to do it and it’s not my skill set. Also, Brian is officially fired as the in-house landscape designer. Don’t worry, he’ll bounce back!
So here are my questions:
- Any genius chain link fence disguising ideas out there that don’t contribute to a landfill or requiring replacing it altogether? Any climbing plants that thrive in mountains?
- Does anyone know anyone in the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead/San Bernardino area that can build a hot tub deck (or just rocks! literally I’d take just rocks!) and a privacy wall? I can design it to be super easy/simple, I promise. I just need a willing and skilled (and available) person to help execute.
The only thing I can think of is to hook up a big long hose with branches or a drip irrigation hoses (not much money) on a timer then replant laurel mixed with other plants like dayliies (but I don’t know plants for your area) so if one or two die the symmetry is not ruined. Start small so the plants aren’t as greedy for water. Maybe create a curving path to lead to the gate but obscure it from a distance. Get advice about appropriate plants beyond laurel from a native plant society in your area.
If you replant the laurels and set up drip irrigation to get the plants started you’ll probably be happier in the long run and it’s a project that you could theoretically handle yourself since you’re in somewhat of a time crunch. Lowe’s sells a drip irrigation kit that is super easy to use called Mister Landscaper. It connects to your nearest water hose outlet and can be set up within an hour or two (start to finish). You could also use premade fence sections to screen the area around the hot tub. Lowe’s and Home Depot both sell these for screening your garbage cans but I don’t see why they can’t be used to screen the hot tub area. I think IKEA sells an outdoor screen wall of sorts in the Applaro series that might work as well (or at least they did). You’d likely need to seal the IKEA stuff for long term outdoor use.
Also you could extend the concrete hot tub slab by using concrete pavers (16” x 16” size as an example) to extend the concrete space so that you aren’t stepping immediately into dog poo dirt area. This way you’d be able to avoid the dog poo but also leave space for the dogs to do their business as usual (you’ll likely have a more difficult time training them to use a different area of the yard than you would just leaving them part of the space they already use).
Ivy grows anywhere fast and would love a chance to climb all over that fence.
Although you might prefer a native climbing plant like Virginia Creeper, which is pretty in autumn, or honeysuckle, which smells wonderful all summer…
I’ll second the Virginia Creeper and possibly the honeysuckle , as long as it’s not the vigorous Japanese one which will eventually dominate it’s area. I think Dropmore Scarlet is a cultivar of a native but whether they will grow in your Central Pacific coast is unknown to me.
That’s its not “it’s”…so sorry.
Virginia creeper has berries that will make you sick if you eat them. Maybe not the best choice for kids.
Honeysuckle is poisonous for dogs, though!
Not invasive English ivy, though. It would ideally be an a California native recommended for landscaping.
Possible resources from the California Native Plant Society: https://www.cnps.org/gardening, https://calscape.org/, https://gardenplanner.calscape.org/.
I would avoid ivy if at all possible- rats LOVE to make nests in it. The neighbors who live behind us have a whole slope covered in ivy and we were trapping 1-3 rats PER NIGHT in our vegetable garden last year.
I think you should go the plant route, too… definitely get the hose irrigation (that can be easily set up and set to timers) to get whatever established and then you can let nature take it’s course! You could also skip the bigger shrubs like laurel and go for more fast growing, climbing vines. I’m in coastal SC so I’m not sure what to suggest, but I feel certain CA gardeners can give you some climbing plant recs.
Screening plants is your best bet. I agree with other commenters that a drip line and a timer is sufficient. On another note regarding your deck: have you considered installing an under deck system on your lower deck? It would protect the lower patio area from water coming in and basically give you a giant covered area to use in the rain. They’re pretty popular in the south.
Great idea! Then they can use that area withput a water issue.
We are having a severe drought in California again this year. So maybe it’s better to do wood slats. I haven’t had a lot of luck setting up drip irrigation at our vacation house. They do require regular maintenance.
OK, I’m a Zone 3 gardener, but here I would plant virginia creeper to disguise a chain link fence. It’s drought proof once established (in fact you can still find it growing happily on abandoned farms across the Canadian prairies) but might need some watering the first year. A garden centre near you would be able to advise on a fast-growing, trouble-free vine to grow in your zone. Also, Virginia Creeper is susceptible to aphids (at least in my area).
