Last updated on August 24th, 2021
Any house or garden projects happening for you? The global pandemic has compelled Fox and me to tackle some necessary-for-us upgrades. As you might recall, last summer we purchased an upright freezer. We also installed a whole-house generator. And today as I write this, we are increasing the size of our patio and installing a pergola there. You see, the pandemic has taught us the importance of comfortable outdoor dining. Details and pictures of this work-in-progress:
The patio is located between the rear of the house and the front of the old North Wing. The North Wing is the original structure on this property, built circa 1795. We never used the patio. The blue stone flooring there was not properly seated when installed by previous owners. It was sunken in some places and pitched in others. It was not suitable for entertaining.
More inviting is the Herb Garden (click here for details) that I designed between the North and West Wings of the house. The garden is very small. The table there is fine for two people, or maybe four, but certainly not six. Because of the global pandemic, a large, comfortable outdoor dining place has become a priority for us.
And the best location for said dining area? The never-used patio! We decided to extend and enlarge the patio at its farthest end. This way, we could install a 10×14-foot pergola as a “roof” for a long table and six chairs.
The crew arrived Friday morning, and immediately got to work. In pouring rain. I was impressed by the brave soul who maneuvered a backhoe down a very steep hill.
To start, the crew pried up enormous slabs of bluestone.
Then they carved out the area where the table and chairs will go…
And dug a trench and dry well to re-direct water from a nearby downspout. Pipes (not pictured) send the water to the boxwood garden.
Four support posts were inserted for the pergola’s frame…
And then the whole area was backfilled with gravel…
Plus landscaping fabric and fine pea gravel.
Nine hours later, the crew called it a day.
You know the old saying “One job leads to another?” The next morning, I realized that the remaining, jigsaw puzzle-like blue stone looked just…awful. When the crew arrived at 8AM, we asked them to re-do that part of the patio, too.
What a job! The crew pried up each hefty slab by hand. I would have helped, but I was afraid I’d spill my martini.
The talented team leveled, graveled, fabric-ed, and pea-graveled until the old area matched the new.
Then the old blue stone slabs– the best among them, anyway — were painstakingly set in place and carefully leveled. A level platform is important when you wish to arrange a table and chairs.
I look forward to showing you the finished patio and pergola. I also look forward to serving you Afternoon Tea with cream scones and finger sandwiches beneath the pergola. Meanwhile, back to my original question: What house or garden jobs do you hope to accomplish now or in the near future? Please talk to me in the comments field below. xKevin
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Mary Laiuppa says
What a great idea and yes, you needed to take up the old and redo and extend it all. Adding a pergola will be the crowning touch. And considering the designs you’ve already done, I’m sure it will be beautiful. Are you already shopping for that outdoor table and chairs. I know what I’d want but I have no place to put it and no money to pay for it.
I’m still at the adding the three raised beds to the one I finished. I have started more lettuce, plus tomatoes. I’ll be starting basil seeds soon. But right now I am clearing a path from the back gate to the kitchen and then clearing out the kitchen and my refrigerator preparing for the delivery of a refrigerator I ordered 7 months ago. That is pretty much my project.
Then it’s relighting the pilot on the vintage stove. I’ll probably have to do some cleaning first. Also finish installing the smoke detector. Then fix the printer.
So I have projects, but they aren’t really home improvement projects. Well, except the garden raised bed planters.
Wonderful! I love the look of bluestone. We’ll be doing a few smallish projects this year – replacing windows and doors in the rear of the house, and hiring a landscape designer to design our front and back yards – while dreaming of bigger projects to come.
Many years ago when we moved in to our house we did a patio out of natural flagstone. We love it! It’s not perfectly like your bluestone but it feels like a natural part of the yard, unlike some wood decks. I see the same sort of ambiance on your new patio. Have fun! You will love it!
We added a blue stone terrace with stone walls last year and have already been enjoying it in Connecticut thanks to our new heater.
