Backyard Clean-up + Landscaping Tips

Last weekend we started a project that kind of snowballed quickly. It's something that's on our to-do list but something that's going to require a good deal of time, possibly moolah, and good weather so it's on the bottom end of that list.

Landscaping.  There's a lot of it to be done.  Last weekend though, we worked on the longest plant bed of all that runs along the back of the house.  We started taking out plants touching the house and  cutting back some of the plants along the patio area that just keep growing up and then didn't quit until we had the whole bed cleaned out.  Here's what that bed looked like when we moved in last spring:

And here's what it looks like now, after a few hours of muscle and bent knees (seriously, my hamstrings hurt for three days):

I know, in pictures it might actually look worse with the dormant grass and not as much green but the before picture was taken in June 2019 so by June of this year, we should have more harmonious, less chaotic green to show.  (And hopefully some fresh, creamy white trim too!)  

Our termite guy lit a fire under our rears to start this because he told us last week that termites like to build their homes in cool places and for us, it is (or it was) where the plants were all overgrown and touching the brick.  The plants shade the brick and keep it cool and termites love it.  Yipe.

Crisis averted.

The front of the house is vying for landscape attention too but we love starting at the sides and back first because we feel that, if we make the front look good, there's not as much motivation to finish the sides that aren't seen quite as much.  We have the same philosophy with painting the exterior of our house - we start on the side least seen and work our way to the front.  It's the most exciting thing to see the front with fresh everything and so we keep the motivation and anticipation strong until we get there.

Back to the back though, we spent a good deal of time out here last summer so we didn't totally leave it looking like it was when we moved in - all overgrown and cray.  We did a few things here and there while the kids played outside.  For example, we could barely see the kids playing over this short wall that closes off our patio: 

So we just lobbed everything off one day...and a few days since because it all just keeps growing!!!

Here's the view (or should I say no view) from the other side before:

And now:

Right now we've got irises popping out of the ground wherever they darn well please so it still looks a little haphazard but the kids have been dying to plant some wildflowers a friend gave us last year and I think that the front of this wall might be the place we clear mid-spring to let them.  (PS, we're on the fence about keeping the wall.  On one hand, it's nice that it encloses the patio and but it might also be nice to have the patio open out into the backyard.  Thoughts?)  The big thing down here in South Alabama is to use pine straw as mulch instead of bark bits.  It has a medium, warm brown color that makes everything look real nice.  We haven't gotten that far yet but we will...  

Another thing we did last summer is majorly trim down the azaleas around our house.  They were monstrously big:

We were a little nervous to cut them since we were a little late in the pruning season to be doing so but they're growing back just fine:

Again, with some green grass and pine straw up in there, it'll look a lot more fresh come summer.

The backyard where the kids play hasn't changed much besides being added to (the kids got this trampoline* for Christmas from grandparents and it has been the best thing ever) but we did trim up those two camellias in the distance, making them look more like trees than the huge bush they were before:


We've got a work order in with the electric company here to come take out that random street light (????) and this summer that stump (and a couple of others) are going to get taken out so we'll have one, big, level playing field.  Oh, and we nabbed this pool* on clearance last summer's end and are so. excited. about. it.  It'll get it's own special place in the sun.  (PS, we bought this pool* on Amazon two summers ago and it was perfect for our little kids and toddler.  We loved that it wasn't too deep for them and we could sit in it too.  We used it for two summers and it was 100% worth the money.)  Who needs to leave their house to go on vacation?  Not us!  *wink wink*

You can tell that someone who lived here at one point in time really cared a lot about what was planted out here and the landscaping because we've found lots of ceramic pots and animals in the overgrowth that seemed to have been strategically placed.  We also found lots of plants tags showing what pretty things they had planted.  Each bed around the house is edged with brick too and, even though a lot of the brick has moved a smidge making some less-than-straight-edges, we're excited to get things back to what they once were.  Just check back in, oh, five years or so.  Ha!  ;)

All of that isn't as exciting though unless I share with you some of our favorite landscaping tips - budget-friendly per the usual.  ;)

-->  When you're needing plants, check out Lowe's.  Every one of our locations has a clearance section (usually) in the back that has plants on their last leg but still alive.  With a little bit of TLC, I've always been able to salvage plants I've found there.  I was told at Home Depot, that they don't sell their plants once they start fading.  They just send them back to the nursery.  I'm not sure if that's still the case since that was a couple of years ago but it's worth checking your local store.  Some local plant nurseries also give discounts on dying plants.

