The Evolution of a Small Yard Landscape

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It has been a while since I mentioned anything about our backyard so today is a Small Backyard Landscape Update. If you are unfamiliar with what I am talking about, here’s a recap.

We built a new house and it has a small backyard. Instead of putting in grass that must be fertilized, watered, and mowed, we have opted for less maintenance. We started here with a plan. Then, we s.l.o.w.l.y began executing the plan. Along the way there have been mishaps, weather, and holidays that have made the project move along at a snail’s pace.


The Evolution of a Small Yard Landscape

The backyard has a definite slope so things like drainage had to be addressed. It’s pretty hard to write a compelling post about channeling water. And, the stone walls around the beds were pretty unexciting. It was tedious, back breaking labor that took weeks and weeks to complete – mostly due to rainy weather that made working on the project impossible.

Bit by bit, one stone at a time, it has finally reached a place that is picture and post worthy.

We started with what I have called the runway. To avoid erosion and still be able to walk around we covered the yard in weed prevention cloth. Not too exciting, eh!

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

This is the vision we came up with for the yard. Some large beds, a fire pit area, and a deck.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

We bought a few stones and Mr. Seasoned Homemaker began setting low retaining walls so we would have large beds where we could integrate a few veggies every now and again.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

It didn’t happen overnight, but things began to take shape. This is from a couple of weeks ago. Notice that the stone walls are in, there is now soil and mulch in the beds, and it is starting to look like a backyard. In the area around the {future} fire pit it is easy to see the slope of the lot.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

Once the stone was in place and we had beds. You would think I could start planting a few things. Well, not so fast. We had 3 tons of river rock delivered for the dry river bed. The dry river bed is where water drains from the lots behind us. One day there will be houses with grass so this could change, but the natural slope of the land will still drain water towards the fence.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

When we were living in the temporary apartment there was a neighbor who had this adorable metal-art cactus. I saw it…I loved it…I found it…at HEB early one morning. It has been looking for its permanent home and how it has one.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

At this point it in the project it is now January and time to plant a few onions and maybe some greens. By the time these are harvested some of my spring plants will be coming out. FIY ~ I have a whole tutorial on planting onions.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

And FINALLY we started on the paths. First, we ordered up 5 yards of decomposed granite.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

This is going to be spread on all of the walking areas. Decomposed granite can also be a growing medium because it is so rich in soil nutrients and minerals. However, we are using it for pathways in the yard. It then had to be shoveled into a wheelbarrow and brought into the backyard. #ohmyachingback

First we had to separate out a few spots where we plan to put in beds. We needed an edging. Earlier we had purchased some metal edging, but it is impossible to get that stuff into the rocky soil around here. Then, we discovered what I call cookie edging because if I sliced it up it would look like a cookie. This stuff is perfect for our application because we could set it down and then fill in with the decomposed granite.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

Notice how it is perfect for separating the grassy area (in the background) from where the decomposed granite path will be. And it was perfect for separating out a small bed that will have a small ornamental tree next to the {future} deck. Each 4′ piece costs about $8 at Home Depot.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

Here’s a pulled back view of the walking path. You can see where the deck will be and the small bed next to it.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

We know that decomposed granite can be a little problematic in a backyard. It is better than dirt and hopefully will buy us some time. When you put it down, it’s really like a layer of dirt. The footprints tell it all.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

There is a way to make this better. I don’t know what you call this machine ~ I called it Poundy McPounderson. It is a rental from Home Depot; you move it across the decomposed granite and it pounds it down hard.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

Once it has really settled we will come back in and dust the surface with cement. Then it will be firm and sturdy. The border you see separates the fire pit area. Because of the yard’s slope we had to add something to keep the decomposed granite from washing out. We hope to add flagstone here first.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

While far from finished, I did manage to get a few plants in the ground. There will be border plants, as well. Perhaps in a year flagstones on the paths. But for now it will be decomposed granite.

