The New Backyard Plan

by Josh on October 28, 2011 · 6 comments

in Gardens,Projects

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:

garden plan before

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.)

garden plan after

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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Boe October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Do you have the option of bringing your vegetable garden into the front yard? I’m particularly impressed with a lot of vegetable gardens that apply the French potager philosophy of mixing edibles with perennials and other more decorative plants. Here is an example:

I’ve never been able to fully achieve this, but it’s something to strive for. Thanks for the blog!


Josh October 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I’ll have to do a follow-up on my ideas for the vegetable garden, Boe, but that’s more than I was ready to write about here. When the veggie garden comes back it will definitely be in front-ish location and I’ll want it to be decorative as well as useful. Thanks for the link (inspiring photo, btw) and the potager suggestion.


Becky October 29, 2011 at 12:50 am

My landscaping philosophy is “buy cheap veggies from the farmer’s market”. But I do like the potager idea…


Josh October 29, 2011 at 9:55 am

Ditto the farmers’ market, Becky. I’d go there just for the smells! I’ve done a farm share/CSA before, too. And there are also a few community gardens in my area, so the options abound.


TheChangingHouse October 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I love an area for suntanning! Give me space for a chair, no shade and I’m golden 😉


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