The big, bad backyard project

This is my backyard. What was once green and lush is now dry and dead. Last winter we had some plumbing problems and as a result, the sprinklers we worked so hard to install no longer work without flooding my basement. Also, all the exterior components have to be replaced. Happy, happy, joy, joy. We live in the desert and even though we had drought-tolerant grass from RWB Sod, dragging the hose around wasn’t cutting it and it just withered in the heat. Thus began our yard re-do.

In the front yard we’re ripping out most of the grass and xeriscaping. We live in a neighborhood, but we also live in the desert. It’s the financially and ecologically responsible thing to do. The front yard had Kentucky Bluegrass. That’s going. The back yard is getting a permaculture makeover.

The first thing I did was to asses our needs.

  1. All but one of our kids are bigger now. They don’t play soccer in the backyard, opting for street games out front instead. They don’t have big camp outs with their friends anymore either. We don’t need a huge carpet of grass but we still need a little (because, dogs).
  2. The toddler does still need a safe place to play.
  3. We enjoy warm evenings and some cold ones, around the fire pit. It’s our “thing” as a family. We need a space for that.
  4. I like to feed my family from my back yard. We need a space for a garden.
  5. We have no shade and our backyard faces south-west. We’ll need some big shade trees.

Second, my husband is a very visual person. More than once, ideas have been lost in translation between my head and his. This is going to be too expensive a project for misunderstandings. I can draw, but not in the detail he needs so I went searching for a free landscaping program. What I found was … lacking.

So I went to Better Homes and Gardens. They have a bunch of free PDF garden plans (with registration) complete with plant lists. None of them were quite what I wanted. I wanted the fire pit area from this plan, and the overall design from this low-maintenance plan. To make sure it fit, I took a screen shot of our backyard on Google maps and used Gimp (free program similar to Photoshop) to layer the elements I wanted with the space constraints I have into one visually clear plan.

Now, because of copy-write issues, I can’t show you the exact plan that resulted. I can, however, show you the little-kid Microsoft Paint version.

back yard paint

Tada! So far, we’ve found free landscaping rocks and a super-inexpensive 4 wheeler (and plow attachment) to help with the heavy lifting on KSL classifieds (a local version of Craigslist) and we’ve ripped up all that was left of the grass and the former raised garden beds. I also gutted the shed and made a whopping $60 selling the extra stuff. Before we can proceed, we have to fix the sprinklers. In the mean time, I’m gonna tackle the patio furniture.


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