Townhouse Muddy Mess to Secret Garden

4 Materials
5 Days

July 2016: We bought our townhouse 7 years ago and every year from spring through fall every time it rained we had to dodge a muddy mess to get from our deck to our driveway. We got several bids from professional landscapers ranging from $3500 up to $7500 for a deluxe flagstone design that was gorgeous but way out of our ballpark!

Update June 30, 2020:

I just started an instagram channel, see the link at the bottom of the page, so you can see how it is coming along over the years. The gardens have grown in nicely and the landscaping is holding up well. We had to have some foundation work done on our house so part of it was torn up and I still need to finish fixing that up. We also replaced our deck so that is different as well. We do have plans this fall to change the round stepping stones to a paver path and I will post an update when we get that done too. :-)

I started by drafting a few designs on graph paper and we met with our neighbors and picked one. I then had it approved by our HOA board. We waited for it to dry out a bit, then pulled up the old sunken stepping stones, and marked an outline for the shallow trench. Then we dug the trench about 6 inches deep by 3 foot wide to aid drainage. We used a garden tiller to break up the soil and then with shovels and wheelbarrow removed it all. Then we tamped down the soil underneath with a tamped. Next came the sand, about 3 inches deep and tamped it down. Then the landscape fabric over the top and we placed the edging brick in place. Next came a 1 inch layer of drainage rock.

We then placed the round stepping stones where we wanted them and the back-filled with drainage rock around the stones.

We didn't have enough of the round to do between the deck and garage so for a little different look used square stones and set them in a diamond shape. Then I filled in around the edges with plants and garden decorations. I absolutely love it and our neighbors rave about it. It was a lot of hard work but so worth it! Final cost was about $1200 total and we split cost with our neighbor that shares the walkway. We will enjoy this for many years!

May 2018

May 2018. Our work is holding up well.

Lessons learned. Use the best weed barrier you can find. I spend a lot of time pulling little weeds out of the rock. We probably should have put drainage tile in but water drains away within a couple hours so not too bad. We still love it.

Suggested materials:

  • Tiller  (Borrowed, but can be rented.)
  • Wheel barrow, shovels, spades, tamper, mallet  (Had them in our garage.)
  • Marking paint, 4 rolls 25 ft landscape fabric, 1 pallet sand, 2 pallets drainage rock, 40 brick pave  (Lowes)
See all materials

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 6 questions
  • Stephanie
    on Jan 17, 2020

    How much did it cost you?

    • Rachelle D
      Rachelle D
      on Aug 2, 2020

      We actually added a little more later and the house was for sale so we covered it at that time.

  • Blackpearl
    on Jan 18, 2020

    It looks beautiful and we have done a similar thing between our fence and the side of our house. My husband is reluctant to put in paving slabs because he thinks they will break unless he levels it all and lays sand. Did you have to do that? The stones are hard to walk on.

    • Flipturn
      on Jul 6, 2020

      Hello Blackpearl,

      Yes, your husband is right that the slabs will sink, lean, and crack unless the the preparation and installation is completed correctly. It is necessary to level the land, and then cover with supporting crush or sand first, which is indeed physical labour requiring a certain amount of agility and strength.

  • Grandmasue10
    on Mar 7, 2020

    Very nice, and I'm glad the neighbors pitched in; but why pay an HOA fee when you are buying materials and doing labor to improve the outside of your townhouse?

    • Flipturn
      on Jul 6, 2020

      What amenities and property maintenance HOA fees cover vary greatly.

Join the conversation

2 of 52 comments
  • Chloe
    on Jun 30, 2020

    Lovely landscaping idea! Thanks for the inspiration! 😍

    If anyone is looking for landscaping ideas, I cannot recommend the book " Ideas 4 Landscaping" enough. Me and my husband absolutely LOVE it! 🙂

    Created by Helen Whitfield, Ideas 4 Landscaping is a collection of over 7,250 landscaping images, outdoor projects, and step by step guidelines to create the perfect garden design. It is a massive online database of projects and ideas, organized into 64 different categories for easy browsing.

    Every homeowner can get their money’s worth with this package, regardless of their landscaping experience. It successfully lives up to its claims of the most complete collection of landscaping ideas available and we would highly recommend it to anyone with an outdoor space! Here's a link to their site. Good luck! 🙏

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