Laura's Backyard Renovation: The Big Reveal

Renovation Diary

The finished space!
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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

When we started down this road, Laura's backyard didn't look like much... just a dirty, dusty space with no grass and a disused outdoor toilet (no, really). After having endured abuse from many months of renovations and from a very enthusiastic dog, the garden was in need of a little TLC. Now, after months of hard work, the garden is a much more beautiful (and useful) space. Laura and friends even built a garage — from a kit! Come take a look.

And if you haven't been following along, you can check out the whole series about Laura's project for week-to-week updates.

Before: The backyard, pretty much just a big patch of dirt.
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After: The new patio provides a space for outdoor entertaining, and a brick path (made with bricks from the old outdoor toilet) leads to the back of the garden.
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From Laura:

We finished our new backyard and although we went over time and over budget (of course!) we are thrilled with how it turned out. We have created a space that we love and which is perfect for our needs.

Before: The old parking area.
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After: The new garage (and a new car!).
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The new garage is really functional, and makes a lovely home for my new car which I purchased last week! We decided on quite a large garage (6.7m long x 3.55m wide with a 3m roof), and although we were worried the garage might turn out to be a very imposing feature in the space, it actually blends in very well with the surroundings and practically disappears into the background. The additional space inside the garage provides plenty of room for additional storage, so finally we have been able to move all the power tools, bikes and other sporting equipment out of the lounge room! We were also given a small garden shed from my uncle who no longer needed it, which we use to keep gardening items that we use regularly to provide easy access.

Before: The right side of the garden, showing the (non-functioning) outdoor toilet.
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After: The right side of the garden now, with a garage and storage shed that are a little more useful.
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To save some cash, we bought small tube stock plants from a local nursery which are all doing really well, and we are looking forward to seeing them shoot up throughout the year. The plants we bought were all carefully selected to match the environment in our yard, and there were only three plants we bought that were not native. (Three Clivia miniata, which are shade loving and drought tolerant plants, were planted underneath the large tree). There is also some Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother in law’s tongue) growing in the garden which has been there since before I purchased the property. We’ve left them untouched — they seem very hardy!

These Correa reflexa will develop into medium size flowering shrubs.
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I chose a lot of flowing plants to attract native birdlife (including Correa reflexa, a few species of Grevillea, and Kennedia prostrate), and I can tell you that although they’re still small plants, it really is working! I often have my breakfast outside, and have noticed these plants are already attracting a lot of small, nectar loving native birds.

The right side of the garden, including Rika's digging space under the tree.
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Rika getting right into her zone!
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The grass has now established itself and is really thriving! As we are heading into winter, it will have plenty of opportunity to establish deep roots, which will help ensure its drought resistance by next summer. We also created a doggy play space underneath the tree, where Rika can dig and bury her treasures, and she has already figured it out! She loves digging in the soft soil and although at first it felt strange for us to be encouraging this behavior, we encourage her when we see her digging around this spot.

The left side of the garden with the retaining wall which is temporarily a veggie patch for the winter.
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Those of you reading from the beginning will remember that we plan to espalier three miniature citrus trees along the fence line; however, it is not recommended to plant before winter as the cold can stunt their growth, so unfortunately we will have to wait until spring before we can get started with this.

Our potted lime is producing fruit and providing hope for our espalier experiment in Spring.
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Baby spinach in the veggie patch.
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However, our potted lime which we’ve had for a few years is producing fruit and is looking pretty good, so we’re confident that we can create some healthy citrus espaliers in the garden next season. For now though, we’re using this area as a small garden bed for vegetables (snow peas and spinach for winter!).

The brick path, created with recycled brick from the old lavatory.
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I have two favorite elements in this space. The first one is the recycled red brick path which curves through the yard, creating a walkway to the garage. Tommaso did such an amazing job with the curving lines and cutting all the bricks so they fit snug together like a giant puzzle! This path really adds a rustic charm to the garden, and I love that we salvaged them from the original outdoor toilet which was probably built about a hundred years ago. Now that the weather is getting wet they are starting to get a bit mossy and slippery, so we need to look into getting them treated or sealed somehow.

The rock feature underneath the large tree is a favorite.
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My second favorite feature is something that was never even planned. When I bought the house, at the rear of the yard was a massive rock which wasn’t really serving any purpose. We thought about getting rid of it a while back, but I liked the look of it and was reluctant to let it go. When we started the garden work we moved it out into the laneway and it was forgotten about for a few months. Then, the day after we had laid the lawn, we were looking at the area under the tree, which was looking pretty bare. You could see the growth line at the base of the tree where the concrete had been previously, and suddenly I remembered this big rock which was sitting in the laneway. So it was carted back inside, placed under the tree, and we filled in some soil behind it, which was a great way to raise the ground level back to where it was previously. We put a few Kennedia prostrate plants around it, which will grow as a ground cover around the rock, and I think this has created a really nice, unexpected and earthy feature in the garden.

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Congratulations, Laura! The new space looks great, and we'll have to check in next year to see how the new plantings are coming along.

Check out the full series to see the whole renovation process, step-by-step. And be sure to join us tomorrow for a full budget breakdown.

(Images and diary text: Laura Watson)

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