We have an really old, falling apart 5 foot chain link fence on the patio/herb garden side of our house (outside our dining room french doors). It’s not on our property so wet can’t replace it. Grape Vine and Virginia Creeper grow up the fence but only green up enough to cover it for a few months. The rest of the year it’s an eye sore. I put up a brown mesh screen last week and it looks soooo much better. The screen attaches with zip ties. It was quick and easy, provides privacy, and looks clean. We hope to talk to the neighbors about replacing the fence at some point but this is a great improvement in the meantime. Regarding the plants, I agree with other commenters. Replant the bushes and install soaker hoses or a drip irrigation system with a timer from Lowes or HD. I would also start with smaller plants as they are likely to get the size of the ones you previously planted in 2-3 years. Smaller plants are easier to work with it you’re doing it. I just added soaker hoses to my front beds and then mulched. On the diy difficulty scale planting… Read more »
We have a hideous chain-link fence on our property that I eventually plan on tearing out, but the neighbors whose house but against our backyard has put up a screen similar to this, but they’re like really thin strips of bamboo. It honestly looks beautiful. I saw some thing similar for sale at our local nursery.
I did this and it looked great and held up well.
Cali-Bamboo. We have installed these bamboo panels all around our large, chain-linked fenced backyard. Comes, rolled, in sections of, I think, 8 feet, we got 6’ high ones. Zip tie to fence, voila!
Yes, my mom did a bamboo fence to cover our neighbour’s chain link in Toronto Canada (lots of temperature extremes) and it lasted at least 10 years and to my knowledge is still going.
Just keep the chainlink fence as is, for the same reasons that you chose your metal dining table instead of a wood one: long-lasting, no maintenance.
About the irrigation system, not sure of your situation, but I got one done in my area for less than a third of the price you listed for new fencing. May want to just bite the bullet and install an irrigation system. In the long run, it may come out easier/cheaper/more fun than perennially replacing dead plants.
Try putting a bamboo screen on the chain link fence until the plants grow and fill in the area in front of the chain link fence. You can buy it at Home Depot or Lowe’s, it’s super cheap, made of sustainable materials (bamboo) and while it won’t last forever, it will not end in the landfill. All you need is a pair of scissors and zip ties and you can easily attach it to your chain link fence.
Bamboo Screen for the win! I went through this process with a bad fence, got some fake green cover for free and it was pretty meh. In the end I did bamboo screening with climbing vines and it looked lovely. It’s cuttable ( hint – snip with garden shears for small zones, roll it up and cut the roll with a Sawsall for large areas) , light, easy to install and uninstall, affordable, and best of all looks highly intentional when installed. I love the wooden outdoor room idea for the hot tub,but until then, the DIY wood option frankly looks too 2005 splintery toxic shipping pallet planter for me. I guess diy option is add some benches ? Im not sure what to do about the dog issue !
This article was tough to read — very long, and I’m also not really sure of the problem. The chain link fence is fine; as you mention, it recedes out of view. A watering system would be a great investment, and then focusing on the hot tub area to fix the dirt patch. Maybe something like Malcolm’s patio screen could help define the area?
Do you have a poop pick-up schedule? I don’t have dogs now, but we did when I was a kid, and as we got old enough, it became part of our household chores – my mom just hated poop in the yard for longer than a day or so.
Also in regards to the poop, although this was not one of your questions, we started giving extra good treats to the dog when he pooped on his walks (rather than in the yard), because it’s easier to pick it up and dispose in the moment than deal with a ton of accumulated poop. This has cut down on the yard poop. But we live in the city where it’s easy to find a trash can on walks, no idea what it’s like where you are.
People in my area (Portland) will really take you to task for throwing your dog poop bags in their trash cans. Best to walk it home to your own can.
But Emily, you have to pick up the poop! Daily! I can’t believe you just invite people to hang out near piles of dog poop. I have dogs and I wouldn’t do that. I’m going to chalk this up to you being a fairly new dog owner and still learning.
Agree on taking it home to dispose. I feel it’s poor comportment to drop poop bags into someone else’s trash can.
There are city trash cans in cities which are for everyone to use.
That is fair… only I have had the misfortune to arrive home after garbage collection day to find a.dog wlker has thrown a HEDTY bag of dog poo in my trash can. That is not a civil rhing todo to neighbors IMO.
There’s no need to shame someone for what they choose to do with the dog poo in their own yard!
“again not JUST your issue” left out a word
Also – rats eat dog poop. Leaving it out invites a serious pest problem.
I think it’s only okay to put the bags in someone else’s garbage bin if it’s already on the curb waiting for collection – that way the homeowner doesn’t have to deal with it at all, and it will be gone by the time they bring the can in. And obviously I’d only do this with a knotted bag – no exposed poops! But people here in PDX get up in arms about nearly everything so I’m sure someone will still be mad about that. People also get pissed about dogs peeing in the grass by the curb – where else are they supposed to go?! We don’t all have yards! You’d think the dogs were peeing on people’s prize rose bushes or something 😂
No! Rude! Never put dog poop in someone else’s trash can. Those tiny bags get stuck to the bottom of the trash can and stay AFTER it is emptied. Don’t leave your sh*t for someone else to deal with.
