Small Backyard Design Help

eamc01April 30, 2010

We are in desparate need of some help with our backyard as you can see from the pictures. We have terrible rocky and I think clay like dirt so one thought was to bring in soil (which we will have to do with bags since there isn't acess to the backyard for a truck) and then to build up the garden about a foot using paving stones. Do we bring inthe dirt first and then does anyone have suggestions of plants with some color...we were thinking of a tree in the middle and then some annuals and perennials

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)
    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 9:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

I'd get a lot of those rocks out there before planting. Rake them up and maybe put them on craigslist for free.

NICE patio set!

If you're going to raise the dirt level, don't pile it against the fence.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 7:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

The photos only show part of the backyard and part of the patio. It looks like the stairs are not in the center of the lot, also that the table is not centered on the patio?

If adding a tree "in the middle" means the tree will be directly behind the head of the table, think about whether that will make it difficult to walk around the table. Will the limbs of the tree have to be pruned above head-height to allow someone to reach that chair? Will that affect the amount of privacy the tree will provide (assuming privacy is an issue)?

Also: standing with my back to the house and looking at the patio, the people sitting on the left side of the table would have to walk on the stones to get to their chairs. When the stones are a flowerbed, that will be a problem. I assume there is no difficulty in moving the table to the right; if there is, you'll need something (grass, pavers, enlarged patio) which ensures people don't have to step on the flowers.

If there's no access to the back for a truck, is there any access at all except through the house?

What was your reason for wanting to raise the soil?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 8:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

If this area is mainly used in the summertime, what about just putting plants in pots on top of the rocks? Do you have houseplants that 'vacation' outside for the summer? If the area was filled with potted plants, you could move them around as necessary for ease of circulation when dining. For the 'off' seasons, you could fill pots with appropriate decorative things.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 8:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The table should be moved in about 12-20 inches each way so you can comfortable sit without chair leg going off into the stones/dirt. If you add a foot of soil it will be up against your fence & will rot it unless you put something up there to keep it off the fence. Could you just get or build some 4 ft by 4ft beds that you could plant things in around the yard & just plant tree in ground. Do you want tree for shade? Doesn't look like area is too wide. Can you measure it across & tell us? You would need a tree that doesn't have roots close to surface or your patio would get uneven. With raised beds you could have veggie/herb garden,perennial bed, annual bed, for interest could have tall pot in center of bed & plant around it with wave petunias flowing out of pot or even pots around here & there between beds near fence. Could be very attractive area.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 9:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The "tree in the middle" will be like having a post in the middle of your living room. Bad idea.

Instead of thinking of it as a 'back yard', think of it as a deck or patio and turn it into an outdoor living area. Think "outdoor great room", and the brick area is your rug.

I have no clue what grows in NJ, but your local library will have books about landscaping in your area.

1 - Which side of the house is this? It matters.

2 - Raised beds of wood, right over the rocks or with the rocks raked off that spot would be the easy fix and would keep the dirt away from the fence and trellis.

They would also keep the rug rat (I see the toy) out of the plants.

3 - Don't worry about the crap clay. There are plants that tolerate it and some that prefer it.

4 - You mostly need to look for plants that have a growth habit that is more vertical than horizontal, ones with a mature size that won't cram the space with plants.

Vines on trellises or obelisks do this very well.

How big is the whole area?

Here is a link that might be useful: NJ Master Gardeners

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 9:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I added some more pictures but to give you an idea of the backyard: it's the back of our condo building and it's square with the patio butting up against the brick wall the the right (which since these pictures have been taken now has three trellis with plants growing up them) The width of the spot I"m looking to do the raised bed is 7' wide and 32' long. The table has since been centered on the patio. The entire backyard is 25' wide x 32' long. I had some thought to put a tree somewhere in that space to give us some more privacy from neighbors. There is a brick wall behind the fence that the neighbors built so I can conceivably remove my fence and but up against the wall. If you are standing on the balcony and looking out the property faces west

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 4:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
teckelhound(Z9 SF Bay)

I am trying to make a design for the hell strip in front of the house. It is approximately 2'4" wide by 36 feet long. All current plants will be removed and we will start with a clean slate. There will be drip irrigation, but the plants should be drought/heat/deer tolerant. My list of top contenders are: phormium, lavender, nepeta, sedum, white gaura, yellow achillea, african daisies. Also two matching red crepe myrtles will be planted. Maybe a few boulders or irregular flag stones to add interest, and a place to step when crossing the street.

My question concerns how best to place the plants and how many in each grouping. The trees will be about 12 feet apart. Each grouping would occupy approximately 12 feet. I could make 3 groupings --for example, a grouping would consist (left to right) a couple nepetas, achillea, some creeping sedum, a lavender, a gaura, a phormium, 2 nepetas, then several feet of just African daisies. Then repeat the pattern? Is it better to change to order a bit for each group or repeat the same pattern? Add one different item to each, like a blue fescue or hen&chick?

Would it look better to instead have more plants in two groupings (either on opposite sides of trees or between the two trees), so the stretch of African daisies would be longer, and there would be say 3 nepetas, achillea, more sedum, 2 lavenders, a gaura, a phormium, 3 nepetas in each group?

The area is so narrow that plants can't be staggered much, the nepetas will look like they are in a row. Will this look okay or is there a better way? I'd love suggestions on how to best arrange them (before it was always weeds). The plantings here will be very similar to the opposite side of sidewalk as well, a strip that is the same dimension, bordered by a 18" retaining wall. This is my first gardening project where I had to do such a large area at one time. Suggestions please!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 6:04PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
garden design ideas for a raised brick flower bed.
Every year I try with all my might to do something...
Shrubs need to get pulled out U-G-L-Y
Hi Forum Members: I recently bought my house and the...
Wind, sun and what best fits my backyard
Hi everyone! Please ignore the grass situation, will...
Women Landscapers?
I am one. Any others out there? Do you hire women workers? If...
Need help building a retaining wall
Hi all this is my first post so I hope I can get some...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™