After lockdown, my family started watching a lot of gardening videos on YouTube, and it motivated us to transform our one-acre backyard into a space we’d be proud of. Years ago, I considered yard work to be one of the worst things ever, and the idea of spending time in your own backyard was boring. But during the past few months, I’ve found a new love and appreciation for my backyard. Now, I actually love gardening, and I’m going to continue this process long after things get back to normal. Here at Inspiring Home, I’d love to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned during this process.
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5. Consider Your Backyard an Extension of Your Living Space
Before lockdown, I went on a trip to a small village in England. Even though the duplex (or, as they call it, semi-detached house) only had a very small backyard divided with the neighbor, the owner still did her best to make it amazing. The ground was paved with bricks, and there was a table and chairs sitting next to a tiny fountain. She had a very small raised garden bed that was easy for her to maintain, with the main feature being a tree that bloomed gorgeous pink flowers. The garden truly felt like this was part of the house, and not some forgotten space. This completely inspired me to get the same vibe in my own home.
For most Americans, backyards are just big fields of well-manicured grass. But this gets old pretty quickly. Instead of looking at your backyard as wasted space, try to imagine that it’s an extension of your home. Ask yourself what can be done to make the space more comfortable, inviting, and entertaining for yourself and guests.
4. Get to Know Your Plants
One of the biggest learning curves you might encounter is learning the names of the various plants that are already living on your property. Can you tell the difference between a weed and a flower? How about perennials versus annuals? Getting to know your plants isn’t just good for knowledge’s sake. You also need to be careful of plants that could cause you to break out in a rash, like poison ivy.
If if you’re thinking of consuming edible plants, always double and triple check information online before eating. Of course, if you live in a new development where the only thing in your backyard is grass and dandelions, you don’t need to worry much. Even so, try to do some research about what plants thrive in your landscape. The more you know about plant life, the better your results will be. (Especially if you grow fruits and vegetables.) And if you own animals- especially ones that roam outside, like chickens, it’s important to make sure the plants are not toxic to them.
3. Clear the Mess
When I first started paying more attention to my backyard, the amount of neglected twigs, leaves, and weeds was overwhelming. Looking back, it was honestly an embarrassing mess. Growing up, I knew plenty of people whose backyards looked the same. So I never thought it was a big deal to let it go. I only cared about making sure the inside of my house was clean. Now, I see the backyard as part of the whole package. A clean backyard shows that you’re proud of your home, and that you have respect for the land you live on.
Clear the mess before you do anything else. You might assume that you need something big and expensive like a swimming pool to make your backyard better. But a lot of the time, all it needs is to be well-manicured. As soon as it’s clean, make sure you incorporate upkeep into your routine. Once your space is cleared out, it will become much easier to work with a blank canvas.
2. Tackle One Project at a Time
If you’re getting excited about gardening, you might be eager to do all the things. At least, this is how I was at first. I wanted to redo our gravel driveway with luxurious white beach stones, expand our vegetable garden, and transform our patio into a calming reading area. From my inexperienced perspective, this seemed like a totally attainable goal for one summer.
However, after spending roughly $1,000 on the driveway alone, I realized that these projects are far more expensive and time-consuming than I could have ever imagined. To my surprise, my entire family got excited about helping me achieve my goals, even though I went into the project believing that I would do it on my own. Hopefully, your family will feel the same way. Just start with one project, and allow it to snowball. Over time, you’ll notice your outdoor space will transform into something great.
1. Give the Kids (and Pets) a Place to Play
For some of you, this point may seem obvious that your backyard is a haven for your kids and pets to run around and play. But I have been to far too many homes where the owners don’t seem to even try to make a space for their kids. Grass isn’t enough for your kids to entertain themselves outdoors, especially in the era of video games and the Internet. I highly recommend buying them a swing set online, or get them involved with planting a vegetable garden with a kid-friendly starter kit. Even better- ask your kids what they would like to do outside. Sometimes, all you need is a kiddie pool or some Super Soakers to have a blast.