Family Work Day: Garden Before and After

I love my family! Remember when I shared last fall how the work day became my new favorite family tradition as we worked together to paint houses and transform yards. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a day when people come together.

We decided we’d have a round of spring workdays spread throughout the months of April, May, and June (with four families participating, it’s just 1-2 days each month) and then see who would be interested in another round of days in the fall (September, October, and November).

Each family decides what they want done and has everything ready when the workers arrive with any tools they may have. And we all bring a salad to share at noon, so no one’s stuck with the food duty.

This spring it’s mainly yard work- we’ve hacked back a hillside of blackberries and gave flower beds a neat look with newspaper and compost (it also keeps down weeds and helps conserve moisture). Which is what we did again last Saturday.

Take a look at these before shots:

Front garden from the street

Front garden at the arbor

Front garden from the porch
Let’s just say this area hadn’t had my tried-and-true weed fighting combo of newspaper and compost-mulch applied in a long time. Daunting for one or two people for sure, but for a whole work crew?

Well, OK…it’s still daunting, but we dug in and by early afternoon the front garden was back in tip-top shape:

Front garden after

Doesn’t it look fantastic?

Here’s a closeup to give you a better idea. The English daisies had taken over and it was hard to see the stepping stones. There were other weeds and some plants that needed to be moved and transplanted.

After the weeds were removed and the plants where we wanted them, we laid a thick layer of newspaper, put the soaker hoses on top, and then covered it all with a 2-4 inch layer of compost.

Now the garden is set to be enjoyed for the rest of the season.

Out in the front yard, the trees were part-way hidden by a lot of overgrown grass. Some are surrounded by wire to ward off the voracious deer, and the grass grows up inside the wire unless it’s also covered with newspaper and mulch.

After we got done with it the yard looked like a neat and tidy park!

One of the reasons it was so neat and tidy was this:

Brian became a pruning machine. I’ve never seen him prune so much in all our married life!

Goodness, I was even a bit worried at first (look at the bushes in this picture and then scroll back up to the previous picture to see how much he removed!)- did he go too far? Cut off too much?

The answer? No- they needed it and should actually be reinvigorated now. One poor Camellia had a 8-ft cedar tree trying to take it over.

So in a way, Brian saved it.


Does anyone else have family/friend work days?


This is linked to Finer Things Friday, Frugal Friday, and It’s a Hodgepodge Friday.


  1. Amazing work. Do you guys rent yourselves out, lol? Great job.

  2. Holy WOW!!! That is a serious transformation!!! I bet their neighbors were glad to see you comin’! :o) What a fun family activity.

  3. WOW…that is a HUGE transformation. It doesn’t look like the same yard, except for those stepping stones and the arbor. It’s BEAUTIFUL. You all did a fantastic job :) :) Have a great weekend. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :) :)

  4. Your “crew” does good work..send them over this way please…

    Very nice job..

  5. Back in the day, we joined with 3 other families and did work days at each others homes. Even the kids worked! It was great… usually the dads worked on a repair project and older kids did heavy digging or hauling, moms did the pruning and “encouraging” and the medium to younger kids did weeding and spread the compost. Our yards would be transformed!

    That was in Southern California. Now we are in Oregon and have been for 5 years. I think it is about time we get together with some other families here and do it again…

    Thanks for the reminder of how marvelous it is to live in community, even when you don’t share the same property.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful idea. Kind of the old “barn raising” idea! Your yard looks great!

  7. What a wonderful idea. It would be great for a group of neighbors or friends — real community building.


  8. Great work everyone! What a difference! Now…when you’re ready, please send them my way! :-)

  9. Primrose says:

    Wow, Jami! What a transformation!! This is really impressive for a day’s work.

    When Dan and I move to the ‘village’ next summer, we would love to find a house with a garden/yard to rent, and we also would love the whole family to come and visit us….and maybe just help out a little in the yard too ;) Isn’t that a wonderful idea??

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