Sandy Evans says
The new patio and pergola will give you so much additional living space; hiring professional installation was wise. I can’t wait to see the finished project! I live in a condo and have small garden that backs up to woods and wetlands. Recently our board has outlawed use of bark mulch because of spurs that adhere to siding. I am trying to think of a way to keep weeds out. Stone is not an option and am considering rubber mulch or just abandoning the garden completely.
Georgeann Brown says
A martini requires a steady hand. My project is to find someone that will thoughtfully secure a hand hooked 8 yard runner on our staircase.
We have completely re-done our raised beds. The area where they were will now be my daughters new iris garden. She will be moving 3 small beds into the new arena. We are putting in a 9×12 foot patio using 12×12 pavers 108 in three different colours charcoal light grey and red the house colours. after the snow this week we will be putting up the pool.
Kelly Dinatti says
We cheated and had a poured concrete patio added to back of house overlooking the moss garden. They used forms and cement dye to imitate slate. The patio was necessarily narrow due to the septic tank location. Sure added value to back yard. Wish I could share a photo
We’re planning a pergola too, but I noticed you hadn’t left an area to plant vines etc to creep all over the structure. Are you planning to plant in pots?
Barb Milburn says
Can I tell you how much I love blue stone!!! Your patio and dining area will be stunning!
Our summer project, this year, is redoing our pool. The existing pool is 48 years old…time for a facelift
Speaks well, though, of my husband’s uncle who originally owned our home. A job well-done all those years ago.
Blessings to you and Mr. Fox.
Mariska L says
We are building another raised cedar bed this year to accommodate all the extra seedlings I started this spring. This one will be an 4’x8’ size. We have 3 raised beds plus 2 raised beds I turn into cold framed for greens and Japanese turnips over the winter. We live in zone 7. I can’t wait to start playing in the dirt.
Really looking forward to seeing the completed project. Theblue stone isbeautuful. Wish my stone patio looked as nice… can’t seem to seal the concrete gravel between the stones properly….rain washes it out.
Love the blue stone! I’m itching to get working on an outdoor space myself… but dad, who’s the usual planner/co-worker is dealing with some health issues. Getting professionals to come in is a bit too costly right now.
I’m currently clearing beds and getting ready for mulch delivery. Also debating about trying some raised bed gardening this spring.
Good luck to you and Mr. Fox – hope will hold the martini while you share the next photo update 🙂
Wow. That is just lovely! I purchased a Greenstalk planter to put on my deck and it arrived the other day. I am excited to fill it up and plant herbs, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries. I will be picking up a car load of horse manure later this week (all free) to mix in with my garden beds. Can’t wait to get past my last freeze date! Anticipation!
Sandra Payette says
I love what you and Mr. Fox are doing. It will be such a treat this summer have lunch or an evening meal outside. I can see beautiful vines or something flowering around the pergola. Really a nice job. Those guys are great. Can’t wait for the final pic. xoxo
Darla Metro says
I’m so envious. My husband and I had planned to build a patio this year but it’s probably going to be postponed until next year. He does most of our projects himself and he is still working on a renovation on our daughter’s 1948 Tudor. It’s turning out beautifully (master bath, guest bath, two closets, and new flooring on the whole second floor) but of course it’s taking longer than planned since it’s only the two of them working on weekends and once they started they decided to replace old wiring and plumbing while they were at it. Rather than rushing we’ll do ours next year. We’re thinking about doing a pergola so I’m excited to see yours. So far everything you’ve done looks great.
My husband has been working from home for the last year and in that time has managed to paint the exterior of the house and revarnish all the fences. Looking great and all from the time he saved commuting. Me, I’m just knitting and cooking lol.
I’m glad you decided to redo the old patio part as well. At first, I thought, Oh Kevin….redo it now while you have the equipment out there.
After downsizing all my flowerbeds last fall, I’m concentrating on the garage area. I’m turning my side of the garage into a work space. I’m lining the dirt floor with crushed rock and then using my greenhouse tables for work benches. I’ll finally have only one place to store all my gardening gear!
