Transforming my Backyard into a Secret Garden- Part 1

lawn 06.12.15
Love my backyard, but I got tired of keeping up with the grass; and, after a rainstorm it turned into a lake! I decided to completely get rid of the grass and transform it into a beautiful, peaceful flower garden retreat. I would not only be adding soil to the low spots which will help redirect and absorb the water, but I would create a beautiful space where I would much rather spend my time with the flowers and plants than cutting the grass :) Huge undertaking, but I was psyched up for it!
I used a technique known as "lasagna gardening"- I did not pull up the grass! I covered all of the grass (and weeds!) with newspaper, cardboard or paper yard refuse bags- that was the first layer. Second layer, I topped that with a garden soil mix (topsoil, organic compost and peat). The third layer was the mulch. I was able to start planting my flowers and vines when there were no more frost advisories. While waiting for the weather to warm up, I started collecting the seedlings I wanted to plant. I also started growing some flowers from seeds. (I had an ENTIRE back yard to fill with flowers!!!) I planned my secret garden layout and I couldn't wait until I could actually start planting my flowers! At the end of May of that first year, I dug in.
For a more detailed description of the process, please visit my post
(To see more here at Hometalk, please view "Transforming my Backyard into a Secret Garden- Part 2 and "Scenes from my Secret Garden"). Abracadabra, let the magic begin!
  • April- This is what my backyard looked like after a rainstorm.
  • First step was "lasagna gardening"- laying down newspaper on all of the grass
  • covered tthe newspaper with cardboard
covering with newspaper and cardboard was too cumbersome (plus I ran out!) I began using the brown paper yard waste bags. This was much easier!
  • After running out of newpaper and boxes had brilliant idea to use paper lawn refuse bags to complete the rest of the yard. Still ended up with blisters and sore hands from cutting 55 bags! :(
  • Thought that 5 yards of garden soil would be enough to cover the yard- NOPE- only covered half- Had to order 5 more yards. Mulch is on order for after the planting!
  • 5 yards of soil only covered half my yard! Had to order 5 more yards!!!
  • Finally done applying all of the soil (10 yards worth)! Placed birdbath in center-this wil be one focal point in my dream garden! Watered the soil.
  • Mulch added today- My blank garden slate is ready and I am ready to begin transforming my yard into my secret garden! Let the garden games begin :) SOOO excited!
I also began growing some flowers from seeds since I would not be doing any planting until the threat of freezing would pass. In Michigan, that's not usually until late May :0
  • In the meantime, while waiting for "planting time", I bought and installed a cool OUTDOOR sink!!!
All the work was definitely worth it! This photo and the following were taken this past season (2014) -which was the next full season after I had begun this project! It has provided so much beauty and joy!
You can see more pictures of my garden and the plants and flowers I have in my garden in my other posts here on Hometalk. Thanks for viewing!
This is my secret garden today (June 2015)
June 2015
  • Maureen
    Maureen New Zealand
    When you backyard flooded, the best thing would have been to airate the soil. I Had the same problem with our front yard. Digging in a garden fork into the lawn helps break down the clay like soil. But having said that, my backyard was my 'straw on this
  • Verna Nicholas
    Verna Nicholas Parish, NY
    You should look for some plants for wet areas, they will help use up the water. Or at least they won't drown.
  • Dianne
    dianne Atlanta, GA
    Deb,the article you read concerning putting paper then mulch is to stop weeds. In order to do as Ivylore you must put soil also.
    • Ivylore
      Ivylore Trenton, MI
      Dianne Thanks, Dianne, you are absolutely right. I have added some recent photos of my garden so you can see how it's looking. This past season (2014) was the second full year after I began- please take a look.
  • White Oak Studio Designs
    Did you investigate why your yard continually filled up like a lake? Did you add a way for it to drain first (underground tubes that channel the water out and away before you planted? I would have recommended that first and then adding a lot of sand to
    • Ivylore
      Ivylore Trenton, MI
      White Oak Studio Designs Thanks for the advice! The reason it flooded is because my back yard was lower than the yards on both sides. Also, the soil was probably a
    • Ivylore
      Ivylore Trenton, MI
      White Oak Studio Designs I think that our back yard is lower than the surrounding yards. Also, probably the soil may have been a little more "clayish" under there.
  • Shelley Bizari
    Shelley Bizari Rochester, NY
    I was thinking the same thing as White Oak Studio. What was keeping the yard from filling up with water again? Where these plants enough vs. grass to change that?
    • Ivylore
      Ivylore Trenton, MI
      Shelley Bizari I think that the additional layers built up the level of the backyard and that has helped a lot in terms of the flooding. When it storms badly, of course, there