Introducing Laura's Backyard Renovation

Renovation Diary

This is what the garden looks like now. Dust bowl!
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Name: Laura Watson
Type of Project: Outdoor renovation
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Type of building: Semi-detached shop front/cottage with 1200 sq. ft. backyard

The Renovation Diaries are a collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

For our next Renovation Diary, we're doing something a little different: an outdoor project! And we're going somewhere a little different too, across the ocean to Adelaide, South Australia. After having lived in her home for three years and completing lots of projects on the inside, Laura is finally ready to tackle the backyard, which has suffered a little neglect. Read on to find out more about the project, and to see her plans for the finished backyard.

When i moved in. The garden at this point was in a reasonable condition! Note the large tree, which I love. It adds such a private, peaceful feeling to the garden and attracts lots of birdlife.
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From Laura:

My remodel will be a complete garden overhaul. I purchased this beautiful, character filled 1910 shopfront/cottage almost 3 years ago and have been steadily making updates since getting my virgin home-owner hands on the keys! Some of the bigger jobs have included the ‘wall of wardrobes,’ a luxurious 4m wide by 3.3m high custom built, 2-pac finished dreamy storage space, and a massive kitchen renovation which combined the ‘petite’ kitchen (that was how the real estate agent put it, I’d say shoe-box) and laundry areas. This opened up the space to the rear yard and provided much more natural light, significantly more bench space, a now well-used eating area, and a much more functional layout. We are so happy that we did our kitchen renovation — however, the experiences we had with the tradespeople (not all of them, but definitely most of them) left us with a sour taste in our mouths. So we’ve decided to take on the garden renovation ourselves and are confident that we’ve got the skills (or the friends with the skills!) to manage this project.

This is Rika, not long after we adopter her. You can see the garden is still in reasonable condition!
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The garden itself was in a reasonable state when I purchased the property. But in the past year there have been two significant events which have contributed to its downfall. Firstly, after my boyfriend moved in, we adopted an adorable furry friend from a local animal shelter. It didn’t take long for Rika to become part of the family, and then she took to working her way through the garden.

The garden copped a beating during the kitchen remodel.
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She loves to dig, seemingly anywhere and everywhere. The grass which was struggling in some spots was soon pushed over the edge... nothing was safe from her dirty little paws! The second event which had a massive impact on the garden was the above-mentioned kitchen remodel. The work took about two months, and over that time, numerous tradies stomped, trodded, rolled and piled over and on and through that poor little garden. They heaped up their rubbish (at one point including wet cement) into a pile in the middle of the grass. By the time they left, we had a beautiful kitchen with wide windows, and the problem then became what they were looking out onto.

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I’m hopeful that my garden remodel will provide us with a flexible space that will accommodate our needs in the coming years. I’m particularly fond of outdoor spaces, and am disheartened at the current trend (at least here in Australia) for new homes to be built without any outdoor space, or with a tiny concrete courtyard (I’m not sure which is worse). For me, the garden of my property was a big selling point and in the first couple of years it was used regularly for outdoor eating, entertaining and relaxing. Unfortunately for the past year it’s been in a pretty miserable state, and I’m looking forward to re-creating a more functional outdoor space. I’m hoping that our new garden will provide a sanctuary in our home, a peaceful place to relax, take in the fresh air, sit with a cup of tea, listen to the birds, read a book, or have friends over for a Sunday barbeque.

The existing rear-lane parking. The space is good, but needs protection. This is where the enclosed garage will go, for secure parking and also significant storage for outdoor items (sports equipment, tools, garden items etc).
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This will be a complete garden overhaul. We are going to take everything out and start with a clean slate to ensure it’s done properly. We want to keep the space simple and functional: an enclosed garage for off-street parking and storage, a paved area for entertaining, a grassy area, and a small retaining wall which will hopefully protect some espaliered fruit trees from the dog! This will involve removing the concrete slab which currently occupies approximately one third of the outdoor space, removing the old bricks and the soil, demolishing the outdoor toilet (which hasn’t been used in a very long time!), preparing the area for paving and for new lawn, installing the new paving, lawn, and retaining wall, and then building the garage. Easy, right?!

The garden now.
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The proposed plan for the garden.
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Want to hear more about Laura's renovation? Join us tomorrow as Laura shares her inspiration for her new outdoor space.

(Images and Diary Text: Laura Watson. Garden sketches by Bronwyn Marshall.)

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Renovation Diary: Laura's Backyard

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