A few years ago I beefed up the raised garden bed in my backyard with a decorative fence and soil amendments. My goal was simple: to make the veggie garden more attractive and productive.
Three years later, the garden fence still looks good, but I have concluded that no amount of compost in the soil can make up for the inadequate amount of sunlight this area receives. The house blocks the garden on the east and a large blue spruce blocks the garden on the west so that the area is shaded partially or fully much of the morning and late afternoon.
On my compact city lot, backyard space is too precious to waste on a mediocre garden, so I decided to expand the lawn for my kids to play on by removing the garden bed and consolidating the patio space. To show the overall change, here is the garden plan created for the previous owners just before we bought the house showing the garden and patio spaces:
Many details of that plan were never implemented–particularly the density of platings–but it captures the basic layout of the yard. Now, compare that “before” to the “after” image below in which the patio is consolidated in the northeast portion of the yard and the lawn expanded into the former garden and patio spaces: (Please forgive the crude photoshopping.)
The revised plan may be less symmetrical and aesthetically lovely, but it is more space-efficient and family-functional with the consolidated patio space and larger lawn for the kids to play in. If my kids were older or if I had a big front lawn this would be less of a priority, but my front yard is just as heavily landscaped and the lawn there is even smaller than in back.
Here’s my brand-new, personally-anecdotal landscape design rule: a house with kids in primary school should have a lawn large enough for a Slip ‘N Slide. (Seriously. Those things are fun.) I didn’t have that before and now I will.
Josh’s Landscaping Rule #1: A house with kids in primary school should have a lawn large enough for a Slip ‘N Slide.
Although the plan doesn’t make this clear, the patio location in the new plan is advantageous by being further from the sound of the busy street located one lot’s length behind the house. Also not appearing on the plan are the small tree and grapevine-covered chainlink fence between the patio and our neighbors. We get along very well with the neighbors and while the patio is far from private, it doesn’t feel as exposed as the revised plan would suggest.
As for vegetable gardening, I’m not planning to give it up entirely; I just need to prepare a new planting bed in a better location on the yard. The south-facing side yard looks ideal, but I will need to test the soil and clear some existing landscape plants before I can think about gardening there. And it looks like that will have to wait until spring.
So those are the whats and whys of the new backyard plan. Work, materials, and results will follow soon.
Do you have any ideas for landscape design rules in place of or in addition to my “Slip ‘N Slide Standard?” Let me know in the comments.