Finished backyard landscaping with the fence panel feature
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Backyard blitz for number 1

To be honest, the backyard of our first home was, for a long time, just a storage space.  The front garden received all the attention because first impressions from the street are important.  Meanwhile, round the back, garden tools lounged against the fence, compost bins lurked in a dark corner and wire fence panels marked the site boundary.

And then came Sustainable House Day.  Should we landscape the back garden before the big day?  Could we get this job done in time? There was so much preparation to be done but there was a glimmer of hope. Time for a serious bit of Backyard Blitz action!

Humble beginnings for the backyard.

Adding a deck out the back provides extra usable space for our first home.  It becomes part of the living room when the big sliding door is opened wide.

There’s nothing special about the deck itself, just a well constructed flat surface.

Standard deck added to the back of the first house
Deck construction underway as the first home is built.

David came up with the idea of adding a reclaimed timber screen to the eastern side of the deck.  The screen is an attractive feature, as well as adding privacy to the deck.

Reclaimed timber screen on the back deck for decoration and privacy
Timber offcuts screen is a decorative way to add privacy

Our deck “blank canvas” was in place.  How could we landscape the surrounding area to bring the entire back garden up to the same standard?

Started with olive tree planter boxes.

For several years, I’ve nurtured a couple of olive trees in pots of ever increasing size.  The trees were a welcoming gift from Frank, one of our neighbours, who runs the equivalent of a market garden at the back of his house.

I decided these trees could add a touch of greenery to the deck.  However, simply whacking them into large plastic pots or fake ceramic pots certainly didn’t fit the theme of the house.  Easy to do but not a good look. What we needed was some wooden planter boxes. How hard could that be?

Luckily, our son Ben is getting into woodworking in a big way.  He has the necessary tools and expertise to turn my vague ideas into reality.  When I explained what I wanted, Ben jumped at the chance to design the planter boxes using pocket hole joinery, a technology he’d recently discovered.  Pocket holes make the connecting screws invisible on the finished boxes.

After a busy Saturday buying all the materials and getting me started on the construction, I found myself back in the garage with the project well underway.  Using my new workbench (also designed and built by Ben) was a tremendous help.

Building wooden planter boxes on my new workbench
Work in progress on a planter box.

The last stage of the project was planting the olive trees in a modified wicking bed set up within the planter box.  I used this arrangement because I’d heard that olive trees don’t like wet feet. A wicking bed continuously supplies the tree just the amount of water it needs.  The finished product is not too shabby for a first timer. Full credit to Ben’s design as the boxes look good on the deck.

Finished planter boxes with olive trees sitting on the back deck
Olive trees happy to move into larger pots sitting in the wooden planter boxes.

Rest of the backyard looks sad.

Sprucing up the deck highlighted how much the rest of the backyard needed improvement.  The view from the deck wasn’t particularly inviting.

Backyard needs landscaping
Untidy appearance looking from the back deck.

Clearing away the accumulated stuff didn’t help at all.  Now we had a more open, but still uninviting space.

Clearing everything away in the back garden didn't really help with the look
Bare space is not an attractive look next to the deck.

Need some simple but stunning landscaping.

David, our builder, and Dan, our landscaper, put their heads together with the design brief of something that was quick to build but delivered the goods on finished appearance.

First job was building a retaining wall to prevent the new back garden sliding down the hill into our second home’s driveway.

New retaining wall to keep the backyard in position
Retaining wall needed to separate the garden from the second home’s driveway.

Next came a short fence that connected with next door’s Timbercrete garage wall.

Fence sits above the retaining wall.
Fence continues the property boundary from the garage wall.

With only a few days to go, the landscaping came together.  The backyard started to look less like a construction site and more like the beginnings of a garden.

Finished construction and ready for planting in the backyard
Landscaping in full swing.

Fence panel provides a landscaping feature.

David’s fence panel construction is the standout feature, in the same way the Wozbits sculpture adds character to the front garden. It’s amazing what David can do with some leftover steel cladding and a few pieces of reclaimed timber from the old house.

Steel cladding and reclaimed timber feature panel in the standard fence
Steel cladding and reclaimed timber add character to the standard fence palings

Mixing different types of timbers, such as a house stump and floor joists, gives the fence panel its character.

Close look at reclaimed timbers on fence feature panel
Adding interest with a variety of reclaimed timbers

The oiled timbers and Monument fence paint mirror the appearance of our home’s north wall so there’s an obvious connection between the two.

North wall of house also features reclaimed timbers and Monument colour
Fence matches the north wall of the house

Backyard Blitz completed.

On the Friday before Sustainable House day, the last pieces of the landscaping plan fell into place.  We’d finished in time!

Dan’s stepping stone path is an eye-catching contrast between the fence panel and the deck.

Stepping stone path leads into the new backyard
Stepping stone pathway leading into the garden

A round patch of grass provides an open, inviting space at the other end of the garden.  Indigenous plants from CRISP nursery went into the beds laid around the garden’s perimeter.

Kangaroo apple flowering
Indigenous Kangaroo Apple already flowering in the garden.

 There are a couple of Grevilleas from Kuranga nursery in there, just for a showy splash of colour.  Grevilleas are Libby’s favourite native plant so it would not be one of our gardens without them.

Grevillea adds a splash of colour next to the back deck
Grevilleas are a good combination of interesting foliage and brightly coloured flowers

As the garden matures, we’re hoping the variety of flowering native plants will attract birds and insects.

Finished backyard landscaping with the fence panel feature

The view from the deck looks very different.  A lot of hard work in a short period of time created the desired effect.  We have a simple but stunning back garden that is probably making the front garden a bit jealous.

View of the backyard from the back deck changed dramatically after landscaping
Much improved view from the back deck

Painting the new boundary fences was definitely worth the effort. We did learn one important lesson from the experience. Don’t use brushes to paint the 70 metres of fence on the other side of the property. I’m thinking spray painting will be the preferred method.

Another bit of landscaping needed.

There is one more item on this home’s landscaping to-do list.  It’s the patch of ground next to the driveway that leads down to the second and third homes.  However, not much will happen for a while because laying the driveway is one of the last jobs to be done on the site.

Bare driveway area yet to be landscaped
Driveway area looks bare for now.

I’m looking forward to the time when a narrow garden bed running alongside the house connects the front and back gardens.

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