This isn't the greatest picture, but all of the plants in this bed at our old house were found in the clearance section at Lowe's:
The hibiscus were under $5 each and thank goodness, because I didn't cover them during a frost the following winter and it killed them.  :(  But they looked fantastic while they lived AND cost us less than a lunch out!

-->  If you've got time and patience, planting seeds is always the cheapest way to get plants growing in your landscaping.  If you go this route though, you just have to do a little research on what plants grow well in your climate.  (Here's a zone map!)  Lowe's and Home Depot sell every kind of seed here (or so it seems) but not every kind of plant grows well here so it'd be pointless to plant something that isn't going to take root and thrive.  Local nurseries are always the best place to get plant advice though because they typically only sell plants that thrive in your specific zone.  But, in my experience, they're always a little more expensive too so if you need to save a few bucks, just do your research. 

-->  Fake flowers.  Yep, that's right.  Plant fake flowers.  I know it sounds totally nuts but tried it one summer at our old house and you wouldn't believe how many people thought they were real.  

I got those reddish-orange faux daisies at Dollar Tree and, even after I took them out a year and a half later, they still looked great.  No watering, no fertilizing, no nothing.  I think the key with this though is finding faux flowers with lots of leaves to balance out the color.  More green leaves makes them more believable.
-->  Need ideas on how to landscape?  Drive though the best neighborhoods in your city and see what other people do - how large their landscaping beds are, how many plants they have, which plants they have, etc...  Also, there's an awesome thing we have in the 21st century called Pinterest.  It's flooded with landscaping ideas.  If you're savvy with Photoshop, it's also very helpful to make a mock-up. 

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting to add to this list but if you've got some up your sleeve, fill the comment section and I'll update the post with your suggestions!

Happy *almost* weekend!

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*These links are affiliate links which means that, if you click over and/or make a purchase through the link, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  All of these links will lead you to things we (or the grandparents) actually paid for or that are similar to the item we paid for in case ours is thrifted/sold out/secondhand.  This extra money helps us with the costs of running the blog.  Thank you for your support and for fueling our love to share all things DIY!


  1. Your home is turning out so LOVELY! I totally get why you would want to remove the wall but I was wondering though if a wide top on it for eating at might make it more practical? You could remove a section where it connects to the home so it becomes more of a patio island :) Stools all the way across the back of it to sit at and look out into the yard while eating etc might be kind of neat.

    I'm in northern MN so am totally loving your greenery and flower beds right now, I can't wait to see dirt again this spring! Happy Valentine's day!

    - Tarah from Grandma's House DIY

    1. What a fun idea Tarah!!! It might be a little too low for adult seating but maybe we could build on it to raise it? Huh...I'll pass that one along to Anthony! Thank you!

      I'm originally from Nebraska but I've forgotten what those long winters feel like! I miss winter but it is nice being able to start working outside so early. ;)

  2. Home Depot does have a clearance section of plants around here! It's not necessarily huge but every so often there are some gems. Our local nursery does, too, which is awesome. Our landscaping needs some real work this year, however, everything is covered with snow and the wind chill was -15 yesterday so I'm still very much in the planning stage. ;)

    1. Really? I'll have to go back and check ours. Maybe they've changed around here. Fingers crossed. :)

      What a wind chill!! Holy moly. You just keep on planning inside where it's warm. Yipe.

  3. Those fake flowers look great! I just saw some hanging baskets of flowers at Michael's last night; I have killed every hanging basket of plants I have ever bought, but I can't kill those! Totally going to buy them the next time I get a coupon.

    1. Do it! I don't know about where you are, but hanging flowers here aren't cheap so I bet you'd come out better on the other end! You might spend a little more but they'd last forever!