Introduction: Walker Family Backyard
My family moved into a great little house in Southern California two years ago. After traveling around in the Marine Corps for years, I was glad to settle down and to have a place I could spruce up and be proud of. As you can see, my little Sheltie, Lani, loves it! She likes to take in all the smells and go up and down the paths, at least whenever she's not barking at the neighbor's dog.
When we moved in, the backyard was made up of a field of weeds and dying grass, a make-shift pond, and a few other things that had to go (see the 2nd pic. This is the "before" picture. It looks like it could be a nice lawn, but believe me, it was mostly weeds- it had been raining and they were nice and healthy). I have to say, though, the previous owner did do a nice job on the shed. I removed the pond, grass and weeds, etc. and started with a blank canvas.
For one half of the yard, I hauled in a couple cubic yards of cheap gravel and I re-used the previous home owner's retaining wall block to make raised garden beds. I was also able to re-use flagstone and a few other things that were already on the property. I shopped around and found paver blocks on closeout for half off their original price. I bought approximately 900 of them and used them to make pathways and a small patio area under the shade structure. I saved money by locking in the pathway pavers with large (8") nails. Also, since I already had a very compacted area, I didn't excavate for the patio. I just laid a little paver sand down and framed the area with landscaping lumber.
Plants can get pretty expensive. So, I though it would take at least a couple years to fill up the flower beds near the paths and other areas. Well, except for what's growing in the raised beds, I was able to purchase all the plants right after I finished the landscaping. I found that a local home improvement store chain had a clearance section for plants and gave deep discounts on plants that either needed to go to make room or might be in need of a little TLC (you know, those plants with one root in the grave and one on a banana peel!). Anyway, what normally would have been around $600-700 worth of plants, I was able to get for right around $150. Not bad! Everything is on a drip system, too.
On the other side of the pathway, opposite the raised beds, my wife made a little fire pit which I bordered with more flagstone that was on the property. I also grew a grass lawn from seed (more savings since it's much cheaper than sod). I even found great looking rubber mulch made from recycled tires to cover the flower bed areas. These were normally $12 a bag on sale for $3.
As far as the raised beds go, I've had great success with various tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, asparagus, etc. I also planted a semi-dwarf peach tree, dwarf Washington orange tree, and a dwarf Meyer lemon tree which are all looking healthy and have produced a little fruit.
All in all, I think it came out great. I'm proud of the way it looks and I'm especially proud of the fact that it was all done for well less than $1000. Hey, I even got that patio bistro set for six dollars at a garage sale. Removed the rust and added a little paint and now I have a great place to relax in the evening with a nice beer (or two).