From Wasteland to Toddler Oasis – The Beginning of the Backyard Transformation

I like living in a townhouse. For our little family, it is the perfect place to be. One of the great advantages of a townhouse is that it is low maintenance. It is easy to keep clean, easy to cool and easy to heat. The backyard, in theory, is low maintenance too. It really just consists of a small strip of lawn and a couple of garden beds. How hard could that be to maintain?

It turns out, if you are me, very hard.


Plants need water?

I don’t naturally have a green thumb. If anything, my thumb is the plant equivalent of the Grim Reaper – everywhere in my garden that is supposed to be green turns dirt-brown very quickly.

One of my main problems is consistency. I tend to get very excited about the garden for short periods of time, then completely forget about it for several weeks. The result of course, is that without water, everything dies.


dead tomato plant
This tomato plant was amazing!… until I forgot to water it.


Not that anything in the backyard was that great to begin with. When we moved in several years ago, the backyard was already in a fairly shoddy state. It hardly inspired me to spend a lot of time out there and do great things. Add to that the fact that I had no real need for a pretty backyard. Hannah wasn’t yet with us, there was no incentive to make it something special.

So the already-crappy yard continued its inevitable decay. The wooden edging slowly rotted away, the grass retreated from the most shaded parts, then from under the washing line, then (due to an extended trip to Japan combined with absolutely zero rainfall and a poorly-timed and poorly-implemented weed-and-feed) the lawn died altogether.


Dead lawn
When we returned from Japan, most of the lawn was dead


Just when we actually need it

In the past, none of this would have bothered me all that much. I may have cursed my crappy backyard on the odd occasion that I actually stepped foot out there, but generally speaking it didn’t enter my mind.

Now, however, we have a toddler. An energetic, outdoor-loving little human.

Hannah really does love the outdoors. She has been known to stand at the back door and look longingly over our little dirt patch. With a long summer ahead of us, there was only one thing to do – rip it all out and start again!

The dirt patch had to go. The rotted wooden garden edging had to go. Gangly, ill-shaped struggling shrubs had to be cleared. The much neglected vegetable beds and optimistically installed vertical garden had to be brought back to life with fresh herbs and vegetables.

The time was right for the backyard wasteland to be transformed into a toddler oasis!


Rotton wooden edging
Time to go, rotten wooden edging


The benefits of compact family life – less work!

Thankfully, like everything in our compact family townhouse, the backyard is… compact. That means that this brilliant transformation will require far less effort than a good old-fashioned quarter acre block would. Most of it I will be able to do myself, although there will definitely be some moments that require help. Luckily I have some very enthusiastic family members who are more than willing to get their hands dirty.


The plan?

Start with the easy stuff first. I will plant some new herbs and vegies in the garden beds. Then I will move on to the garden edging. That ugly rotten wooden stuff has to go. In its place will be either sandstone or something that looks very much like it.


Dead plants in vertical garden
Must remember to add water


The back garden bed will be cleared of clutter. Some of the struggling bushes will be removed to give the whole area a cleaner look and to allow a little more light onto the grass.

Speaking of grass – the hard bit! I will have to pull up all of the old remnants of the mostly-dead turf, and all of the weeds that have begun to grow in its place. I will then have to turn over the soil, level it, add a new layer of top soil and finally lay new rolls of turf. I’ll need some help for that part!


Don’t forget to water it…

Once all of that is done, it will really only be the beginning of the transformation. The real challenge will be to keep the newly created oasis looking great for years to come. That will mean that I will have to monitor it carefully in the first few weeks after it is all installed, but also that I will need to take a far greater interest in ongoing maintenance as well. While this has never been my strong point, I do now have the extra motivation of an excited little toddler who will undoubtedly adore her little slice of paradise!

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