Backyard Reboot

by Josh on November 8, 2011 · 2 comments

in Outdoors,Projects

I love it when a plan comes together. A couple posts ago I shared my plan to revise the back yard to remove the vegetable garden, consolidate the patio space, and expand the lawn. Now I can show my steps to enact that plan and how the results turned out.

Unbuilding the Garden

Taking out the big raised vegetable garden was the key my other changes. I’m totally committed to the idea, but it was hard making the decision to disassemble the garden fence I built just a few few years ago. Though that became easier when I considered that the only things occupying the garden this season were weeds, a kiddie pool and an unused stock tank / rain barrel. Ugh, trashy!

garden removal collage

Once the lumber was removed, I leveled the garden area back down to the surrounding lawn and patio with a square-bladed shovel and piled up the excess soil. I gave away some of the garden dirt on Craigslist and kept the rest to fill in the patio space I planned to remove and consolidate.

Pulling the Patio

The main patio area in our back yard has been right in the middle of the area. However, with the garden removed, I can expand another existing patio next to the house and replace the patio in the middle of the yard with grass. For the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to the patio I’m removing from the middle of the yard as the “old patio,” and I’ll call the patio I’m expanding next to the house as the “new patio.” Here’s the old patio before changes:

backyard patio before

The old patio is just parquet stamped concrete pavers set in dirt, so it was easy to pull out the blocks and stack them out of the way. The new patio is also built this way, but the pavers are a different size and color, so I can’t easily reuse the pavers from the old patio there. I sold the old pavers to a lady on Craigslist who told me she was going to use them to pave part of a backyard chicken enclosure.

garden patio blocks removed

With the pavers removed, I filled in the old patio area with dirt from the raised vegetable garden. It should be great soil for growing grass, but it looks particularly dark and rich in the photo above because I had just sprayed it with water to lightly compact and even the freshly spread soil. After transferring this dirt to the old patio, the former raised garden was also nicely leveled with the adjacent lawn and patio.

garden plot leveled and black dirtAlthough the focus of the photo above is the former garden area, the upper right corner shows the expanded portion of the new patio after I set extra pavers in the garden area. It just happens that there were enough surplus pavers around the yard for me to do this without buying any more. It worked out so well, it made me think my new patio plan may actually be a return to how a previous owner had the yard configured at some point in the past.

I’ll show more of the patio a bit later on, but my primary focus is on expanding the lawn to the open dirt areas of the old patio and vegetable garden.

Soil Prep and Sowing

To give my new lawn best chance to take root and flourish, I thoroughly prepared the soil, sowed and protected the new plantings with products and materials from my local True Value Hardware. I also referred to the project library on the True Value website, which had useful instructions and a shopping list for starting a new lawn.

weed killer in garden areaAlthough I had moved a lot of dirt around, there were still some spots–particularly in the old garden area–with lots of little weeds. To make sure these pests weren’t around to compete for water and nutrients with my new grass, I pulled the larger plants and used weed killer on the rest.

fertilizer for grass seedAfter the weed killer had a few days to work, I spread starter fertilizer over the soil areas.

grass seed on black dirtThen I generously spread grass seed over the fertilized topsoil. I picked a sun-shade grass seed mixture to match the exposure level in the back yard. By deliberately overseeding the area, I was trying to account for loss due to birds and squirrels and to establish a dense turf right from the start.

patio area seeded with peat mossAfter the grass seed was down, I sprinked a light layer of peat moss over the top of the seeded areas. Peat moss holds moisture and I thought it would help keep the grass seed moist and aid germination.

garden area seeded and coveredLastly, I covered my newly seeded areas with polyester landscape cloth to minimize disturbance of the soil and seed due to wind and animals. The netting allows water and light to reach the ground, but blocks pests. I know from past experience that my backyard birds love to munch on grass seed when ever I put it down, so the cover was an absolute necessity.

The Grass is Greener

As I faithfully watered the ground every day I watched the new grass germinate and start to fill the new lawn areas. After a couple weeks, I added some more seed to areas where the grass was thin, then recovered and watered the area for two more weeks. By the time a month had passed since I started the planting, the change was dramatic:

garden area new grasspatio area new grassYes, my friends, the grass is officially greener on my side of the fence.

But what about the backyard design? How did the patio turn out and what does the new layout of the yard look like? In short, it’s exactly what I hoped it would be.

backyard newly expanded lawnThe backyard lawn now feels really spacious–certainly fit for a Slip ‘N Slide– with plenty of room for the kids and dog to play. In the after photo above, the turf in the old patio area is in front of the white birdhouse arbor and the former veggie garden lawn is in the lower right corner including the area with the firebowl.

newly expanded backyard patio

The new patio is easily big enough for my patio set and the serviceberry tree next to it provides a nice visual break with the neighbors. I’m not thrilled with the pavers themselves or the widely spaced dirt joints, but keeping this layout and material allowed me to make this update quickly and with no additional materials cost. Someday I’ll replace the concrete blocks with something more fun like old bricks or street pavers and build a pergola or arbor to give the space more structure. But for now I’m content to enjoy the much improved function and layout of the backyard and save those refinements for another time.

Loose Ends

  • I lose some salvage cred for putting the lumber from the old garden bed in a dumpster instead of giving it away on Craigslist or holding onto it for another project.
  • The big galvanized metal stock tank that we formerly used as a rain barrel is hanging out in a back corner of the yard. I’m considering using  it to make an above-ground water feature.
  • Yes, the birdhouse arbor needs a paint job and some carpentry help. But because I’m running out of suitably warm days for exterior painting, that will need to wait until next year.
Disclosure: I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda @ it all started with paint November 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Josh, I live in the city and have the hardest time trying to get my grass to grow! I’ve paid others to sod, sodded myself (ugh, sod is VERY heavy), and just thrown down seed. I’m going to follow your steps come spring and see if I can get me some green grass next year!


Josh November 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Happy to help, Linda. Let me know how it turns out next year.


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