B and I have talked about this project off and on for a few years now. We are fortunate to have a decent size yard for the city we live in, and I’ve always loved our green space even if we have a small dog. But, we have a back spot that has some trees and the grass doesn’t grow great, plus we get a small lake back there when we have heavy rains. The back also faces an old paint chipping garage — so we always thought it would be nice to add a little privacy and greenery. The problem though, was we would have to build up the area based on how that area handles the rain.
We had two different ideas on how we could do this. Mine was making planter boxes and B’s was building up the ground and using rocks to build a sort of wall. I quickly sold B on the planter box idea, for a few reasons — (1) we could customize the dimensions and look however we wanted to fit our space and (2) the stones I would want to put in the backyard would be expensive, as I’m not the biggest fan of the more generic ones you can find in stock at home improvement stores. Thus the planning begun and the measurements started. We ended up adding in a second planter box to the right of the main area to help B out with another dead grassy area that he hates!
The larger planter box we made was 8ft by 4ft and the smaller planter box was 4ft x 3ft, both 18 inches tall. We used 2×4’s for the posts and then used pressure treated wood for the exterior sides and stained them for extra weathered protection. We cut all of the wood and I stained it while B worked on getting the holes dug for the support beams.
Project Supply List:
– (3) 2x4x10ft posts
– A mix of 1x6x10ft and 1x6x12ft pressure treated wood
– Thompson’s WaterSeal Stain & Foam Brush
– Post Hole Digger
– Quick Concrete Mix
– Metal Edging
– 2.5-3 cu.yd of Top Soil
– 24 bags of Pea Gravel
– Plants of your choice
Digging the holes for the support post beams was tough, as we were working around roots, we tried to get 2ft deep, but sometimes we couldn’t. Luckily we also used quick concrete mix to help support the beams and keep them in place. We even lined up our cut boards for the first lower box level to make sure we were lining up the posts and box properly and ensure everything was level — this really helped and allowed us to have a good base to work up from once the support beams were secure in the concrete.
Once we got the boxes in place, we felt super accomplished and add top pieces to help finish them off! From there we ended up lining the insides with a weed barrier landscape fabric to keep the dirt in. Next up, we just needed to order the dirt! The last piece beyond the dirt that needed to be figured out was trying to find some sort of treatment for in between the boxes around the trees. We talked about adding some edging to help break it up, but upon further research and inspiration, we opted to create a space sweeping around the boxes that we could fill in with the pea gravel. I found this metal edging that I just think has such a sharp look, we would be able to create a custom space to help complete this new area!
Once we finished the edging off, it really brought this space to life and separated it from the rest of the yard — without taking away too much from our green space (which was a constant concern for me!). We got three yards of dirt delivered pretty quickly – for the record, we ordered way to much and could’ve gotten away with two and a half yards or so. We also got this delivered on one of those red hot July days, B busted his butt and filled the planters (not recommended). When we actually got to planting, we had to remove a lot of dirt so that was why we ordered too much! For the plants, we knew we wanted to get arborvitaes for the large planter box to add a bit more privacy, so we did our research and visited the nursery to pick out trees! We ended up buying a bit more expensive ones that were already 4+ft tall. We also kept going back and forth between getting two or three — we ended up choosing three knowing that we will need to trim and maintain them a bit more!
For the smaller planter box we got a hydrangea – which I think I’m going to switch out for a Limelight version, like we have in our front yard. In a year or two the hydrangea bush will completely fill this box and will be a beautiful addition to the backyard!
Quick project cost breakdown: Arborvitaes & Hydrangea ($300), Pebbles & Dirt ($225), Wood & Stain ($140), Edging ($50) — Estimated project total: $715
The plan for next year is to get a bunch of different sized terra-cotta pots and add more plants or veggies around the boxes on top of the pebbles to fill in the space more. You may also notice the large decorative fence (how-to blog coming up next!) that is covering that gross garage! Yes — we crafted that up and love how it helps finish the space.
Questions about this makeover? Leave a comment below!