On the outside west wall, I need to replace the landscape timbers. This time I’m going with 5x6x16….A hosta bed lives along this side. The north wall is having the junk removed and I’ll lay conveyor belting across the whole north side except where the small tree is. Here I’ll store my kayak so it’s off the ground. The south side just has one little mini garden waiting to be set up. The East side is an extensive project. On the front 16 feet, I have a raised rhubarb bed, but the remaining 24 feet is an extra wide retaining wall that holds rocks and it’s not full so lots of baby Amur Maple trees start here. I’m moving the back 24 ft, making the width 18” wide instead of 40” wide. This is the long project as I have to do everything by hand bc of the grape arbor, lilac shrub, and the Amur Maple. I have lots of stones to pitch to one side while I rebuild the retaining wall and then pitch the rocks back in place to fix the remaining 12 ft. I have a landscape crew coming in late July to reset the sloped edge bc I’m tired of fighting it. Time to call the professionals.
I’m putting in 1 raised bed where the old greenhouse was. It already has landscape fabric down so it’s a matter of building the new strawberry bed. I might add a shorter bed for lettuce, spinach and kale.
Then concentrate on stripping my deck….if your deck has a lot of sun, never ever apply the concrete stain to it. It looks great for one year and then starts peeling.
Old house in a new city. Complete redo with native plants. Considering a pergola.
Gosh, how nice it will look. Wish I had one. But unfortunately instead I have 2 new puppies, Australian cattle dog mixes, both black siblings, now about 7 months young, totaling 7 dogs. More than I’ve ever owned! And since one of them decided she was going to climb my chain length fence (never in 25+ years have any others tried that, but did have to cement the whole 1000 or so foot perimeter a number of years ago to prevent the diggers from escaping!), to get out and chase critters, I guess. I’m having to jerry-rig some cut metal flashing (the only idea I could cheapest come up with), to wire along the top of the fence. Definitely not the nicest looking and have yet to discover if she’ll still go right over it!
Wow those guys are amazing, such back breaking work. What a fabulous outdoor dining area you will have. We wanted to redo our back corner fence to match the rest, but lumber has tripled in price during the pandemic so we will have to wait for another year and hope prices average out again. I’m starting a veggie patch in our front yard this year!
This is very impressive project and thanks for inspiring us . Your beautiful herb garden inspired me to create a small raised bed vegetable garden this spring along with some flower bed. Your blog on raised bed was my guiding light. Thanks a lot.
Can’t wait to see the finished project. You will get a lot of enjoyment out of the new patio. I recently put in a wrap-around paver patio that follows the curves of our retaining wall/flower beds. We spend most of our summer evenings out there, enjoying local craft beer or wine. Our property is wooded and has a natural slope so we’re adding a two-drop waterfall into the gardens this spring. The projects keep us busy, but we take great satisfaction in the outcomes. Enjoy those martinis on your beautiful patio!
Dana Hutchinson says
Looks great Kevin! I’ve decided since we put new siding on our house, a gorgeous grey color,, to paint the foundation black to match the shutters then dig up all my perennials in my 2 front flower beds, lay felt & plastic then river rock, and have 2 to 3 decorative planters for prettiness. Less is more, right?!? Since the passing of my father this last October, I have lost all umph to do any gardening including my 2 vegetable gardens. I’m going away for awhile to find serenity and a peace of mind and hopefully it’ll get me out of whatever kind a funk I’m in. Much love
That is going to be lovely! So jealous! I have (since recovering from Covid!) mainly been clearing brush, weeds, and invasive vines from my flower beds and wooded backyard. I spent 5 hours on Friday cutting out brush and untangling vines from a bunch of azalea bushes. The yard and beds had been very untended for years when we moved in a little over 2 years ago. This is our third spring and summer and finally I’m executing some of my own vision which includes adding more natives and getting rid of things that while sometimes lovely are problematic in spreading to wild areas here. I plan to hire someone soon to dig out some Miscanthus Sinesis which has taken over what feels like half of my front yard. That’s beyond the energy I have. It completely hid a beautiful azalea and rhododendron and became tangled with all kinds of vines. It just looked crazy. There are other things we need professional help for—like a retaining wall, but there are also many big projects inside that we hadn’t planned on needing so soon like a bathroom renovation due to a leaking shower and damaged floor. $$$
In the month of June, we will move from our apartment in Madrid (Spain) since it will be totally renewed. I have mixed feelings, on one side I love the project but I wonder what the 2 months of work there will be like… and how many mistakes I will make in the processs, I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best!
