Budget Ideas For Rental's Big Back Yard ?

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Q: I just signed a lease on a garden level apartment in Brooklyn. One of the draws was the big back yard, but it needs some work. I talked to the landlord and she is willing to let me do some gardening, but I have no idea where to start and I'm on a tight budget.

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I'm not a fan of the fake grass cover, so I'd like to find a way to cover it up or possibly replace it. The space is pretty big and I need some ideas on how to utilize it best. Help?

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Regina is an architect who lives with her husband and children in Lawrence, KS. As a LEED Accredited Professional and longtime contributor to Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, her focus is on healthy, sustainable living through design.