Do you feel as if you’ll never get your backyard under control? Well, I can certainly relate. It’s only been about two years since I first tried breaking ground on our new weed-choked yard, but the clock was ticking; my baby boy was quickly becoming a toddler, and visitors could find lots of… um, potential for improvement. I’m a patient guy and realize that gardens take time, but after last year’s spring garden makeover, the patio became a utilitarian work space and dumping ground all over again. I was a garden writer who did not enjoy going out into his own garden, and that had to change.
Thanks to a pint-sized gardening helper, a little persistence, a little more work and a few great finds from Tuesday Morning, I was able to finally whip my backyard into shape, and I no longer feel embarrassed whenever anyone visits.
That said, I am human and the garden is far from perfect. I’d love to do something about that concrete patio and run-down fence, but the beauty is in the journey, right? It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m ecstatic to have finally cleaned it all up and to have made it feel like home.
To do that, I’ve taken an interior designer’s approach and divided the big slab into two distinct rooms. The right side of the patio is left open to provide a clear view and landing zone, much like a foyer. The left side is the proper ‘outdoor room’, there I can grill and entertain my relatives under the shade of an umbrella. Dividing the two spaces beautifully are a big planter box and potted plants.
I got a lot of cool stuff from my latest Tuesday Morning run, but that planter box is a dream come true, let me tell you. It brings architectural interest to my patio and we can pick herbs just steps away from the back door. Best of all, my son loves the strawberries that dangle over the box’s edge. He knows how to pluck them as soon as they’re ripe and red, and he knows that if he calls me over, I’ll gladly wash them off. Not only is harvesting strawberries easier this way, they’re also kept clean and free of pests.
I’ve also managed to find a big planter that is lightweight enough for me to move around without a struggle. Big is always best whenever you want to unify a patio with containers, since a bunch of smaller pots can look chaotic. I’ve planted it with a drought-tolerant soft-leaved yucca (Yucca elephantipes), fireball bromeliads (Neoregelia ‘Fireball) and a random assortment of succulents from my other pots, and will water it only occasionally.
My bakers’ rack is filled with vegetable seedlings like yellow pear tomatoes and edamame beans, which we’ll transplant to the veggie garden when they get larger. I like to harvest veggies with a good bypass pruner, so have set one aside to use for produce and cut roses.
The garden itself already looked pretty decent, but my wife suggested I add a path through the rain garden/dry creek bed so that our son could explore without getting muddy and trampling plants. He was thrilled to place solar lights along the path for me – and then move them elsewhere, and then put them back, and then line them up somewhere else. At least he’s entertained!
I originally thought I’d decorate a small area of the garden just for my son, but have since learned that he thinks the whole garden is his to begin with, so decided to just spread them around. I’m waiting a bit longer until I let him catch his own bugs (safety first!), but the nature play set and bug holder are easy ways for me to set aside frogs and snails to show him later.
Making over a garden is like redecorating a room. It requires time, organization, beautiful pieces and a fair amount of picking up, but it’s not enough to just make it look good. Design the space to allow you, your friends and your family to do the things that you love.
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