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Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

Posted by newtxan z8 Austin, TX (My Page) on
Thu, Dec 14, 06 at 16:17

I'm slowly starting a project, and I'd like to find out if anyone has done something similar or has a better idea before I get too far along.

I've got a fairly large, by city neighborhood standards, backyard and I'd like to reduce the size of my grass lawn for mowing and watering reasons. I would also like to divide, at least visually, my gardening/utility area from the rest of the yard.

The plan I've been considering is to replace the back edge of the lawn -- side to side (60 feet) and 8-14 feet from the back fence -- with a mulched area. It wouldn't necessarily be a bed with plantings, but would be mulched and walkable and would surround my existing raised vegetable garden beds. Is this odd?

I don't have any photos handy, but here are a couple of Sketchup shots of the area and my planned landscaping. I also intend to get rid of most of those small trees (Rose of Sharon bushes, actually. The previous owner must have found a sale.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 14, 06 at 18:25

Seems like it would be more work than mowing. Weeding, edging, fluffing the mulch, replenishing the mulch,

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

My experiences: I use mulch (including wine corks) in all my gardens because it does an excellent job of retaining moisture, preventing erosion and keeping down weeds. Maintaining it is trivial, as a simple border keeps it in place. A couple things you need to remember: 1 - when you water, the mulch will absorb it so that it gives the appearance of well-watered, but it may not have reached the soil underneath, 2 - lay down twice the depth that you think you want. When you want to plant, move the mulch out of the way as it's hard to push a shovel through it.
I got my mulch at the local green waste facility and transported it in large trash cans. Expect a round of mushrooms and the curious 'dog vomit slime' - all are harmless and disappeared after the first year. =^,,^=

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

yes this is a good project.
you lay out looks good too.
i did this 20 yrs ago in my backyard-- the back 3rd was in heavy shade and was a low spot(think mud for 8 months of the year-- with twin 2 yr old boys)

what i learned:

1.skip landscape fabric. it will only be a headache.
2.spray the grass with weed killer-- round-up is good
3.put down a layer of newspapers over the area--about 5 to 7 sheets of paper thick. this will help supress weeds.
4.put in a good edging material to keep the mulch where you want it to be. bricks, railroad ties, landscaping timbers, rocks the size of basketballs/footballs, a treated
2x8 on edge sunk into a trench and held in place with re-bar. skip the plastic edging products,
5. depending on what type of mulch you use you may want stepping stones, place these before the mulch.
6. after you spread the mulch water it down and compact it.
7. use preen on a regular basis to keep weeds from sprouting in the mulch.
8. plan on maintaince about 3 times per year: spring clean-up and redressing, summer touch-up, and a fall clean-up.
9.make sure the layer of mulch is thick enough-- over 4 inches
10. choose size cafefully-- shredded barck clings and travels, big nuggets (this size of charcoal briquettes) are tough to walk on, cocoa nibs smell great, but can be over powering in heat and humidity

I used pea gravel-- major problem is that it doesn't pack into a firm surface. makes putting chairs on it a pain-- they sink into the 6" of gravel i have. leaves and dirt wash into the stone and weeds grow-- once or twice a year i mow the area and in the spring i give it a good raking.
i love the sound of the pebbles when you walk on them and i love that they are cool in hot weather. I layed 11 tons of gravel and would do it again-- the boys stopped being mud-buddies soon after the area got mulched. i covered an area 50'x20' and cut my grass cutting by 1/3rd.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

Over in my corner of the south this is common practice. Pine needles, because they are so plentiful, are the mulch of choice. It is quite common here to see mulched beds, minimumly planted, curving throughout a property with small areas of lawn in between. If one lays out the negative space of the mulched beds well, it can be very attractive and give 'depth' to small yards.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

Very helpful advice, thank you.

I've already done a small area just to see how it looks. I laid down cardboard over the sparse grass (much of this area already doesn't get watered and is shady) and topped it with about 3 inches of composted shredded cedar mulch. I probably will need a little more, but I like the way it looks packed down and weathered a bit.

My other problem is the edging. I don't like any of the metal or plastic products. I have a bunch of cedar fence boards I could use, but I would like to do the curved border. But that's a whole other can of worms.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 15, 06 at 14:18

If you cut a nice deep edge with a straight edge spade and maintain it once or twice a year, you'll have a nicer looking edge than any other.
mulch ****grass

Of course the mulch would be the same height, or preferably higher (if not in the direction of drainage), of the grass. ...And a good healthy lawn holds an edge very nicely. The deep notch keeps the lawn runners to a minimum.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?


I think I will probably do exactly what you suggest. I already have a curved bed in the front yard that I hit with my electric edger 2 or 3 times per season. I also just got a new edger blade which is supposed to be good for digging a 2-inch trench. That should help me get my outline started.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

I am a big fan of mulching. It is easier to maintain than grass, especially in shady areas or in your case where you would have several edges to mow/trim around. It is probably more expensive since you have to refresh the mulch (depends somewhat on your supply of mulch and lawn care practices).

Looking at your mockup I have a few comments...The size of your raised beds seem very small. Is your drawing to scale? There looks to be a lot of wasted space in that area? What size do you plan to make the beds? Also, I am of the camp that thinks that in a situation where the lawn in the dominant feature of the landscape, that the lawn should be given a defined shape. The shape on the left (near the shed) looks natural but then the right side looks a bit odd to me. If you are going to keep the bushes then I would include them in the mulched area (and likely underplant with perennials).

- Brent

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

The beds aren't huge (they're already built and in use), but I think it's mainly the perspective of the image that makes them look so small. They're 6x3.

I agree about shape -- this is my first step, but I think I eventually want to remove the bushes on the right side, extend the side planting bed back to that area, and curve the mulched area out to meet it.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

What TYPE of grass do you have?
Northerners often make fun of edging and advise against it, but you have to have a wide and deep 'trench' around your planting beds and hit it with the weedeater twice a month if you want to keep runner grass out of your bed.
Runner grasses include Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Centipede--if you have Buffalo you're OK. (and Buffalo grass is great for Austin--in the sun.)

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 20, 06 at 21:31

It is true that cool season grasses are more easy to control than those listed above.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

I have St. Augustine, which has had me a little puzzled with all the edging ideas I've looked at.

Digging a trench or putting in a buried metal or plastic edge wouldn't seem to do much for St. Augustine unless the edge is raised above the ground. Even then, those runners will eventually jump over the edge.

It's seeming to me what I'm doing in my front bed is just about as good as anything. That is, I've got no edging but I run my spinning-blade edger down the border 3 or 4 times a summer, then come back with a cultivator on the mulch side and pull out any runners that have put down roots.

RE: Mulching over part of my backyard -- thoughts?

Welcome to Texas newtxn!

An alternative to mulch that you might prefer in your area would be rainbow rock or something similar. Mulch tends to wash away in the heavy rain and needs to be re-dressed.

Remove the grass (or kill it off and rake out the roots) Put down a thick black plastic with landscape staples first and then cut in your plants and other material, install your wooden or metal borders and then put down your stone.

You will need 5 yards of rainbow rock or similar stone to give yourself 3" coverage. The big rocks are pretty but a bit harder to walk on, the small rocks only need to go down about 2" or else it is a chore to trudge through. The plastic will eventually wear out and then you can treat the weeds with Round-up or similar.

The stone will contrast nicely with the grass and plants.


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