Transforming my Backyard into a Secret Garden- Part 1

by Ivylore
7 Materials

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.

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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

Frequently asked questions
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  • Dee 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????

  • Kat Rogers 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 Jen Tunison on Apr 03, 2020

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

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  • Karen Gaither Karen Gaither on Jul 13, 2020

    I did that in a center median plot between my driveway and our neighbors. I did use cardboard over the weeds, but I did use paper, then soil, then mulch. It worked for several years, but then the grass actually started growing in with my flowers. But it sure worked well for several years.

  • P P on Aug 05, 2022

    When I lived in Lansing Michigan in the 1970s, earliest frost free date was June 1,and we even saw one year an ice storm/blizzard after that! We kidded Michigan summer was known as '3 months of bad sledding'