Having experienced this firsthand, I heartily agree. On a few occasions I came home from work after garbage collection to find the offending bag of poop. My solution was to discontinue using a garbage can and just put my bag out an hour before pickup on the morning of garbage collection. Not the most convenient solution, but better than having to contend with someone else’s pooch’s 💩 marinating in my trash can until the next scheduled trash pick up.
I second the poop pickup schedule. We line a lidded bucket with a trash bag and it’s easy peasy to pick up all the poop every other day or so. The lid keeps the smell contained. The trash bag gets tossed weekly with our regular trash day. This may sound gross, but I have some poop picker upper rubber gloves that get used for nothing else.
Gloves are a good idea. I use the poop bag as a glove, turning it inside out as I collect, and then tie off the bag. It works for me but small dogs = small poop😜.
I was thinking the same as the others to start some pretty vines around the fence. Just make sure they are native and then you probably won’t have to water after the initial establishment. I think you could make some wood fencing look pretty around the hot tub. Good luck!
Don’t you immediately need to block the dogs from that area and start training them to poop somewhere else? So you don’t end up with a nicely landscaped hot tub area that is still poop adjacent?
This!!! Those puppers are pooping there because they did it once, it smelled familiar so they pooped there again, and they’ve been let poop there over and over again so it’s now the loo. Retrain them to another loo!
Oh my gosh, I love this post! I have the same problem, about 50 feet of chain link fence enclosing my roof deck. All the roof decks in my building are lined up next to each other (kind of like parking spots), separated by 5-foot chain link fences. Not exactly an outdoor oasis. I’ve looked into all the inexpensive options: tarp-like wind screens, chain link fence slats (narrow pieces of plastic that slide vertically between the links), fence tape (same idea), reed screens, bamboo screens, faux hedges on netting. I landed on faux hedge slats from a company called Fence Screen. They are costly if you have a lot of fence, but they look great, are easy to install, and have held up well to wind and bad weather (on the roof of a high building in a city). Faux hedges on netting could be a cheaper option, but they don’t look great from the other side (not sure if that matters). Anyway – good luck and let us know what you choose! (Pic of the faux hedge slats from the manufacturer’s website)
P l a s t i c ? ! ? 🌏
I know, it’s not ideal. But we don’t have hoses or a water hookup on our deck, so unfortunately plants are not an option 🙁 I only have it covering about 20 feet of the fence, so that’s how I rationalize it. But for a long fence like Emily’s, maybe not so great.
At least you’re aware of your choice. 👍
Some people don’t even have awareness about it.
I’m sure there are other ways you make more environmentally friendly choices.
If/when it perishes, maybe try bamboo or willow – both sustainable and reasonably long lasting.
I’m a Landscape Designer who has dealt with this issue many times, and I firmly believe that the #1 best solution is to paint the chain link black. It’s counterintuitive, but a green fence will actually stand out more than a black one, which will recede into the landscape and let the plants stand out instead. It also makes the chain link look “higher end” somehow (not an oxymoron, ha). Cheap and no landfill / plastic garbage required!
I agree. Our local zoo installed a huge new fence but it’s black and literally disappears!!
My neighbor has a black chain link fence and it does look much better than ours which is the typical galvanized metal.
I was going to suggest painting it black – but did not have the reasons you explained, Kelly. I think it would definitely look so much better black.
This is what I was going to say. Try to spray paint it black first. You might be surprised how much more it disappears. And, when you “see” it, how much nicer it looks.
Totally agree with painting black, also chain-link make not look great but when you replace with wood it makes the area appear much smaller since you can’ see through it as well. I would recommend trying to plant some vines on it too… not ivy, but a vine that is native to your area.
Yes! This! Same thing with black windows versus white windows. With black windows your view is drawn outside, with white windows, your view first hits the white window, then outside. I say spray paint it black.
Forget about the fence. It’s just really no big deal. And hire a service to pick up the poop.
Picking up poop 3-4x weekly is part of our kids weekly chores, it’s just a part of taking care of our pets. I know your kids are super involved with laundry, meal prep, etc – maybe they can start helping with this?
yup! we have 3 kids and they each pick up poop once a week, keeps it under control and never such a big chore for any one child. We live in CO though and there are long periods in the winter where it is impossible to pick it up with snow and freezes, then its an adult sized job.
