Backyard Makeover: DIY Landscaping Project

5 Materials
$200
4 Days
Medium

Our backyard area was in dire need of help! This is how we transformed our "weed garden" into a more manageable space. You can also check out my blog for the full details: www.alchemy-home.net
***Update**** The response to this post has been overwhelming, thank you all! I had no idea that this would be viewed and shared so many times when I originally posted it; my husband and I now like to lovingly refer to our patio as "the most controversial backyard on the internet" :-) If you're seeing this for the first time, you can skip over this part and come back later!
It's been nearly a year since we redid our back patio space, so I thought everyone might like to see an update on how it looks after going through the seasons, and I'll answer a few of the burning questions I keep seeing in the comments section.
  • This picture is with literally almost no maintenance over the past year (besides the new plants I just added last week!) When I said we wanted something more manageable and functional, I wasn't kidding...and this totally fit the bill. You can see we never got around to adding more rocks, so some of the pavers are still a bit high (though we are planning to this weekend, I wanted to show a true "1 year later" picture beforehand).
  • We do have a concrete patio around the same size that borders this area, which is where we have our table and chairs, and this "makeover" has really made our backyard a lot more serene and low maintenance (which was the ultimate goal)!
  • For those who are gravely concerned about the height of the pavers, I'm happy to report that it is incident free; no one has tripped or sprained any ankles this year :-)
  • The weeds have been virtually non-existent. The preemptive weedkiller, landscape fabric, sand/mulch, and rock combo has staved them off for one year at least and held up well. There have been a few tiny ones that started to sprout up around the border (in the area with white rocks where we didn't lay the landscape fabric) and thanks to some helpful tips from commenters here, they were easily taken care of with some vinegar and hot water.
  • Lots of people have also asked about Snickers the mini-aussie and I'm also happy to report, she still loves the space! She enjoys lounging on the concrete patio and looking at the plants. Not to worry, she still has plenty of space to "do her business" just on the other side of the fence where there is a large grassy area to play!
  • We may end up reorganizing the pavers and adding a few more rows this summer, now that we have some extra funds, but all in all it has worked out well so far. Considering our low budget last summer, this was the perfect makeover for us at the time and for anyone thinking of doing this project in your own small backyard, its very durable and can be done in one weekend!

Now back to the original post....yuck, look at that before!
Patio area "before"!
One of the main attractions to buying our condo was that it actually has a fenced in patio and small yard. There is a sizable concrete slab sitting area, which is in dire need of stripping and re-painting (which is another project for another week) and this small 8'x12' area shown above. Our yard area was just a big mix of mulch, rocks, and weeds. Although I have zero landscaping experience, and am not known for my green thumb, we wanted to start from scratch and create a more useable space with concrete pavers and rocks (minus the weeds!).
We started off by pulling out as many weeds as we could, then taking a shovel and transferring as many of the existing rocks over into the border area. I liked the contrast of the white stones against the fence (it looked a lot brighter already) and I know I'm going to use the area only as a container garden.
Using a hand tiller, we began breaking up the soil, trying to pull of the weeds out by the root, and getting rid of the excess dirt. Turns out our soil is pretty full of clay and it was quite difficult to break up.
We dug down about 3" below our existing concrete patio slab and used a hand tamper to pack the soil down and do our best to level out everything.
In an effort to stay on top of any weeds that may return, I sprayed some preemptive weed killer and layed out a roll of landscape fabric once the ground was nice and level.
We used 3 bags of paver leveling sand on top of the landscaping fabric to even out any remaining low spots and give the pavers something extra to "grip" on to.
Using 16" x 16" concrete pavers we bought at Home Depot (for only $4.77 each!) we placed them out in a grid pattern, with 6 rows of 3 pavers. This covered our 6' x 12' space with around 6" between each paver. I originally wanted them closer together, but didn't want to spend too much more on pavers. They are spaced just right so that a few extra chairs could go out there if needed.
Once the pavers were placed where I wanted them (which involved a lot of me moving things 1" to the left, then back 1/2" to the right, etc), we filled put down a layer of mulch between them all. After that, we poured bags of landscaping rock on top of the mulch, to fill in the gaps between the pavers. I sprayed it all down with a little bit of water to help get rid of all of the dust and let the stones start to settle. Once it rains a few times and everything settles a little more, we may have to add a few more bags of stones around the pavers to help keep them in place, although each of these pavers weighs 47 lbs (which we calculated to be just over 800 lbs that we had to transport) so they're not going to move far. Since we took the extra steps at the beginning to make sure the ground was level, *so far* they aren't wobbly and make for a nice solid area to walk on.
Snickers wanted to help, so she watched over everything while it dried off!
Voila! Our "weed garden" is now a useable space and has really given a whole new look to our patio and backyard!
Check out this before and after photo, what a difference!
You can find the materials list and more thorough details on my blog at www.alchemy-home.net
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 84 questions
  • RC Leach
    on Mar 6, 2020

    Hi, I think you did a great job, and it looks great. I have been on a budget most of my life, as many naysayers have, and I fully understand. Working with what you have brings out the creativity. My question is about your doggie, Snickers. Do the mini-Aussies have a naturally docked, or short tail!? That part of the picture was "cut off", and weak as it was, the pun was intended. R.C.

  • Diana
    on Mar 6, 2020

    Why did you put mulch down under the rock?

    • Jack Edward Moore Jr
      on Aug 16, 2020

      Thanks for the answer, but it also defeats the purpose of putting down weed blocking fabric layer, as a new layer of organic material will form as the mulch degrades and weeds (and other stuff) will grow in the mulch. and as the weeds are removed to keep the area neat looking the organic mulch will tend to be pulled up with the weed roots and mix with the gravel.

  • Joanie
    on Mar 7, 2020

    Your area you created is real neat and pretty. Now......do you just look at the beauty? I mean......what are you going to put out on that kind of patio........chairs and a table? I can't understand why you didn't put all the paver's together and make use of it?? Just curious?

Join the conversation

3 of 638 comments
  • Nikki
    on Mar 25, 2020

    One does not need to use weedkiller, which is dangerous for the enviornment. A thick layer of newspaper under the rock and pavers will choke out the weeds and seeds in a few months and biodegrades away in 18 months or less.

    So no new weeds to grow, and the addition of chemicals to the earth is eliminated.

    • N'Ckyola
      on Aug 6, 2020

      We recently did a similar project & we didn't use weed killer - just fabric weed block & heavy duty black plastic. When we do need it vinegar is our go-to - it works great is eco-friendly.

  • Shawn Hoffman
    on Apr 3, 2020

    Love your makeover!!!!!! Where did you get the cute 4 legged basket holder you have the plants in? I love that!

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