Make my backyard party ready on a tight budget!

Our Anniversary party is in 2 months and our yard is to say the least, problematic. We have a lot of trouble growing grass in the hard Virginia clay & quartz ground. Water just sits on the clay and it takes a long time to dry after it rains. Just inside the gate to our backyard our AC unit‘s condensation line makes the whole area a large muddy mess. We need a dry & solid entertaining/ grilling area. We have a blank slate to work with but an almost non-existent budget Is our Achilles heel. My husband works 48 hour shifts and I have physical limitations that really make this dilemma feel much more frustrating.
Question: Any suggestions for making this space more dry, party ready & inviting with very little to no money?
q make my backyard party ready on a tight budget
Our big ol’ private open space. This was one of the top reasons we choose to buy this home but. it has become one of the few major sources of expense and frustration.
q make my backyard party ready on a tight budget
Gate to the side yard of dense brush.
q make my backyard party ready on a tight budget
Front gate entrance with AC unit and the severely unwanted condensation pool!
  7 answers
  • Teri Teri on May 22, 2018
    My suggestion is to put a tray under your AC unit, if you can't afford this (about$100) consider digging a 4" deep trench, as long as you need it and popping in a plastic surface drain. It will carry the water to the brush area and leave your main yard dry. Happy Anniversary!

  • Christierei Christierei on May 22, 2018
    You can also buy a rubber pan that fits under a hot water heater. It will have a spigot for when you need to drain the pan. Maybe you could run a hose to some shrubs or even the grass.
    Part of the problem with the lawn and the heavy clay soil can be helped by having the lawn aerated and the putting some lawn down. Then lay down some new lawn patch.
    Are you worried about a dry area for the BBQ or guests ?
    For decor, I would check out the Dollar store for pretty lights, streamers etc.

    • Nicole Nicole on May 22, 2018
      Having the lawn aerated and putting down sod is very expensive. We rented an aerator previously but with all of the quartz rocks and clay it is not very effective. Grass seed doesn’t take to the clay. We tried breaking up the clay, raking out some of the rock and adding clay breaker before seeding with little success. I’d really like to have a dry area for both guests and the BBQ.

  • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on May 22, 2018
    Please don't place your ac in a pan. The water will then pool under the ac which is not appropriate for any electric appliance! There's a reason it is elevated on the pad! You can route the condensate drain with a little coaxing and some pvc pipe

    • See 1 previous
    • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on May 22, 2018
      The condensation should be a relatively small volume of water at any given time. I'm thinking a dry creek bed would do it without digging deep trenches. Another thing just occurred to me... In my area, the primary condensate drains into the floor drain of your mechanical room or basement. The only time it drains outside is if the main condensate is clogged. This should be checked. If you have a pvc pipe running from your furnace to a floor drain inside, then you need to clear the algae that is clogging it. This would solve the problem. You can maintain the interior condensate with a tbs of bleach monthly in a cup of water

  • Emily Emily on May 22, 2018
    Sounds like your anniversary is like ours in July? I have to laugh in a way because I carefully planned our party, made and ordered food, had it in two parts one at a facility and one at our house and it turned out to be the hottest weekend I have ever known in Maine. We have no A/C! And it was over 100º When I look at the pictures I see we did not do anything to the yard except my husband extended a mural he had already started. My advice is to not try to do this on a budget. If you want to have a party, charge it or borrow the money. If it is a big anniversary, if not don't do one this year. I did not do anything with decorations, people don't care. They care about food and drink. If I had the room I would probably have rented a tent. The house part of our party was basically for relatives, all of whom had to travel, from Calif, Virginia, New York State, Conn. Ohio, If you do have it, start making and freezing food now. Serve punch instead of any other kind of drink, spiked or not. Serve simple food, we had meat balls in a cooker with cocktail sauce and grape jelly, the kids loved these. We did no grilling. We had platters of food from specialty food stores. Your yard looks beautiful to me, as long as it is safe to walk on I don't think you should spend money on improving the lawn, that won't matter to guests. I wish you luck

  • Teacup8885 Teacup8885 on May 22, 2018
    I would dig a drainage lane from a/c mayenuf to fit a tube or rain gutter. For yard, looks like worst part is by a back patio door? I'd dig out the worst in any shape down bout 3-5inches n board it off n either get bags of quik Crete, or get a load dumped in n make a slab patio!?

  • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on May 23, 2018
    Nicole, I've got some additional suggestions for you. So it looks like your grass grows well in some areas of the yard, but the thin areas are hard clay. Try layering top soil on top of these thin areas. It's cheap. A 40# bag in my area is $1.80. But layer top soil right over the grass and water. The grass will grow through it. Spread seed on top of the top soil in the bare areas. Water some more. This should yield a healthy lawn within a month or so and before your party. Getting the grass healthy with a couple inches of topsoil will mitigate the water pooling issues because the water will be available for the grass roots to use.