Or just….pick up after your pets? Lol
I’m in the camp of picking up the poop each time as soon as they “go”. We have two smaller dogs that both poop twice a day, so if I’m not picking it up while on a walk, then I supervise the action in the backyard and promptly remove it. I feel this makes things nicer for everyone and is a less onerous task than lapsing clean up for a few days. Personal choice and preference on scooping the💩!
Agreed. I don’t have a yard so of course I pick up every poop as they happen on walks. I can’t imagine having to track them down later.
If it’s feasible for your family to do so, picking up the dog doo on a regular basis or every time the pups go is the way to go. For the past year, our family goes out (sometimes reluctantly) in the rain, sun, snow and sleet and pick up after our puppy. There’s no ‘Easter egg’ search for random poops, no accidentally stepping in it, and most importantly helps keep our yard clean from parasites and other yucky things (she’s had giardia which is common in young puppies and worms despite being on preventatives). Our vet recommended picking up after her each time and we’ve continued doing it, and it’s nice to not have to dodge the doo in the yard.
I am wondering what the plan is for the farm. If plants are dying because of lack of watering and piles of dog poop are not getting cleared how do you plan to keep up the Portland property? Will you hire people? Alpacas etc. presumably need a great deal more maintenance than dogs, no?
This was my first thought too. We would love to live on property, but with young children and jobs there is only so much time. I’m generally curious as to the answer to this question.
Let me at least free you from your temptation to buy a plastic plant wall. You will HATE how it looks compared to nearby natural plants. I thoroughly researched, as I was also so tempted. They are ugly and fake looking every time. In my climate ficus are extremely hearty, relatively inexpensive for tall ones and FAST growing but I don’t know how they would fare in snow. Worth asking someone who knows what will fare well in your climate on a hose drip! Pea gravel and concrete pavers around the poop “pool” for the win. We ordered oversized concrete pavers from a modern building supply store … I had to ask for more than the standard catalog. And it was so worth it because the look is a little more custom without pouring concrete. I too fully believe despite my insane schedule and reluctant non-handy husband through sheer determination I can get projects like this done myself … so I HATE to squash your enthusiasm. But we just did our yard. Our pavers weighed 100 pounds each and there would be no way I could have actually gotten it all done without at least some labor. I HOPE you… Read more »
Try honeysuckle or clematis or some other non-invasive vine recommended locally (CNPS or a good native plant nursery). You have a perfectly functional fence, and just need to disguise it further. Bamboo fencing or even bamboo or willow poles you weave through the fence (and leave sticking above) could go a long way!
Be prepared for the price of wood right now. We need to replace some shingles on our house and the wood is about 4 times the cost it normally is.
I’m gonna vote a hard NO on Virginia creeper. While it might not be an invasive species, Virginia creeper will look dead all winter long, and dealing with vines that get out of control is a nightmare. I speak from painful experience And it sounds like you will not be there enough to manage them, nor are there enough people to hire to keep them in check like a gardener. The vines are going to be beautiful in the summer but the rest of the year is just going to look dead and lifeless. I vote for the screening plants and a drip irrigation system. Boxwoods might not be the coolest plant out there, but they’ll stay green in the winter, and you can easily get a pair of shears To shape those if you want to. Plants and irrigation is the simplest and quickest method. As for the deck surrounding the hot tub. What about the pavers like another commenter shared. You can pay the pavers on either side and then schedule out a contractor for the two sided privacy fence in the future. You could also see if there’s prefab sections of fencing that you could install, you… Read more »
Agree on the limited season of growth/coverage. Additionally, it hasn’t been mentioned but a certain percentage of people can have an allergic reaction to Virginia creeper that is similar to poison ivy🙋♀️. It grows wild on our property and I have to avoid it while doing yard work.
