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Budget Backyard Patio and Landscaping


Successfully carried 200 bags of gravel and sand from the curb, up the stoop, through the parlor, and down the deck stairs!

We’ve been very excited about starting our backyard makeover for a year and half! It’s hard to believe it‘s here! It was always something we were going to get to once our main renovation was complete. During that process we were so deep into the project it just seemed like something we would never get to. While we still have lots of projects to keep us busy inside, we can now focus some attention to getting our backyard in shape for summer!


We’ve already thought about what our priorities are for the space. We’ve planned it out and we’re half way through the work! The design will feature a hardscape area for entertaining, a grassy area for relaxing, and lots of plantings.



After we built the raised flower bed, we laid dug down and laid the ground grid.

Budget

...Or lack of! This is a post renovation project that really never had an official budget. We are moving to it quite quickly after a major renovation, that of course didn’t leave anything in the contingency fund. So we want to make our backyard as beautiful as we can on pretty much a bit of budget to buy plants, some kind of hardscape solution, and maybe a couple of pieces of furniture. We are hoping to spend about $2500 on the whole thing. It’s almost nothing compared to the tens of thousands we scene some people spend. It should be interesting to see how far we could stretch it!



The Design

Our backyard had an interesting feature that we’ve learned was popular in Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s. A path with 2 cement curbs on the sides framed the yard. It created a small raised bed along the fence and a narrower area of grass in the middle. The path itself felt pretty useless to us and it had the effect of making the backyard seem smaller and narrower. Most of our initial designs kept that feature because we didn’t want to go through the trouble and expense of removing it then hauling away all of the cement. It was feeling a bit restrictive in what we could do with the space so we ultimately decided to remove it. With a borrowed jackhammer and a mallet we prepared for some sore muscles.


We found that lining the path all the way around was flagstone concealed under a thin layer of dirt. Have we found our solution to a budget-friendly hardscape surface? We pulled all of the flagstone up and there were some really large pieces. It wasn’t quite enough build the patio we wanted, but it would save us a lot of money buying pavers and drastically cut down on the expense of hauling away debris. So we planned on working it into the design.


As with many of the spaces in our design we found an inspiration picture, with help from our backyard enthusiast designer friend, Jeanette, that closely resembled what we wanted. In that picture pea gravel was used for the patio area. Although we know it’s not for everyone, we really like the Mediterranean vibe it gives the space. So Jeanette helped us come up with a plan to use our reclaimed flagstone along with pea gravel to create a patio area. It will be very budget friendly and reduce the amount of work it would be removing debris and getting materials.


The back half of the yard that gets the most sun will be a grassy lawn. We’re using a special mix of grass seed that is drought-resistant (aka forgetting to water it), dog friendly (aka Zuko peeing in it), and does well in partial sun. We would leave the outside cement curb that creates the raised area along the perimeter to make room for plantings. The last feature will be an easy-to-build raised flower bed in the center of the patio to create some interest with different heights. It also will provide a separation of space for our tenant to have a semi-private patio as well.


Leveling the dirt so sand and gravel can be poured evenly.

The Patio

To make our flagstone and pea gravel patio we first needed to dig down to provide room for the base layer and gravel layer. To make the base layer more solid and reduce the depth of it, Jeanette suggested that we order a ground grid. It’s basically a 2” deep plastic honeycomb that unfolds to create pockets that would hold the base layer to create a solid foundation. We decided to do a 2” base layer of sand and 2” of gravel/flagstone on top. We ordered our materials (we’re currently staying home because of the pandemic) so that it would all arrive before we needed it.


For the first phase, here are the materials we needed to order:

  • Ground grid $200

  • 45 cubic feet of leveling sand $360

  • 30 cubic feet of pea gravel (less than the sand because of the flagstone)$250

  • Metal landscape edging $45

  • 6 - 2X8X12 boards, 3 - 2X8X8 boards, 2 - 2X4X8 boards and 1 box of 3” deck screws $100

  • 1 bag of lawn seed $18




We dug down 4” moving the extra dirt to the back of the yard, and leaving some in the place we knew we would build the raised bed. We graded it slightly away from the house and did our best to level it off. The next step was to install the landscape edging. This is important to keep the gravel and sand from migrating over into the lawn area. It came in 5’ lengths that slid together to create the needed size. Metal stakes were included to anchor it into place.


Installing the ground grid was super easy. It is shipped in a relatively small box and then unfolds like an accordion to create the honeycomb. It was as simple as stretching it out into place.


The next step was to build the raised flower bed. It was going to act as edging for the sand and gravel so we wanted to get it built first. It’s an easy project any novice with a skill saw and drill can do! Our design is 3 stacked 2x8 boards all the way around with 2x4’s in the corners to provide strength and create and anchor into the ground. Here is what we did:


  • Measure the area and plan the length of all of your boards.

  • Cut all boards to length using a skill saw

  • Screw the base ring of 2x8’s together with the longer side overlapping the edge of the smaller side

  • Screw the 2x4’s into the corners with about 3” sticking out of the bottom to anchor it in place (this is a good time to make sure the base ring is square)

  • We then put the base in place and hammered down the 2x4 anchors

  • Go around and complete screwing in the rest of the boards


Now that the raised flower bed is in, the space is prepped for the sand and gravel installation. This went very fast! We had all of the bags of sand poured out in about 30-40 minutes.


Next we laid out the pattern for the flagstone. We leveled them all using the sand, carefully raising or lowering them (they are all different heights which made it tough to work with) by adding or removing sand underneath.


Once the flagstone was all in place and leveled we just needed to pour out the bags of gravel. 30 minutes later we had a complete patio space! We really love the way it came out. We like the clean look the gravel gives the space. It’s comfortable to walk on and it was easy to install. Best yet we have only spent $950 so far so that gives us a nice budget for plants!


That’s where we are! Our next backyard post will be once the space is finished so stay tuned!


We now have a raised flower bed, and our gravel section of the yard complete! We even got to repurpose our blue stone!

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