Back Yard Makeover

4 Materials
$1500
6 Months
Medium

I moved into my Northern Arizona home five years ago and my half acre plot was completely wild. It was full of scrub oak, pinion pine and junipers, plus about a thousand boulders. We are blessed with wildlife galore, quails, deer, javelina, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, occasional bears, rabbits, snakes and a variety of lizards.


I spent the first three years clearing the scrub oaks and creating a back yard landscape which would be easy to maintain. The plants I chose had to be deer and rabbit resistant, drought tolerant, freeze resistant and be able to survive in very little soil. The first year I had some failures and some successes and by end of second year my plantings were well established.

One view showing how close the scrub oaks are to the house.

View from the back deck.
After removal of scrub oak

I paid a contractor to cut down all the scrub oak of the area I wanted to work with. I left plenty for all the wildlife.

A lot of roots and stubs were left.

It took about six small containers of root and vine killer applied to hundreds of small stubs to keep the scrub oaks from growing back. I waited until the following spring to make sure they didn’t grow back.

Added flagstone patio

This flagstone patio was the biggest challenge. Large boulders and many rocks had to be removed using a pick ax. Then, I began the leveling of the area and added two layers of weed barrier. After that bags and bags of decomposed granite. Finally, the flagstones went down and small gravel between the cracks. The flagstone was a kit ordered from and delivered by Lowe’s.

Retainer wall added at same time.

I decided a retainer wall around the lower parameter would help with the downhill flow of water. I won’t go into details, but I did ensure level and stacking were done as well as I could. Remember, rocks, boulders and steep terrain were my nightmares.


in the foreground you can see another level being prepared for river rock.

Flagstone patio and lower level river rock.

This photo shows a little how I terraced several levels. I have yet to plant anything. So by now I’m about half through my project.

Highest point of the landscape

Here I have covered this part of the hill with rubber mulch from Costco. A lot of large rocks were removed and then the weed barrier went down. All the boulders and rocks were used to define the parameter as well as a barrier to stop the downhill flow of water during monsoons.


The first plantings, barely visible here, are rosemary, forsythia, red yuca, and ground juniper. Later I had to put up wire fencing around the forsythia because the deer and bunny rabbits kept eating them.

More weed barrier landscape fabric

This was the last area which completed my hillside back yard landscape. I forgot to mention that I used heavy duty landscape fabric anchor pins everywhere. I overlapped the edges and used a rubber mallet to pound them into the hard ground.

Added cobblestone rocks

I used cobblestone rocks in this area because they kind of lock together and are easy to walk on. The lilac bush at the left of this photo was already here. It’s now enclosed with a wire fence to deter the deer.

Scottish Brooms

Drought, deer, rabbit and freeze proof brooms. These bloom in the spring time just as the forsythia finish blooming.

Mexican Lobelia

These lobelias bloom most of the summer. A favorite of hummers and butterflies. These die in the winter and I cut them down after most freezes have stopped. Also, deer and rabbits don’t bother them at all.

Red Yuca

Yucas are very popular in our region. They are drought, deer, rabbit and proof. Also, a favorite to hummers.

View from top

It’s very hard to take one photo to capture all that was done in one shot. Here you can see the mature landscape after four years. Now, I sit back and enjoy a maintenance free back yard.


BTW, the rubber mulch is great and the good thing is that it doesn’t wash away.

View from deck

I almost forgot to add the view from my back deck.

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Rhonda Tarver
    7 days ago

    How many bags of rubber mulch did you purchased

    • Mani
      7 days ago

      Rhonda, as I remember it was between 15 and twenty bags. Probably closer to twenty. It took multiple trips to Costco.

Join the conversation

2 of 46 comments
  • Mani
    on Mar 12, 2020

    Thanks Jill. You hit the nail on the head in every respect for why I chose rubber mulch.

  • Dale Samler
    7 days ago

    Congratulations on finding plants that attract birds & butterflies but not deer & rabbits!

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