Small Yard Landscapes can be challenging. Most people never begin a new landscape because they don't know where to start. This post shows the evolution of our xeriscape Small Yard Landscape. Gardening Beginners this will teach you How to Landscape.

Slowly it is coming along. Over the next 6 weeks I will start adding plants. Then it will really look like something. 

Update: You can read more on the progress of this project at: How to Landscape and Landscaping Tips for Small Yards


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19 Comments

  1. That is going to be a beautiful yard that you will enjoy for years to come…even more so because you did it yourselves!!!

  2. Love it….the layout is very nice. The black weed barrier is very tough to dig thru in the future for different planting needs. Read where someone on Pinterest used 5-6 layers of newspaper for beds with successive plantings. Very eco-green and keeps weeds from sprouting. You may want to use around your plants after setting them in black plastic (will need to cut opening with scissors or knife blade…pack some newspaper around as weed block. As a NURSE, newsprint also does not support germ growth…often used by public health nurses to create barrier for medical bag and supplies in homes where hygiene may be questionable. Good luck…do more pictures.

  3. Great job! I am going to look for that edging material at Home Depot. I have the same problem here in SA. I hope the plants you have put in survived the ice. We are very drippy over here. My gulf muhly grasses are completely beige. I hope they come back.

    p.s. I bought some new clothes that fit!

  4. It’s reassuring to see this. Here in Minnesota, we’re suffering through something called a “polar vortex” and everybody is SICK of it!
    Keep up the good work on your landscaping … so we have something positive to look forward too! 🙂

  5. A beautiful work in progress. You have such good ideas for your back yard and the finished yard is going to be beautiful. I love the metal cactus. Is HEB a web site? I’ve been thinking of planting some onions this year. Yours look great. Your greens are so pretty. I love growing a lot of different lettuces in a large pot. I am very fond of succulents and am thinking about making a succulent garden in the ground. The cactus would look look great. I’m going to watch your tutorial about growing onions now and i’m sure your information will be very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing your back yard.

  6. Few projects are as labor intensive as yard projects, but they’re extremely rewarding and totally worth it. I didn’t know granite could be used as mulch. Very cool!

    I can tell you really thought this project through, and it’s going to be awesome! I’m so on board with the fire pit. Definitely is on my honey do list.

  7. This is a fabulous tutorial on how to make over a not-that-small of a yard. Beautifully done and beautifully photographed. Nice work. Linda

  8. This post is so inspiring! The previous owners did some landscaping but I find myself wanting to redo it and not knowing where to start. Will definitely be referring back to this post when the time comes. Pinning for now!

  9. Your design is very inspirational for the direction we need to go in our new home. We recently downsized … smaller home in a new state… new ideas. Backyard is a clean slate… although we do have a lawn in. You may have addressed this but I am curious how you are watering your planting beds and grass areas. In our new home there is no well allowed or sprinkler system installed as we previously had used. Our plan will need to take a eco-friendly approach as we are in an area with hot summer months. I do love your design it helps me see our space in a new light. Thank you for posting! L

  10. After becoming disabled now at a relatively young age, I gave up on the lawn and beds I had been creating in my tiny front garden. I got my teenagers to throw black plastic over the lot 7 months ago while I have been trying to think of how to do it low maintenance and low cost, you have shown me simple step by step how to get it done. That I don’t need to get it all done at once, and that it can be beautiful without any grass! If I wasn’t in Ireland I would kiss you 🙂

    Keep inspiring!

  11. How are you keeping the dirt away from the fence-avoiding a rotten fence???? Everything looks great! Came across your blog on Pinterest. Inspiring!

  12. What an inspiring idea! I’m planning to re landscape my backyard and clueless where to start. I would like to include a raised garden bed on my backyard but seeing your pictures, I’m having second thoughts! It seems the more ideas I see, the more confused I get. Haha! But yours look really beautiful! Seems like a well thought out plan.

  13. Love the no lawn yards. Yours is beautiful. I love the well thought design. We are in process of finishing our no grass front yard. Hard work but once it is done so much easier to care for. Great job!

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