I have nothing to offer the convo but I’m desperate to know where you snagged that exact fire pit please. I’ve searched the blog to no avail…
TRY Costco had some in NM
Hi Emily! We have a house on the mountain too. We have an all around handy, security patrol, snow removal, firewood delivery, ask for help with just about anything guy. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. (Everyone knows everyone up there) We’ve used him for years and years now. He helped renovate our deck last year. If he can’t personally take on the project, he usually knows someone who can. Happy to connect you if you’d like. Just like all things Arrowhead, you have to “let go” and realize your on “mountain time”. The clock moves a lot slower up here! Good luck! ✌🏼
CHAIN LINK FENCE: Pleeeeeease, don’t add to the fake grass with fake vine screening. Please!?! A cafe in my neighbourhood installed that plastic screening and it went lime green within 6 months and looks terrible, plus, c’mon!! Environment anyone?! 🌏 There’s a house nearby on a busy street and a young couple with little kids bpught it, put up a chain link fence. I thought ‘uh-oh’, but they planted ivy that they tended and ‘fed’ it through the fence and within several months it looked like a hedge (that would’ve taken years). All they do is clip it back a bit twice a year! Bloomin’ fabulous, cgeap, fast and easy to maintain. ▪️HOT TUB: Do what Malcolm did with his clever screening! Fabulous! Pick up your dog shit once a day. Simples! 💩 Good practice for scooping up future farm animal shit, too (Alpacas, chickens, etc.) ▪️IRRIGATION: Preferably SOAKER HOSES. Soaker hoses sort of weep water, rather than drip (the drippers can easily get blocked). You buy the length of soaker hose you need and the attachment to the faucet and maybe a cap for the other end. Plus a timer (manual timers work just fine if you don’t want… Read more »
Good morning! First, I just want to say thank you for all the wonderful content you provide on a daily basis. I truly enjoy reading your blog and have learned so much from you; not to mention all the eye candy! I have a quick (hopefully simple) request. Sometimes I read this blog with my kiddos peeking over my shoulder. Would it be possible on future posts to eliminate all four letter words/ curse words? This is not meant to be critical in any way, just a plea from a mother who doesn’t want to have to squirrel away blog reading time to stolen moments in the bathroom. 😉 Thanks for considering! You all are so talented and kind!
This is actually a terrific opportunity to teach your kids that curse words are just words and there’s a time and place for them, and they are too young to be able to make the decision of when to use them. When they’re older or adults they can use them. You really can’t police the entire world for curse words. It will be easier and better in the long run to teach your kids how to live with them/ignore them and take away the power of “naughty” words.
Exactly – the world isn’t going to bend to your will just because you have kids, and there’s literally no way to keep them from being exposed to “bad” words. If they don’t hear it from movies or books they’ll hear it just walking by others on the street. Even if they haven’t yet heard them, they will realize that certain words are being censored or avoided and be curious about it – why are words beeped out in a movie, what does parental advisory mean? Just like with sex or alcohol, they should learn that there is a time and a place for these things and that they can make those choices once they are older and more mature.
Or…you could do like you do in other situations and actively mother your kids by reminding them they can’t do everything they see others doing? This is a non-problem, unless you are making it one by your inaction. Your kids are your responsibility. I don’t like my kids seeing curse words either – 2 are quite young, but old enough to read and they constantly forget rules. Of course they do! They’ve only been humans for a hot minute! So I use a two-pronged approach: we have a rule against reading over people’s shoulders since no one likes it from strangers and coworkers and kids who do it to their parents grow up to be adults who do it to anyone, and we have a rule that they aren’t allowed to use curse words yet bc they are never going to convince all their teachers and principals every year that curse words are just words. Between the two rules, most days there is no problem with me reading this website, or most others, on my laptop in the living room with my kids around. When they do try it, I remind them of the rules and of a recent time… Read more »
There are over 1 million words in the English language. If we can’t manage as adults without using the very few that are known to be hurtful to some of our neighbors, simply to be polite and caring humans sharing this planet, we should might want to rethink our motivations. The world needs as much kindness and courtesy as we can contribute. We open doors, say please and thank you, and we’ve worn face masks for a year– such small and simple kindnesses make all the difference, and I think this applies to our language.
“Hurtful” is a stretch, and that’s precisely the issue.
I think the green chain link fence blends right in and looks fine, many quick solutions are just going to make it look 10 x’s worse. Virginia Creeper is a great idea, also a simple drip and replacement laurels would be pretty easy. For the hot tub area, someone else had a great suggestion with concrete pavers extending off the concrete pad – you could fill with pea gravel. I honestly think you don’t have to do too much at all.
I strongly caution you against adding wood to your chain link fence. It changes the weight distribution and before long you’ll realize your fence is leaning. Ask me how I know! 🙂 As others have suggested, a simple wooden privacy screen around the back of the hot tub and some sort of permeable material (gravel plus flagstone stepping stones) over the dirt will give you a lovely, low maintenance area without breaking the bank.
1. Your kids can handle the daily chore of picking up after the dogs. Takes 2 seconds we have a dedicated lined pail and tools. Dogs are using that spot because they like real ground. Thank them for consistently going in one spot so you aren’t hunting all over the yard for it. 2. New plants need about a gallon of water a week. Kids love water. Make it one of their chores. Use a cute easy to carry water can, and each plant gets x amount of watering cans full every Monday. Why complicate your life with a whole system for 3 plants? By the time you leave they should be established 3. Paint the fence black and move on with your life. A renter isn’t going to care as much as you do, and you have bigger fish to fry right now. Maybe it’s a pain in the ass to supervise kids regularly for pet pick up and plant watering, but if you are going to have any kind of animals up at the new place that will have to be part of the daily chore set anyway- watering, feeding, cleaning up poop. If they fight you on… Read more »
Such great advice, Susan!
