Transforming my Backyard into a Secret Garden- Part 1

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
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Have a question about this project?

13 questions
  • Channan Beaird
    on Oct 15, 2018

    Why did you need to start by laying down newspaper/bags?

    • Sheryl Tucker
      on Oct 15, 2018

      It keeps out the weeeds.

    • Mdt22427858
      on Oct 15, 2018

      It was used as a weed block. The newspaper and cardboard are both biodegradable and will eventually break down. It will kill any weeds or grass that it covers.

    • Swalthew
      on Oct 15, 2018

      That will eventually kill the grass.

    • Kathy Lawson
      on Oct 15, 2018

      To stop the new growth of weeds & grass.

    • Peggy Meharry
      on Oct 15, 2018

      To kill the weeds and grass in a natural way as the paper is non-toxic.

    • Gle5502768
      on Oct 15, 2018

      Smart! I would have never thought of that. Good one.

    • Lho8229599
      on Oct 15, 2018

      but the grass will grow back up thru it. I have used it in a veg garden to hold down weeds but it only last a short while..

    • Dawn Fulton
      on Oct 15, 2018

      If the layers are thick enough your grass will not come back up through the paper and cardboard. I used this technique for a full yard renovation about 10 years ago. Worked like a charm. The trick is the thicker the better.

  • KareNW
    on Oct 15, 2018

    Did your gazing ball and (mushroom?) stand come as a set? Does the ball light up from the cutouts? Where do you purchased the items?

    • Marie Entz
      on Oct 15, 2018

      It looks like the "mushroom" is actually the birdbath that she put in as a focal point at the beginning. The ball looks to be sitting on top.

    • KareNW
      on Oct 15, 2018

      Marie, I thought it looked like a birdbath too. Not the same color. Would like to use them in different areas of my garden.

  • Virginia Schafer
    on Oct 15, 2018

    I covered mine with paper and then eventfully landscape plastic since I was still getting weeds. It lasted for a few months before the weeds starting coming up. However, getting ready for next year I would like to have a garden but how do you weed. Did you put in seeds or plant a starter plant?

    • Larry Lewis
      on Oct 15, 2018

      I hear ya. Weeds in Texas are tough and will not be denied. LOL

    • Shirley
      on Oct 15, 2018

      There will always be weeds. Mulch helps keep the soil soft so they can be pulled.

  • Debi O'Brien
    on Oct 15, 2018

    Lovely! did you cut holes in the cardboard to plant your shrubs and flowers or are they planted on top of it in the new topsoil?

  • Jerri
    on Oct 15, 2018

    How bad was it after the next bad rain????

  • Erin
    on Oct 15, 2018

    Guess you should have removed grass first. How did it look this year?!

    • Klc7434837
      on Oct 15, 2018

      Weeds and grass will not grow through the newspaper/cardboard, especially after you cover it all with topsoil. That is the beauty of "lasagna gardening." I have created several flower beds on top of grass using this method. Try it, it works.

    • Elaine Schoepf
      on Oct 16, 2018

      The grass becomes composted mulch with lasagna gardening. 😊

    • Offaly
      on Oct 16, 2018

      We have used this method for years in Australia but the grass eventually comes through.

  • Sweet pea
    on Oct 15, 2018

    Love your garden! What's the name of the ground cover plant that sits between the two solar lights?

  • Christianne Murphy
    on Oct 16, 2018

    I have the same problem after storms often in summer and my grass is fine but all my fruit trees dies from too much moisture. Ideas?

    • Linda Hunt
      on Oct 18, 2018

      If you are in a situation that your fruit trees must stay in that position then I would dig a trench that you keep level with your grass so no one breaks an ankle. Dig the trench, layer 2" size rocks on the bottom and then use a grating to lay on top of the trench and relay sod along the sides and on the top of the grate that is not the actual ditching/drain part. The beauty of this hard work is that when in is dry season it is easy to stop it up so that the moisture stays around the trees. Hope this idea is a start of an idea that you can adapt for yourself. I think with serious budget constraints, but you may have a larger budget to work with! Good luck and hope something works for you. regards, Linda

  • Laurie
    on Oct 16, 2018

    I'd love to do something just like this! I don't have any grass however, just weeds. I suppose I'd have to cover them in the same way?? How thick was your your layer of soil?? It looks beautiful! I could never have one so lush, but would love to cover up my ugly back yard with something! Maybe add a small area of river rocks too. Thanks!

    • Sue
      on Oct 22, 2018

      Yes, you could do the same thing with a yard of weeds. I would mow it as short as I could first and probably pull out the bigger woodier stalked weeds first to keep them from ripping through the cover.

  • Angie Via
    on Oct 22, 2018

    Does the grass not creep back between the flowers? I’ve had no luck at planting any flower beds. They all get taken over by grass. :(

    • Fran Valente Lowell
      on Oct 22, 2018

      That's one of the things newspaper & cardboard do is control the weeds. Weeds must have light to grow which the cardboard & newspaper/cardboard blocks... the mulch also helps keep in the cool moisture on hot days. Hope this explanation helps you.

    • Sue
      on Oct 22, 2018

      The grass will creep back if you don’t keep a barrier around the edges. Espescially Bermuda grass that sends out runners that will start sending the runners over the edge into the newly made bed.

    • Dawna R Smith
      on Oct 23, 2018

      Kill grass and weeds first, once dead and dry, rake them up and toss into a vegetation refuse, spray dirt with pre-emergeant , rototiller and then flatten down the dirt, run a drip system or sprinkler system first, put it on a timer, roll out garden barriers or lay out paper materials making openings for the drip or sprinkler system. Dump new dirt over all the paper, filling in low spots that flood, add some mounds to accent your garden towards the deeper areas taking into consideration drainage during storms, set up your walk paths with pavers or gravel then your larger garden decor, benches, water features, statues etc then start your planting, be sure to plant the plants that are designated for your climate zone.

  • Dee
    on Oct 22, 2018

    What an awesome idea. We have a spot in our yard that is low!!! Just might need to use your idea in that spot!!! What do you do about watering all your flowers? Sprinklers maybe????

    • Michele Salzsieder
      on Dec 2, 2018

      I have also buried a hose in my yard for watering. I live in Wisconsin and my hose has been there for years..

  • Kat Rogers
    on Oct 25, 2018

    Are You into having an area for growing fruits & vegetables? I'd £OVE to do That too!

  • Jen Tunison
    on Apr 3, 2020

    When u plant things do u have to dig below the cardboard and bags?

Join the conversation

2 of 138 comments
  • Mornbarnes
    on Nov 12, 2018

    What a beautiful garden! I have a low spot in a couple of places, gonna tryit!

  • Louise Gothard
    on Nov 14, 2018

    I want to do this next year when we move to our tiny home. But besides flowers I also want to do vegetables, fruit and some fruit trees. Also planning some strawbale gardening.

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