Building Projects · Garden · Hens · Plants

DIY Landscaping: Before & After

About six weeks ago, every time I walked into the backyard, I heaved a little sigh of resignation and annoyance at the weeks, the clutter, the overgrown gardens, and the general disarray. Heck, two days ago, I walked out there and it was not exactly inspiring. But after a lot of hard work after school and on the weekends, I’m pretty proud of how everything has turned out.

Here’s a little back story: Last summer, I had a huge drainage problem. By huge, I mean HUGE. Every time it rained, water would seep onto the stained concrete foundation in my bedroom, the water would be saturated for days, and there would more or less be lakes surrounding my house (think moat, but with the house not quite above the water). To make a long story short, YC and I spent months of experimental landscaping, adding drainage, regrading the backyard, we finally called in a contractor and landscaper. Even then, it was still trial and error… but after adding a levee on the side of my house, further regrading, adding not one but two sets of heavy duty drains all along the back and side and putting in a gutter, my bedroom floors have been water free for some months now (knock on wood!). Unfortunately, the result of all that regrading and re-drainage-ing and levee-building was a mudpit for a backyard. Frustrated with the whole thing, I abandoned the yard over the winter.

This is what I started with a few weeks ago:

yard redo 1

yard redo 2


The first thing I did was to remove all of the paver stones and stack them in the back of my yard, making a much smaller, but better placed and taller raised bed (this one is still in progress). Last year, I had two small, wooden raised garden beds here, and I liked those much better. They looked neater, were easier to maintain vegetable plants in, and the weed-eating around them wasn’t as much of a pain. So I decided to upgrade the two 4’x4′ boxes I had last year to three 5’x5′ boxes. Mid project it looked really depressing:
yard redo 3
The dirt down here (we call it gumbo mud) sticks to everything when it’s wet. Your shoes will slowly get heavier and heavier until you can no longer lift them up at all. And when it dries, it’s like cement on the surface – hard and impenetrable. So to make it better for the plants, I added a lot of compost and some plain topsoil with sand for better drainage.
Once I added the soil and seedlings, things definitely started looking up, just a little rough around the edges (mostly because there was little to no grass growing around the edges)…
To give it a cleaner look and prevent weeds and grass growing in between the beds, I wedged bricks and paver stones between each bed.
If I could redo one thing, it would be to make the space between each bed just a little wider. They’re spaced 1′ apart, and it’s a bit of a squeeze walking between them. 2′ would have been perfect.
There’s a bit of a dead space between the raised beds and the deck. Last year, I planted a Louisiana Sweet Orange, which is thriving, but the grass has never grown well there. Instead, it’s weedy and chaotic. So I cut out soil from the front half and replaced it with soil. Under the tree and back towards the deck, I’m covering the ground with ferns and sweet potato vine. I added a sweet little table that my mom gave me, and it turns this deadzone into a pretty little space.
Lastly, a landscaper came in yesterday and installed two pallets worth of sod (no more mud!!). I think the new sod is the best part. I cannot believe what a transformation adding sod is. Here’s the overall effect:
Size for chickens + veggies:
Chicken coop + free range chicken yard = ~144 sq ft. (12’x12′)
Vegetable garden = 75 sq. ft. (three 5’x5′ boxes) plus a little extra space in between each box

3 thoughts on “DIY Landscaping: Before & After

  1. I had a moat behind our house several years ago. I put a french drain under one of our dog runs (without the husbands blessing-so sneakily) and voila! no more standing water. It was easier than I thought. He still is scratching his head as to why the water isn’t standing in the back yard.

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