I completely agree with this advice and was going to write a variation of that myself.
The only thing I would switch out here, instead of having the kids pick up poop in the yard, have them take the dogs for their walks – and pick up the poop *on the walk* so that the dogs stop pooping in the yard in the first place.
My kiddo has taken our dog for her walks every day since we got her as a puppy when he was 7 years old. Get a leash with a poop bag attachment and show them how to pick it up by putting your hand inside and turning it inside out over the poop.
No more poop in the yard, and kids learn about caring for their animals!
I agree with many commenters : the simplest will probably be plants and a small irrigation system that you can install yourself.
I love the vulnerability in this article : who hasn’t been obsessed with fixing some part of their house that everyone else (spouse included) thinks is enough? Yet I think I will side with Brian on this one : you have a lot on your plate, the fence is quite alright as it is and you will be able to do it later on if you want to.
The hot-tub area is maybe the space that could use the most “love” but if the dogs use it as a poop area maybe consider…leaving it as is and not using the tub?
(I am French so I don’t see the appeal of a tub, these are very rare in France so I don’t know how much you would like to use it, how many times a week,…)
I am going to add to my own comment to make a confession. I bought a house 2 years ago with a tiny garden and a small pool in very bad condition; after 1.5 years it was collapsing on itself and the pool contractors of my area (which are numerous because south of France) told me they would need to break it, dismantle it and re-make it entirely for it to work again. This meant A LOT of money and time spent on organizing contractors, not worth it considering how much I actually used the pool. So I decided to…dismantle it and fill the hole with earth/soil, and forego the pool completely. I know that the resale value of my house has taken a toll, but I did not have the money to rebuild it and I also realized that I did not used the pool often enough to justify it (+ it was a lot of work, managing the water pH and all this during summer, finding people to manage it while I was away, dead leaves,…). A VERY LONG comment just to say : sometimes you make decisions that might seem weird/weak but that are going to facilitate… Read more »
There are two types of pool people: Those who have had them and will never do it again and those who have never had them, but desire one without knowing all the work for the relatively little use. Your choice was very practical!
True! I’ve had three homes with pools and if/when I ever move, NO pool will be on my deal-breaker list. Not worth it.
I remember Brian wanted a hot tub. Some people love hot tubs. I know a couple. Not a fan myself, although it would seem nice in a cold weather when it snows. I enjoyed swimming every day for a long time. Also when I was pregnant it was just so nice to move without pain. I miss it. Pool maitenance and cost is another story. But I would do it if I had the space for it and could afford to outsource the maitenance. It would save so much time, not having to drive elsewhere, change clothing twice, add more things to laundry.
Replace the dead laurel with smaller ones. As others have stated, smaller are hardier than starting with large. Laurel grows at least two ft a year. I have English Laurel surrounding my property (Zone 6) and they are drought tolerant once established ( a year or two. ) I can not tell from picture which Laurel you have, but some can become monsters if left unchecked. They can be trimmed once/ twice a year to create a dense hedge or left to roam in a natural state as it appears you have done, so far. Avoid vines- most not evergreen and time consuming to manage along fence and look messy in winter. The expandable leaves are great for urban areas, but question how you will like them at Mountain house….plus plastic!! Your neighbors may appreciate a more natural solution. A drip hose, at least, for the new plants. CA’s drought looking to be intense this year. Do you have mandates about certain planting around properties in Arrowhead or something to keep in mind. Are there any responsible teenagers you can hire to water and maintain landscape or hire? My son did landscaping jobs in order to make money starting in… Read more »
BTW, Laurels are acid loving plants. Each spring I give them a good dose of Organic Epsoma Holly-tone and make sure the top of the shrubs are so dense that sun does not get into the center of the plant.
I’m so glad you mentioned the pet repellent. Bondide is a good one that uses natural plant oils. If Bondide can not be found, another one that has worked for me is Liquid Fence. It is citrus and garlic oils. It does work, but it smells very little like citrus and a whole lot like garlic – like roasted garlic bulbs in the oven. I don’t mind it in the least, and neither do friends coming to our house – except if they are coming for dinner and later realize I didn’t make Italian food – but I know some people have a strong aversion to eating/smelling garlic.
Irrigation and drip systems need maintenance and winterizing. Just get a sprinkler and set a timer on your phone. Even simpler lay a hose under each new bush for a few minutes then move to the next. That way you won’t forget to winterize your system and have burst pipes. Get some doggie poop bags and start picking it up daily. Takes about 30 seconds. All the flies on your picnic table hatched in that poop.
They’re moving to Portland in 2 months, so they need a system. They won’t be there to do the watering.
