The State Of The Backyard, April 2013

Shortly after we bought our house, I wrote a post featuring a “virtual tour” of the exterior and yard (which can be found here). All of the photos from that post were taken in June of 2011, before we’d moved in or done anything with the yard. And now, almost two years later… we’re moved in, and finally unpacked the last of the moving boxes, but still haven’t done much of anything with the yard.

This summer, I’m hoping we can change that — especially now that Lillian is running around on two feet, and it’s starting to feel like more of a priority to make some improvements to the yard (and backyard especially) for her to play in. So for today’s post, I wanted to do a quick review of the current state of the backyard, with updated photos for the first time since summer 2011, and talk a little about some changes we’d like to make.

Before getting into the photos, though, I’ll repeat that virtually nothing has changed — and to the extent that anything has changed, it’s in the direction of looking shabbier. But I think the biggest difference with these photos (taken within the past week or two) is that they still have the “winter” look, whereas the last batch was taken in the early stages of summer when everything was lush and freshly green.

So to start off, here is a view of the backyard looking toward the garage:

Back Of The Garage

It wasn’t until looking at this picture that I realized that random little American flag has just been sitting there in the flower box, lopsided and ignored, for almost two years. Yikes! It’s been relocated to the inside of the garage now. It should make a good manly garage decoration in there, right?

Speaking of the flower boxes, those largely-ignored red things beneath the garage windows could use some love and attention as well — it would be nice to actually plant some flowers in them this summer, and maybe give them a fresh coat of paint since they’re starting to look pretty dull and faded.

Moving further toward the back of the backyard, here’s a view showing the fence and gate, and the alley behind it:

Back Fence And Alley

The chain link fence means we get a good view of the alley and its garbage cans, and anyone walking or driving past can easily see into our yard. Upgrading this chain link fence to a 6-foot privacy fence (similar to the ones you can see across the alley in the photo above) would go a long way toward making the yard feel more private, and I think it’s one of the biggest things I’m hoping to accomplish with the yard this summer.

The other thing you’ll notice about the photo above are those three scraggly-looking tree things — believe it or not, they’ve about doubled in size since the original tour of the yard, and since they’re what some people would call “weed trees,” we decided that they had to go. The good news is that some progress has actually been made on that front already — more details to be posted shortly!

Turning back from the fence toward the garage, this next photo shows a better view of the side of the garage with its window box, and the ground in front of it:

Side Of The Garage

The flowerbed planting area along the garage is bordered off by big, dull cinderblock brick things, which would be nice to upgrade to a more decorative-looking brick or stone border. But really if we can just keep this area from getting overrun with weeds this summer, I’ll consider it a victory!

Moving on toward the back of the house:

Back Of The House

I’m not sure how clear it is from the photo above, but the area closest to the house on the right side isn’t grass, but rather what used to be a patch of some kind of out-of-control viney plant. I raked up a lot of it last fall, so it looks pretty bare now, and it would be nice if we could make it stay gone.

Also, one of the biggest shortcomings of the backyard (aside from the fishbowl feeling you get when looking out toward the alley) is the lack of any kind of lawn furniture or patio for hanging out outdoors. That area along the house seems like a good candidate for such a space — though we’re probably getting into unrealistically ambitious pie-in-the-sky territory when words like “patio” start to come up.

This next photo shows the storage space under the mudroom, right along the basement stairs:

Unsightly Storage Area By Basement

Kind of an unsightly junk pile, I know. And that rusty round thing is our dearly departed hose reel, which fell off the house last summer. I don’t know why we stashed it here — maybe out of hope that it could be repaired, though that doesn’t seem likely. It was very old and rusty.

While it might seem like the best solution to this junk-filled eyesore is just “get rid of the junk,” this is such a convenient storage area for stashing small to mid-size outdoor tools and supplies. I think it would be really nice to figure out a way we can close it off with a lattice or something, which would also serve the purpose of keeping Lillian from trying to randomly wander back there.

