As the spring flowers begin to bloom, our thoughts quickly turn to the backyard – there will be barbecues, chatting with the neighbor over the fence, and yes, the occasional rabbit nibbling on your vegetables. Those sprawling backyards with immaculate lawns give us inspiration – although we certainly wouldn’t want to have to mow them! For those of us with smaller backyards, a few simple hacks can transform them into something spectacular. Friends will want to visit; neighbors will be envious.
I live in one of those neighborhoods where everyone has a gardener, which I refuse to do. Some say it’s because I’m cheap, but I just like to do it myself – and I’ve found that keeping a nice yard with attractive features isn’t as much work as it would seem.
You won’t have to work very hard to get it done. Let’s get started.
Grapevines on the fence
Planting our grapevines along our back fence took about 15 minutes a few years back, and now we have a bumper crop of Concord grapes every year. They require a little maintenance, making sure encroaching weeds don’t climb up the fence and interfere with the vines. Every summer when the fruit is purple and fragrant, we pick the grapes, and spend the afternoon making enough grape jelly to last the entire year. We even have enough to share with friends and neighbors.
Not enough room for a garden?
Start a bucket garden. We made use of old recycling bins and filled them with old leaves and dirt, and they now give us a crop of strawberries every spring. I especially like this hack because strawberries are perennials, and every year each plant creates shoots that continue to fill the bucket. Once it’s completely filled with plants, I can cut off the shoots and use them to start a new bucket.
Decorative stepping stones
I had considered creating an entire patio with paving blocks, but once I considered the amount of work that would go into it, I started to look for alternatives. I wanted a decorative backyard but didn’t want to work too hard!
Instead, I bought a handful of decorative stepping stones and placed them strategically in the yard, including three brightly colored ones right in front of the backyard swing. There is a little work involved, as you don’t want to just lay them on the grass – dig down just a couple of inches so you can place them so they are flush with the lawn. Lay down a layer of sand, and then just drop them in. Some landscapers will recommend cementing them in place, but if you’re just doing a few, it’s not necessary if you dig the hole to precisely the right size. This is a remarkably easy decoration.
Build a backyard deck
Okay, this one is not quite as quick and easy, but it goes a long way toward dressing up a backyard. In a recent US Census Bureau study of the residential building industry, 671,000 out of 738,000 new single-family homes in 2016 had a deck, porch, or patio. You can see that many new home designs found on The Plan Collection feature attractive decks. If you do the work yourself though, it can be done for a reasonable price, and it adds to the value of the home. A basic do-it-yourself smaller deck can be created for as little as $1,000.
Lots of perennials
I am a big believer in flowering perennials, mostly because I don’t have the time to plant annuals every spring. Besides, I live in one of those places where we often have a false spring, followed by one final cold snap that tends to kill off everything if you plant too early. Several years ago I was given a handful of Rose of Sharon shoots, planted I them along my fence – and now every year both my neighbor and I enjoy the colorful blooms that last all summer long. It’s amazing how little upkeep these require, and they grow quite large.
A small budget and a lot of imagination
Having a gardening service is wonderful, but they do tend to use the most expensive options. Doing it myself provides me with the relaxing Zen of backyard gardening, a welcome escape from daily pressures. It also saves money!
Part of the fun is simply using your imagination to come up with new ideas. Make your own flowerpots from painted coffee cans. Build a small koi pond with water plants using a half-barrel and a piece of pond liner. Wait for solar lights to go on sale, and then use them to line your walkway. The possibilities are endless. Those neighbors who spend money on gardening services will look and ask you, “Who does your gardening?” It’s a great conversation starter when you can tell them, “I did it myself.”