Backyard Progress

golden barrel cactusUpdate: See the backyard 1 year in here.

Ridiculously long post alert! Yes, I know it’s time for Christmas trees not yucca trees. But I wanted to slip some backyard progress in before the new year arrives and our slow crawl becomes massively pathetic! We still have some small tweaks to make out here, but the gist of everything is shoveled into place and planted. We are so thankful to have reclaimed this space, especially since it is highly visible from every room along the back of our house. We absolutely love it and make use of it daily!

To briefly catch you up, when we moved in our backyard was lushly landscaped with thirsty flowers that we weren’t into (see end of post for befores). We stopped watering everything and lived with a trash yard while we slowly worked towards a more minimal, low water, and low maintenance yard with a crazy desert vibe. I was channeling colorful 50’s Palm Springs motels and I think we’ve done alright considering our lack of swimming pools. (Though it’s been so overcast and, even on the sunniest of winter days, we don’t see a ton of sun back here so I apologize for the gloomy photos of what is usually a sunny space!)

Improvements included pouring curbs around the grass, completely redoing poorly designed sprinklers, reseeding the grass, painting so many fences, fixing up outdoor furniture here and here, getting sidetracked with the sideyard (and jumping on that fun trampoline eyesore!), painting the colorful retaining wall, weeding/weed-clothing/rocking all beds, and slowly amassing plants that I have almost finally finished planting…so here we go! Photo overload first, details on rocks, weed barrier, and more at the end.sansevieria snake plantgolden barrel cactus planter Echinocactus grusoniivintage orange motel chairsmid century orange motel chair patio agave attenuata agave attenuataagave attenuatablue acapulco chair backyardmid century bullet planters patiomid century desert modern landscape blue echeveria flower succulent aqua turquoise san pedro cactusacapulco chairs patio san pedro cactusagave attenuata
Dracaena Marginatavariegated sisal agaveacapulco chairs patio san pedro cactussan pedro cactusmid century desert modern landscapeblue turquoise succulent flowering echeveriayucca elephantipes tree cuttings propagation variegated sisal agave Ponytail Palm Beaucarnea guatemalensis Long Neckvintage orange motel chairsyucca elephantipes tree cuttings propagationWeed barrier: I had so many questions and waffled a lot about whether or not to put down weed cloth. Ultimately, we opted to and are SO glad we did. We aren’t far enough in yet to give a complete review, but so far, so good. We went with some mid range product from Scott’s. It looks and feels identical to cheap reusable grocery bag fabric. I’m not sure how long it will hold up, but there is a marked difference between where we put it down and where our dog ripped it back up (arggg!). I’ve figured out that we won’t ever truly be a zero weed yard because a windy mountain covered with weeds is literally up the street, but this has helped reduce most of them where it was completely unmanageable before. We cleared out as many as we could before laying down, but certainly not all. In hindsight, I wish we would have been a bit more thorough because we’ve had some weeds poke through the cloth in areas where were lax in clearing, especially after recent rains.agave attenuataRocks: I badly wanted white quartz. There is something about that blinding snow effect in a desert context that is so much fun. Sadly, it is not a “native” rock to our area and is therefore hard and expensive to source. Totally would have gone with it if our space was smaller, but we are covering back, sides and front yards mostly in rock, so the quartz would have been insanely expensive. We went with the next lightest colored rock available, which turned out to be float rock. Float rock is technically a construction material used in roadwork and, while it’s not unheard of to use in landscape applications, that isn’t its main usage. At $40/cubic yard it was a no brainer for us. This backyard area took 6 cubic yards. I liked the color and texture enough and the price couldn’t be beat, especially compared with our 3rd choice, California gold rock for $150/cubic yard! We ended up going with 1/4″, which is pretty small. If you are wondering what it feels like to walk on it, it’s exactly like a crunchy pebble beach. Yes, there is shifting and, yes, there are footprints. Is it messy? Not really. My kids LOVE to play in it (it’s like a giant sandbox but better!) but we have rules about no throwing or transporting rocks to non rock areas, so we’ve had no trouble keeping it in bounds.

The lawn: I explained why we chose to keep our backyard lawn in a time of drought here. We reseeded over the existing grass last spring. We do still have to water the grass but we have drastically reduced our usage by redesigning our sprinklers. My husband did an amazing job of getting tight coverage over a this curvy patch of grass. Every inch of our yard used to be drenched daily, including the sidewalks and fences – that were rotting because of water damage. Now, only the grass and a couple inches of overspray here and there are watered every 3rd day in our dry season, and hopefully none at all during our (supposedly wet but not lately) winters. Plants: This post is already so ridiculously long so I’m gonna come back next time with the specifics of what we planted (right here), but the general idea of it all is: NO WATER! NO MAINTENANCE! Or as close to that as we can get while dealing with living, growing things. More soon…

Still to do: I have a few outstanding things on the backyard list that I’ll get to one of these days. The first is the patio. You’ll notice no shots of the patio and that is because it is a bona-fide mess. We ended up poaching the tulip table for the family room (I’ll show you the latest rearrangement one of these days) and recently bought a vintage patio set that is waiting for a cleanup, making the patio a sad storage area at the moment that needs attention before photographs. I’d like to eventually address our weird back fence situation as well, but there is no budget or time to change it right now. I also still need to paint the eaves in the back (and most of the front too!), install more outdoor lights, and build a screen door to our bedroom (the orange door). Things are looking like this:

  • Remove all flowers and plants
  • Remove plastic edging around grass
  • Put in concrete curb edging around grass
  • Rip out sprinkler system and redesign
  • Reseed grass
  • Paint all fencing
  • Slope plant beds away from the house so they no longer threaten the foundation
  • Weed cloth everything
  • Rock everything
  • Buy/find a million plants
  • Plant everything
  • Paint cinderblock retaining wall
  • Firepit
  • Firepit chairs
  • Reposition/replant yucca when I know more about how well they grow and plant or pot one behind firepit
  • Fill back wall with tall cacti
  • Long term: redo the back fence with something more cohesive
  • Outdoor lights
  • Paint all eaves
  • Build a screen door to the primary bedroom
  • Eventually patch the hole in the wall on the patio
  • Repaint yet another table set for the patio
  • Replace mismatched patio lights
  • Replace doorbell button with this one…yes, we have a doorbell in our backyard!
  • Organize patio/toys/furniture
  • Repair sliding screen door that the dog turned into a dog door!!!!

Obligatory befores and afters (and I won’t be offended if you like the floral vibe befores more; I know ‘sparse’ isn’t everyone’s idea of a good landscaping!):backyard before
If I could paint walls and rearrange furniture all day I gladly would, but the process of this project was way outside of that happy realm. I’m not a yard work person and neither is my husband, so I’m especially proud that we did this 100% ourselves. I’m not sure how we’ll muster up the will to do the front yard…that’s a story for another year.

Again, more next time on the plant situation (here). Thanks for reading friends! xoxo


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