And finally, here’s a view of that awkwardly-placed rose bush right up along the fence:

Rose Bush Next To Fence

It definitely looks different when it’s not in full bloom like it was in the original backyard tour. We’ve been thinking it might be nice to try to transplant this guy to another location (maybe even the front yard?) both due to the awkward placement along the fence and the fact that it’s covered in thorns, which doesn’t seem like the most toddler-friendly thing to have lying around if we’re hoping to spend a lot of time hanging out in the backyard this summer.

Anyway, that’s the state of the backyard as of April 2013! Based on these photos it seems like we really have our work cut out for us, so hopefully it’ll serve as some good motivation, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what we can do with it over the coming months.

What about you guys? Any big plans for your outdoor spaces this summer?


  1. I think transplanting the rose to your front yard is a good idea, both for visual appeal and safety. Pre-leaf is a good time to do this, but research what type of soil and sun it needs before doing it, so you don’t shock it with the wrong conditions. You might look into getting a portable garden tool caddy (some even come with sinks) to place under that staircase, it would organize and semi-Lillianproof the “junk”, while making it easy for YOU to get at when you wish, as they are wheeled.

    As for MY yard, I am currently trying to decide how to keep growing the good “rabbit weeds” without the neighbors complaining about the looks. Recently read about “lasagna gardening” (no, not growing pasta), where you essentially compost in place, then plant on top, I have a few wheelbarrows full of rabbit poo and hay, so I think I will try this, moving all edible weeds to a more controlled spot, so Stephen can mow the yard at last!

    • Thanks for the suggestions! It’s good to know about the pre-leaf thing for the rose bush — it seems like it’s first starting to get some buds now, so maybe we can still manage to do something with it before it fully gets its leaves. (More likely we won’t, though, since we generally seem to move so slowly on these things, haha.) I also like the idea of an actual storage solution for the area by the staircase rather than just tossing things there, and organization is always a good thing.

      Good luck with growing the rabbit food! I’ve heard of people having problems with their local governments for trying to intentionally grow natural prairie gardens and the like, but keeping it all in a controlled spot sounds like a good strategy. And I had never heard of the “lasagna gardening” concept before now, but upon looking it up it sounds like a really interesting organic gardening technique! :)

  2. You might know that we will all have different ideas about your yard! I would not put anything under the stairs, and no enclosure. Keep it open for good airflow and no dampness. Maybe I’d put a nice potted plant just outside to soften the look a bit. It’s a little further to walk, but I’d put garden tools in the garage, or add a plastic lean-to next to the garage. Plan out areas for the various activities. Cookout, entertaining, and play nearest the back door, gardening near the garage, and service area near the back gate. And I wouldn’t move the rosebush. This is a good learning experience for Lillian, time to teach her that one needs to be careful around some things. I little prick or scratch won;t hurt, and she will learn from it. And involve Lillian in deciding where to put things! Fun for all of you!

    • It’s always interesting to hear different ideas from everyone! I love the concept of trying to create different zones around the yard for different purposes, which would go a long way toward making it more functional and inviting for hanging out back there. Hopefully we can manage at least one this summer! And you make a good point about learning experiences and how the rose bush won’t hurt Lillian — I remember my grandparents had some thorny plants in their yard when I was growing up, and I somehow survived, haha. I think I’d still like it to be moved away from the fence to a more visually appealing placement if possible, but keeping it entirely away from toddler hands may not be as necessary or even desirable as this post originally made it out to be. Thanks for the suggestions! :)

  3. I love the idea of transplanting the rose bush to the front yard.

    We just bought our house, and thankfully the previous occupants had apparently planted annuals, so every day I come home to finding something new…but I really really want to start a vegetable garden. It would be so nice to get veggies I planted myself, with the bonus that it tastes better.

    • So exciting about your new house — we’ll have to come visit at some point! Seeing surprise flowers from the previous owners pop up that first spring is one of the funnest things, and if you let it get super overgrown to the point of hiding them like we did, they might be surprising you for years to come, haha. I know what you mean about the vegetable garden, though, and would love to start one of those if we could just get the rest of this yard under control. So many things to do, so little time!

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