Your home is lovely, it will look even better after this project.
Sandi Leonard says
We are having all the flowers beds completely redone on the side and front of our house. Big project. We are giving away all plants that we no longer want. Friends have been coming and digging them up for their beds. Installing new irrigation. Trying to achieve a lower maintenance garden.
A warning to anyone using horse manure for their gardens – it is not a good choice. Why? Because we horse owners use wood shavings for bedding and of course this is mixed in with the manure. Shavings pull nitrogen out of the soil. Plants won’t grow without nitrogen. My farmer neighbour told me about this, and he’s absolutely right. He should know- he makes his living from his farming!
Nancy W says
What a wonderful space, I can’t wait to see the end result!
Cookbook Collector says
If the top of the roof is slanted, you could put a waterproof roof on it and upscale it to a pavilion so you can enjoy it even in inclement weather. One thought is to use clear polycarbonate panels or other material that looks like corrugated metal or a plastic roofing material.
We are going to be in for a treat as you beautify the immediate area in future projects. Your green thumb can make any construction project beautiful!
Carol L Samsel says
Last year we had a covered front porch added to the house. The contractor did not do a good job on finishing the edges so we are planning to build a 12 inch flowerbed around the edge.
Edna V. says
Kevin, I think your slate patio is stunning and in keeping with the style of your home. Way to go! You will enjoy this area while dining alfresco!
In Victoria BC , not only are we limited to dining choices right now but also socializing. I hope to have one person at at time to enjoy my garden, soon. Being outside is the best idea. For my project: I have an overgrown garden bed that will require a lot of digging to rid it of debris and am presently looking for someone to attend to this for me.
I could spend all day reading everyone’s comments and upcoming projects!
Fran Ewing says
Last year during covid I finished off half of my yard in native plants for bees and butterflies. I had to put a fence around it because my two pugs like to water all of the flowers for me. I have several arbors and one will have a Dutchman’s pipe vine covering it. Host plant for the pipe vine swallowtail. Are you going to put a vine or flower on your pergola?
I love it!! I dearly want a pergola over our east facing patio with slanted (open) roof beams to let in the sunshine in the winter (no mold). My Farmer is not on board…yet.
Also, thank you for the photo of the herb garden, especially the trellises on the side of the building. I just did that on the side of our garden, facing the front lawn. Farmer thinks I’m nuts for doing it, but I knew it would look great. I have iris under one of the shorter pieces and will be planting more iris under the other and then the middle is a longer piece like yours. There I am placing a potted mandevilla vine, for the summer. I may have to get 3 vines for when the iris stop blooming. (shucks, buying more plants. *wink*)
With help of a friend, I dug out all the yucca babies, leaving one strong plant which will bloom this year. The friend got 3 yuccas and planted them beautifully in her yard. I potted 4 to sell at a fundraising plant and bake sale. And I planted two in sunny spots in the rear yard.
Next I will weed out things and prune trees and bushes at the right time this spring to next fall.
Susan J says
Kevin, love your patio project.
Can you tell us more about your whole house generator? After the horrible, horrible winter storms in mid February here in Texas, I have vowed never to be without electricity again for 3 days with outdoor temps in the single digits and 30 degrees inside the house. Electronic ignition system on the gas stove and furnace don’t work with no electricity. That detail never crossed my mind when the lights went out….Grab another quilt and snuggle with the dogs.
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says
Looking forward to afternoon tea when you next open your gardens to the public. I agree with everyone who said you were smart to take up the old bluestone and integrate old and new. Absolutely you need an outdoor space for entertaining and a better every day dining space for the two of you.