Thank you for saying this: “All the flies on your picnic table hatched in that poop.”
Take the dogs for frequent walks to train them to poop on their walks and pick it up then. You don’t want dogs pooping in your yard for so many reasons.
When my neighborhood was built (Austin, 50s) it was all chainlink fences. Some people have replaced them but our house still has chainlink on three sides. I love them, but probably only because our neighbors are all awesome. I agree with the main points of people who have already commented. 1. Small native plants, soaker hose with timer. I’m guessing you could find a local landscape designer (maybe even virtual) who could help with plant selection. Once you have a plan you can easily plant them yourself, then just have patience and let them grow for a few years. 2. Extend the hot tub area with pavers. Can you give your dogs somewhere better to poop, or is everything else lawn? 3. Privacy screens. Instead of doing a full fence, build wood panels. Our back neighbor put two in to block the view from our living room to their bedroom windows and they look great. They’re about 4′ wide, there are 4″ gaps between the horizontal wood slats, and the slats start a few feet from the ground so they’re nice for plants and wildlife. Just pick a few strategic locations and you’ll get the privacy you want without building… Read more »
Tge dogs do it there coz plastic turf is covering the majority of the yard.
I know, I probably should have put “lawn”. 🙂 My point is just if they don’t want the dogs going there, where do they want them to go? They could pick a spot and make it more attractive. I would roll back the plastic turf in the spot I wanted and dig in some compost or mulch to try and make the ground softer and more interesting to the dogs.
Does ivy or trumpet vine or some other vine grow well there? You could use one of those to cover the fence. The one thing that’s nice about the chain link fence is, it requires almost no maintenance and lasts just about forever. T me, all that wood pasted onto the fence makes it look much worse. And, isn’t it harder to get into a sunken hot tub than one you can stand and put one leg in at a time while holding onto the side? Unless painted or stained, I’m not a fan of the raw wood look, either. I like the one example that reminds me of Malcolm’s deck.
I have two suggestions:
For the dirt area, have a load of pea gravel delivered. Just cover the dirt with pea gravel. Then add some potted plants — even fake ones if you are worried about them during your absence.
For the fence: plant creeping fig or trumpet vine all along it. They are both cheap, fast-growing vines which will cover your whole fence in less than a year. Less work than the wood solution and will still please your HOA. And great for wildlife, too!
According to my extension service, neither of those plants is native to California. Creeping fig is from East Asia and considered an invasive species throughout the US. It has naturalized in the southeast and south-central states, but can not survive the mountain winters anyway. Trumpet vine is native to the eastern US, but not in the west, so it is also an invasive species for California. Additionally, there is the problem that it is such a bully in the garden that the Chinese Trumpet Vine is now being imported, but not always clearly labelled and may be called simply “Trumpet Vine” or “Trumpet Vine, no suckers” since it supposedly has no/fewer suckers that its North American counterpart. Someone trying to at least by the NA-native species could easily end up purchasing the import. Both of these suggestions would be a waste, and not in keeping with the responsibility of Americans to grow native species that can work with their ecosystem rather than dominating or decimating it. A responsibility the Emily has clearly communicated, time and again, she and Brian both feel and are committed to. If that’s the kind of thing that makes HOAs happy, then they are just as… Read more »
Star jasmine grows quickly, is evergreen, is easy to maintain, and smells lovely. It grows pretty quickly and will be easy to train along the fence. does need watering, of course, which would be the case for anything planted, so a no fuss drip system would work. I’d add rock around the hot tub area with some pavers as a path to it. Easier to clean up the poop. But I’d use at least 1/4 to 3/4 inch rock so that you’re not scooping up a handful dash time when picking up poop and having to replace regularly. I pick up my dogs’ poop twice a day so it isn’t sitting there for long. Ideally I pick it up right after they go and they mostly go right after breakfast and dinner. I find it better to pick up quickly so that no one (you or them) inadvertently steps in it. But if you’re not willing to pick it up regularly, it seems like you’d have to train them to go somewhere else that isn’t a high traffic area.
Dogs can be allergic to Jasmine
Star jasmine is a non-native invasive species. There are so many native jasmine cultivars, why bother with something that is disruptive to the local ecosystem?
This is perfect timing as we are trying to do the same with the same low budget. What about using slabs of whatever stone you have already used as steps to the hot tub and filling in the space with small rocks? Maybe when you make the wood surround around the hot tub you can make one of the “walls” be the end point of the small rocks and on the other side can be the poop area? Grow bushes for the rest of the fence. In the Hamptons people grow hedges around their fence (or as a fence) and then get a pretty garden gate instead of a standard chain link one. My gf has a home (featured in design mags omg) with a massive yard where they did this.
