How I Created a Secret Garden Area - Part 1

11 Materials
4 Days

When I was working on the front yard landscape a couple of years ago, I knew that evidentially I would be updating the East side yard at the front of our house. The grass in this section doesn't get much sun due to the neighbors large walnut tree. Since it doesn't get a lot of sunlight, the sod is patchy and doesn't grow well. I wasn't sure just what I would do with the area but started getting some ideas from Pinterest. When this Summer rolled around, I decided it was time to tackle this section of the front yard. I have decided to create a Secret Garden! This post is the first part of the process.

The first step in this project is to remove all the sod. The size of the East side yard between the existing garden is 14' x 20'. There are sod cutters you can rent but I've always just pulled the sod up by hand. Sometimes the sod comes up pretty easy and other times, it's a bit of a struggle. I've found that if the grass and dirt are a bit moist, the job is easier. If there are trees close by and you run into small roots that are intertwined with the soil, it is more difficult. I keep a small garden cutting tool with me to cut those viney roots away from the soil as I'm pulling up the sod. Since part of the sod was close to the walnut tree, I knew I'd need my small cutting tool.

To begin the process of removing the sod, I grabbed my new tool and started cutting through the sod to the soil, making that cut about 2" deep. In the past, I've used a garden shovel but this flat blade worked so much easier! Hubby says it's a scraper to remove ice from the driveway....but I know it's a sod cutter

I cut the sod into sections that were approximately 1' x 2', doing so creates pieces that are both easy to remove and to use in a new location. To remove the sod, I used a garden knee pad, got down on my knees, and used a small garden rake to pry the sod from the ground. I stacked the sod close by so I didn't have to carry it very far.

Once all the sod was cut and removed, a neighbor came over with his truck and took it to use at his house. We have always relocated our sod to a friend who can use it.

I plan to build a picket fence to enclose the new garden space. Last year we had to replace our deck boards and I kept all the old wood. I plan to use some of that wood for the fence. Although I have lots of 2" x 6" boards, I did need to buy 4" x 4" posts. I wasn't thrilled to have to buy new wood, especially with the price of lumber right now. Besides, the wood I from the deck was nice and weathered. I had considered painting it white but then decided I'd leave it weathered. So, you can imagine my delight to find these posts at one of my favorite 2nd hand stores! They are from a barn and are nicely weathered! My thought was to cut the posts to be taller than the normal picket fence posts so when these were nice and tall, I knew they would work perfectly for my little fence!

Since I'm a visual learner, to get an idea of the space I had available to create, I set the posts where the gate would eventually be. I plan to use this antique headboard from a twin bed my daughter used to sleep in. Using small pieces of wood, I propped the posts in cement blocks and tied the headboard between them. Now I could see what the area looked like.

With the sod removed and the future gate in position, I could ponder how to convert the blank slate that I was looking at into the Secret Garden in my mind. I have always loved tiered fountains and thought that having one as a focal point would be nice for this space. I started looking around to see what was available. I really wanted a concrete one but couldn't find any that were the size I wanted for the price I was willing to pay. I did see a couple at a local nursery but they were over $1,000! So, I started searching online. I found a few that I really liked but the tallest was around 45" and I thought this space needed a taller one.

One day I was in our At Home store and saw a fountain that I had seen a month ago before I started this project. At that time, I wasn't looking for a fountain; but now that I was looking, I was thrilled it was still available! And, it was 60" tall!!!! I bought it and brought it home. I set the fountain in the center of the space and scratched an ovalish area around it in the dirt to give me an idea of where I could create a new garden. Although it isn't cement, it does have a nice weight to it.

Now that I had an idea of the size of the garden, I made a trip to the hardware store and bought bullet bricks. I've used these edging bricks in the other areas of both the front and back yards. When I got home, I placed the bricks around the fountain. In the past, I have just set the bricks on the ground then filled the areas with either rock or bark.

This time, though, I decided to dig a trench to set them in the ground as opposed to on the ground. Digging in our soil is not an easy task due to the huge amount of rock we have but I took it slow and managed to get it done! I also added a cement tree ring around the fountain and dug a trench for those pieces too. I then added fresh soil inside the ring and the bullet bricks to prepare for plants. Once the new garden area was done, I dug a trench for the old edging bricks around the existing garden.

Part 2 of the project can be found here.

Here is a video I took before starting on this project


Measure the size of the area where you are removing sodMark with a string line or garden hose unless it's a set area like mine was

Using a garden blade shovel, cut through the soil in 1' x 2' sectionsPull up the sod and set it aside

You can use the shovel to loosen the sod or a small garden rake

Use edging bricks to line the new area, creating a trench to lower them into the ground

Add soil for plants

Set fountain in the center of the garden area

Suggested materials:

  • Garden shovel   (On hand - Home Depot)
  • Spade/scraper   (Home Depot)
  • 40 bullet bricks @ $1.50 = $63   (Ziggys - local business)
See all materials

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Frequently asked questions

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  1 question
  • OLIVE HARTE OLIVE HARTE on Oct 03, 2021

    I think you did a splendid job. I have a Q. I have some white painted stair way poles to make a surround for the garden?Which I removed from a stairway.

    I will have to take out a shed which makes the job a bigger one than yours! but I am hopeful. I will then have to move all the plants and soil to that place, as the area for the secret garden like your, is dark in the shade in a wall area. Then I will have a clear area to put my garden into. I HAVE A TREE IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS AREA which I will leave and put a bird bath , which I have at the side of the tree. Then as you did I will put a surround of bricks around the tree and fill it with a flower bed. The outer part I have some slabs to make a surrounding pavement. How dose this sound to you who has tackled this SECRET GARDEN YOURSELF.?Olive


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