David Leinweber says
Looks beautiful! Job nicely done by the crew. Pergola is excellent addition! How nice it will be to use an area of your estate that was previously underutilized.
Karen Mary says
We are also working on designing a pea gravel patio area. I’m nervous about my ability to visualize it ahead of time. What if we do it and don’t like it? Yikes! You’ve encouraged and inspired me. Thanks!
Mojave Moon says
Just sharing an idea which seems to work well in regions with little rainfall. Cement blocks are quite inexpensive at home improvement centers. They can be used to build ‘pillars’ with a 14″ capstone on top. No mortar necessary, completely non-permanent, and even I, at age 74 can build one myself. A large potted plant atop the capstone cannot be touched by hungry critters. And the plant does not even need to be a cactus, either! I have built simple benches this way, as well as elaborate benches with a pillar on either end. It’s fun, creative, fast and inexpensive. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now and have never had one get out of alignment or topple. But then, we only have 4″ of rain per year. Kevin. I envy the kind of gardening your region allows you to do.
Sarah S. says
Congratulations on the new patio! We have a stamped concrete terrace that was used last summer for a few socially distanced gatherings. It was a relief to be able to see friends in person, even if behind masks.
I have a large bed of white Siberian Iris that I am going to dig up and replace with native plants. I’m not looking forward to it as they such a deep solid root mass, but the bed is over crowded. And the new plants will be summer/fall bloomers, something my gardens need. I will be doing the same with a bed of Bearded Iris.
I am designing a fire pit area on the east side of our back yard. This will be partially sunken and include a knee wall to help block wind and provide extra seating.
Working to enrich the soil in my 6 raised garden beds and perennial garden per your soil enriching guidelines.
Not sure if this will get done this Summer, or next, but the plan is to remove the old, ugly deck we currently have in our garden/backyard, and put a new, more modern, curvy-lined one. The deck we have now, apart from being old beyond repair, takes too much space and we want the new one to be slightly smaller, thus allowing for more planting and more nature-looking space.
Looking forward to seeing the end result of your project! It already promises to be fantastic!
That will be a fine patio to sip martinis with your friends! I envy you the professional crew. I am currently finishing a 20′ diameter circle patio of Chilton pavers, which I have done completely myself. I am 63. It is beautiful, but I won’t do it again! Over 5000 lbs of pavers plus sand and granite sand. Whew. Where’s that martini?
I cannot wait to see the pergola and finished project! I’ve been longing to put a pergola over my back patio for some time now. Maybe this year? Probably next year though. I love see your home and the projects and all the recipe! Thank you for sharing all of it!
Great idea and I’m sure it will be beautiful as all your other ideas have been. Can’t wait to see the final result. My project for this year is to rid my yard of two large beds of pachysandra. I’m digging it out rather than spraying chemicals and then will set a small fire pit with seating, potted flowers and sod the rest of the area to blend with the original space.
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Your new dining area will be fabulous!
My new projects this year include building 3 additional beds for my veggie garden. I’m also building the soil in 2 side gardens. I have terrible clay soil, it takes me about 2 years to get the soil ready to plant. It’s worth all the hard work!
Question: Why did you not extend the patio floor to the area in front of the non-car garage? Since you didn’t, I assume you have plans for that area. Grass, plantings, what? Forgive me, but right now, it looks a little messy, especially next to your lovely outdoor dining area. Love your rustic doors to cover the garage doors! They are beautiful. What a great handyman you have. And it’s nice that you can still raise the garage doors for a big opening into that interior space/potting shed.
Kristin and Gjertsen says
My husband and sons built a large patio for our family 4 years ago. I would love to add a pergola for outdoor entertaining. Right now we have a small four person eating area with an umbrella for shade. There is room for a bigger table and more comfortable chairs. Or maybe adding a screen room with a ceiling fan. We live in North Carolina. Right now the weather is heavenly, but it won’t be long until the mosquitoes, flies, and chiggers show up along with the cicadas.