Need backyard advice - DIY makeover but don’t have a lot to spend

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What would you do if you had a relatively flat backyard that, at the moment was all dirt? I would love a gorgeous re-do, but I have little money to spend. My only objective at this point is to cover the dirt because it comes in my house and makes it dusty very quickly. i’m Very handy so I’m not afraid of labor intensive suggestions. I would love to recycle things that I could find on Craig’s list. Help!!!

  7 answers
  • Rose Broadway Rose Broadway on Dec 09, 2017
    Sod is expensive, so if you can wait awhile for the grass to grow you can throw down some grass seed, then get some paver bricks and build you a little patio for a table and chairs. If it gets hot in the summertime where you live, you could buy a metal pergola at Walmart for about $130 and it would give you shade. Then all you have to do is set up your BBQ grill!

  • Flipturn Flipturn on Dec 09, 2017
    Jenn, I see that you are in SanDiego. You probably have water restrictions there so I would suggest you have no, or only minimal grass. Grass is expensive, and requires ongoing work to maintain, as it needs watering, weeding, fertilizing, and mowing.
    Covering the dirt with landscaping fabric first to deter the weeds, then cover with river rock, and pea gravel, which are almost maintenance free.
    Good to hear that you are willing to dig into the project yourself! as you can save a great deal of money by not needing to pay someone else.
    Rather than going about it randomly, it is important that you first establish a plan for the entire yard. Then you can work towards achieving a harmonious final completion in stages according the limits of your budget and physical ability.


  • Blackeyedjosie Blackeyedjosie on Dec 09, 2017
    if you have a little room and can spend some money I recommend putting in a patio. We had one put in that goes the length of our house 41 feet by 10 feet wide. We painted it the same cream color as our house and have knockout roses next to it. It faces east so even though we are in the south the sun doesn’t hit all day. We just got a heater so we can enjoy it year round .Best money we ever spent!

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Dec 09, 2017
    Think BIG and start SMALL! Unless you have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a yard or lots and lots of help, it is built over time.

    Walk around your yard and think about what you want to accomplish.

    It seems you want to keep out dirt. Is it being brought in by kids or pets? Grass is always good for both. Draw off sections with different color spray paint. The green section is for grass; the brown section is for mulch; and the smaller squares are for a walkway.

    You can contain mulch and/or straw by using landscape timbers. For instance you want a large area for the dogs to romp and do their business...lay down some timbers to section of a large portion of the yard for the time being. Secure the timbers by drilling a hole in each end and driving about an 8" length of rebar down through the hole into the ground. Put down some mulch or straw. If there are trees in your area, people will usually let you gather straw if you will rake it up.

    Zoysia Emerald Green sod is expensive but it is worth it...comes in in June in Georgia where I live. (Do not get Myer's Zoysia) It requires little mowing and loves heat. I would suggest you set aside a nice area just outside the house that is a pretty good square for some chairs and a table and maybe a grill. You can put down a walkway of stones from the back door, place a small strip of sod to the left for the grill, and a larger area on the right for the chairs. Put timbers around this to define it...this can be changed as you work on the yard. This grassy area will also act as a doormat to wipe feet going into the house.

    Outside the sitting area, place some large and small pots with pretty flowers and maybe a little yard art.

    If you have a large area left over, rake the yard, throw out a little top soil and seed; cover lightly with hay. Keep watered!

    GOOD LUCK!



  • Karen Tokarse Karen Tokarse on Dec 09, 2017
    Ask your County where to get the FREE mulch they collect from cutting trees. Borrow or rent an HD truck and get truckloads of mulch to spread. Put down as much as you can. After spreading, plant a garden using these techniques: www.backtoedenfilm.com

  • Eloise Eloise on Dec 09, 2017
    YouTube may have some ideas you can incorporate: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=inexpensive+backyard+ideas+

  • Judi Holgate Judi Holgate on Dec 09, 2017
    Picture what you would like to see out your windows and start from there. Do one place at a time with rocks you can find on a road trip (pssst..tell your friends and family to bring one every time they visit).Make rustic wooden structures with small logs and sticks and twine until you can afford the one you WANT..Use household items you don't use and glue them together and spray paint and place as a point of sight and work around it. Good Luck!