Wednesday, May 1, 2013

DIY Backyard Makeover on a Budget with Help from HGTVGardens!

Sponsored Post Disclosure: I have been compensated for this post, however all opinions are my own and truthful. 
This post does contain paid links. 

My husband and I enjoy teaming up for DIY projects around our house and yard. Last year, we took out a wall in our kitchen together and changed the whole feel of our house. This spring, we've been revamping our backyard. We challenged ourselves to make our yard more green, dog-proof, and kid-friendly but still something grown-ups want to look at too! All of this on a limited budget with lots of sweat equity and found treasures in the mix. It's trickier than it sounds, but with some help from the Internet and my new favorite go-to gardening website, HGTVGardens I think we pulled it off!

Planning and Research

We started by doing some research. We read articles on HGTVGardens about what kind of plants would do best in our yard and "zone" using their plant finder tool. I loved the way I could search by our area and look for different types of plants by light levels and moisture needs. Then, we took advantage of some of the articles like "How to Measure Your Yard" (very useful for my math-impaired self!) to create a scale plan of our backyard. We also needed this to calculate square footage of mulch, weed block fabric, and how much rock to order. 

We browsed garden ideas and created a "Garden Love" Pinterest board by Pinning images from the site as well as the community member-created photo galleries. We also made our own photo album on the HGTVGardens site. You can upload your own images to the photo albums or use their photos from all over the site; I used a mix of both. The photo galleries are chock full of awesome ideas for your own yard and gardens! They served as our vision boards for the whole project.

Wish List
Then we made our wish list of "wants" and "needs." 

We WANTED a yard that was: 

* Kid-Friendly. Places for the girls to CREATE * PLAY * and EXPLORE.
   We wanted to create areas for play and relaxation that would work for all ages in our yard! 
* Dog-Proof. 
   We rescued a retired racing greyhound who needs to run safely every day.
* Pretty. Aesthetically pleasing for grown-ups.
   I like to feel like I'm escaping and unplugging from the world when I go in my back yard.
* Accent tree. Provides some color in the middle of our big hill.

We NEEDED a yard:

* with Good Drainage. Carries rain water AWAY from the foundation of our house
   and... did not flood the flowerbeds every time it rained!
* that was Easy to Maintain. So we wouldn't have to spend every weekend working on it!
* that is Green. Use less water and no chemicals.

Drainage Problems and Xeriscaping

One of the big problems in our back yard was poor soil drainage. We have clay soil here and the way our house is oriented, we have shady areas where the rain water run-off was making our yard a soggy, muddy mess. Our greyhound's daily laps through the yard were making it even worse! 

We started by digging trenches and burying the downspouts to extend them out into the hillside. We also made a french drain with gravel and sand at the end of each buried downspout. Each downspout terminates underneath (and into) the dry river bed. The downspout at the other end of our backyard feeds into a rain barrel that we use to water our vegetable garden and flowers. 

My husband and I dug out a "dry river bed" that follows the natural slope of our yard and where the majority of the rainwater drains naturally. We stripped what was left of the sod and grass and dug a small swale in the center. We used rocks from our yard to line the edges of the "river." Then, we lined the whole thing with weed-blocking fabric and anchored it with landscaping staples to prevent dirt, mud, and weeds from filling up the rock bed too quickly. We hauled almost 5 tons of "river jack" stones from our driveway (delivered) to the backyard with two wheel barrows. The stones we used were 2"-3" stones and 5"-8" rocks.

River Jack Landscaping Stone Pink and Green Mama Blog

Dry River Bed Backyard Landscape

You can see the hillside in these before-and-after photos and the way we replaced large areas of grass with mulch areas and the dry river bed. The mulch is much more kid- and dog-friendly and it serves the second purpose of being a great way to xeriscape. What's "xeriscaping" you ask? It's a way to landscape that uses a lot less water. We don't use chemicals on our lawn because of our kids and our dog. Having large areas of hardscaping like our patios, deck, and dry river bed combined with the mulch uses a lot less water and we don't have to spend as much time mowing and maintaining our lawn. 

Sticking to a Budget

How did we keep it budget friendly? The mulch we used is free and recycled from our county dump. They collect yard waste and triple shred it into free mulch. We just have to use our truck to haul it. We can also get free leaf mulch for our garden beds. 

The swing set was a hand-me-down from our next door neighbors. We only needed to replace one big beam and some hardware but it was much less expensive than buying a new one!

A lot of the rocks in our landscaping came from other parts of our yard. We re-purposed slate pavers from a broken patio and we did some bargain-hunting online to find a good deal on our new footbridge.

The tree stumps in our play areas were also "found" from neighbor's trees and the dump.

We did buy the "river jack" stones but we negotiated the price for that as well! 

The plants were sale finds and the accent tree, a Coral Bark Japanese Maple, was also on sale with a coupon. It is called an: Acer Palmatum 'Sango kaku'. Sounds fancy right? I learned it's proper name and lots of detailed plant information from the HGTVGardens site!

The small footbridge is fun for our daughters and it gives our dog a safe way to cross the dry river bed without any hurt paws!  

Kid-Friendly Areas

It was important to us to create areas for all of our family members to feel welcome. We have play "zones" around the yard for the kids that encourage plenty of imaginative play and exercise without overwhelming the yard the whole yard. We also wanted our yard to be a place where our kids could observe and learn about nature. See my previous post about how we made our backyard bird friendly and became a Certified Wild Life Habitat with the National Wildlife Foundation

Slate Stepping Stones

Our kids love to use the slate stepping stones and our hardscape patio areas as "blank canvases" for their chalk drawings! 

Logs for Play Area

We have a small corner in our yard with a circle of tree stumps that my children use as an outdoor play kitchen to mix "potions" and mud pies. It is stocked with some old baskets, a plastic Halloween cauldron, garage sale dishes, and a mortar and pestle. This is the favorite play area in our yard when friends come over.

DIY Backyard Makeover on a Budget from Pink and Green Mama Blog

The girls built this container fairy garden with their grandparents a few summers ago and it is also a favorite go-to play destination in our backyard! It is in a teak planter set on locking casters so we can wheel it around our patio area. They love to play with small fairies and animal toys in it! 

DIY Backyard Makeover on a Budget from Pink and Green Mama Blog

My husband and I recycled and re-built a homemade swing set from our next door neighbor. The girls love this "secret" play area behind our shed. The large tree stumps in the foreground are used as giant stepping stones and "stages" for imaginative play and fort building under the trees.

Backyard Play Ground

The kids love to pretend to "go fishing" in the new dry river bed. 

As a member of the HGTVGardens website, I made my own photo album on the site of our DIY Backyard Makeover to share our before and after photos with other gardeners. This lets me get feedback and advice from other gardeners as well as a chance to "show and tell" a little bit! It also has more detailed photos and some of the steps we took to makeover our yard. You can see it here. I hope you will come join me, I'd love to see what kind of project ideas you have for your own backyard oasis! 

Pink and Green Mama, 

DIY Backyard Makeover on a Budget from Pink and Green Mama Blog with HGTVGardens

Brought to you by the gardening crew at HGTV.
All opinions are my own and my husband and I really did re-do our yard all by ourselves
but if anyone from the HGTV crew wants to come help out they're more than welcome!

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