Why can’t I load the photos I painstakingly searched for. 😭😭😭
Whew! Maybe try the decaf? That green deck wrap looks like plastic garbage. Don’t. Replace the dead plants along the fence and add in a few more, then install irrigation. Clean up around the hot tub and install pavers around it so that’s it not dog area. It seems you’re trying to make big problems and big projects for no real gain.
Virginia Creeper is native to the Eastern US- it will look completely out of place in a California woodland environment. Ivy is also not native CA and if you don’t constantly monitor it, it will take over everywhere, including growing right through your nice turf. If you ever want to change things up you’ll regret having planted Ivy because it’s a huge pain to get rid of. Go to the local nursery and pick up a bunch of little pots of native Clematis. There are lots of CA native varieties- just ask which one will grow best in your area with your yard’s amount of sun. Clematis will cover as much of the fence as you give it, and produces pretty flowers. Absolutely put in a drip system.
Second this. I live in the northern mid-Atlantic region and we constantly have to eradicate the Virginia creeper while it’s dormant. And, I’ll mention it again that some people can have an allergic reaction to it upon contact with their skin.
My husband is currently covering all ugly things in our garden and an unfinished small building with the pruning and terrible snow damage remains of quecus ilex, encina in spanish, We have many many of them.
It works well as encina holds well. Oak should be the same as is a tree of similar structure
We used bamboo privacy fencing which comes in rolls to disguise an ugly brick wall in out yard. The stuff is cheap and comes in a variety of colors and textures. We just rolled it out and zip tied it every couple of feet to these bricks that were sticking out on the top. It’s just thin bamboo with wire woven around it. We got ours on Amazon but Home Depot, etc has it too
Wildflowers might be worth considering. I had a similar dirt patch / no time or budget for landscape design problem in California zone 9b and found wildflower seed to be super cheap and easy. You just sow the seeds and keep em watered with a hose for the first few weeks. After that they take care of themselves and come up year after year. My little meadow is up and colorful now– we get lots of interesting (good) bug & bird activity, and my kids are having fun picking flowers. I used these but looking at your yard you might appreciate a mix for shade.
An upgrade from the bamboo roll fencing others have suggested is prebuilt bamboo fence panels attached with the conduit straps pictured in your DIY photo above. This is what I’ve done – super simple – you can do this yourself easily, I promise. It’s just a matter of screwing in a few screws per panel.
Chain Link Fence
We made the mistake of growing climbing vines over a chain link fence once to disguise it. From day one, it looked either uneven or overgrown – and messy at every stage (and then brown in the winter. Nice). Further, when we fully regretted it, the vines were interwoven w the fence & it was impossible to remove. I agree with painting it black (it will not stand out as much) and doing some nice landscaping w irrigation hoses well in front of the fence on a proper bed with a dark/black mulch. Keep it clean and simple looking. With beautiful plantings in front, you won’t even see the fence.
What exactly does this mean – “We aren’t allowed by the HOA to build a solid fence – it can’t be enclosed.” Wouldn’t many of these non-plant suggestions essentially result in a solid fence?
I would suggest that you ask the HOA to define “solid fence” before you start making changes.
My previous home had a chain link fence surrounding the property (probably installed in the 50’s). My solution was Night Blooming Jasmine. Lovely white fragrant flowers that was a fast growing vine. It required watering only the first year and then it was off and running (no pun) with fencing covered in white scented flowers. Not invasive and easy care–just a trim here and there when necessary. Only caveat: I was living in SoCal, so not sure if it would suit your area–although I now live in OR and it is grown here. Also, there maybe a hardier variety for your mountain locale. Good Luck!
it will die up there. I think it’s a zone 10.
Don’t know if that jasmine will work, but there are several native species of jasmine that are native to various parts of North America. If Night Blooming won’t work, maybe another will.
I suggest bamboo fencing. It comes in rolls and you can tie it right to your chain link fence. Very inexpensive, but unfortunately very popular right now and out of stock in many locations. It comes in different reed thicknesses and colors, although I prefer the 3/4” size in natural which will silver over time.
You can’t pick up after a couple of dogs, and you want to run a farm? with chickens and alpacas? Good luck
I partly think that Brian is right and people aren’t really noticing this stuff, but then you go and show those options and WOW those would look a lot better! I’d go with the simplest wood slats stained with solid stain (paint chips, stain fades). Do not do those fake plants, they don’t hold up at all. UV light will fade them… just better to do nothing IMHO.
Hot tub help and ideas – Orlando!
My friend did this with pallets she got for free from a home improvement store. She painted and hooked them together.
This is her “ bar”