a year in the making...

It took us one year from the initial concept to finally finish our backyard project.  You could say that we had to break up the project into phases based on financial and physical limitations.  Hey, the human body can only take so much suffering through physical labor.

The idea for the design came from an article from a Sunset Magazine article that I saw at our public library on low maintenance (i.e., low water needs) gardens.  Below is the original design that inspired us to proceed with our backyard project. 

We wanted three main areas for our backyard -- one for adults, one for the kids, and a grassy area in the middle of it all.  Once inspiration struck, we were swept by it. 

We learned early on that there was a major difference we needed to consider in the design of our backyard.  Our backyard was about double the size of the one in the article, and thus was more expensive to build.  Whew, talk about a major obstacle.  We also wanted to scale back on the area that would need constant watering and add a rock garden.

Phase I
The concrete patio

Step 1: Setting the form for the concrete patio

We ended creating a U-shaped concrete area about 5 feet at the shortest distance from the house, and 15 feet at the longest for the adult area, and 10 feet for the kiddie area.

Step 2: Laying the bedrock

We hired our old landscaper to do the concrete patio as he was the only one willing to take us on given our limited budget and the fact that we wanted the concrete area to be stamped on the diagonal.

Step 3: Rebar, baby!

Where other landscapers would have used chicken wire given our budget, our Mr. Yee (Lee) used rebar.

Step 4: Concrete slushie

Interesting how everything was so timed to the minute as they poured concrete onto the molds and stamped the formed surface.

Step 5: Stamping concrete

Everything was so methodical.  Everyone had a purpose and a role.  I could not take part in it even if I wanted to.  They made sure of this.

We had to let the stamped concrete set for 48
hours before we could explore the new patio.
Phase II 
Retaining Walls and Flower Beds

Step 6: Setting up the flower beds/retaining walls

While waiting for the concrete patio to cure, we set on creating our retaining walls and flower beds.  This phase of the project, we did ourselves.
A wise man from Home Depot once said "Measure twice, cut once."  Apparently, we did not get that memo.

We had to mark and measure several times before we got it straight.  Then, we had to dig the trenches, and that is where the real pain began.  We realized that there were exact reasons why people hire other people to do that kind of work.  Except that although we knew the reasons, our wallets said otherwise.

Step 7: Rock garden

By adding a rock garden to our design, we cut our lawn down to half of the original design.  This way, we cut our irrigation expenses, and gave the kids another area to explore.  It also have us a nice size area to start our small container veggie garden.

Step 8: Sprinkler systems and laying the sod

By this time, the Hunk and I were overtired and cranky.  We agreed that if we wanted to save our marriage, we should have the experts install the sprinkler system for the lawn.  Also because we are loathe the go out in the early morning frost to water the plants, we begged for the vendor to install a drip system in our flower beds.

They finished in less than 8 hours.  It would have taken us a year just to install the pipes.

 Step 9: Sealing the concrete

As the sod took root, the Hunk sealed the concrete patio with 300 layers of sealant.  We were going for the hi-gloss look.

A portion of  my rock garden became the new location for an old house.  Our three year old's crib.  Complete with his toys.

Phase III
The finishing touches

 Armed with plants from friends and the local nursery, we filled our flower beds with roses, persimmon and maple trees.

Bamboo plants courtesy of my dear friend Miles.

 My rose collection courtesy of the Hunky Hunk of Burning Love.  A Mother's Day gift.

Then we painted our fence with a semi-transparent (California Redwood) stain.

More work to be done. But the biggest hurdles have been conquered.  We just need to fill the space with happy and healthy plants.  And, maybe some chickens and cows for the ultimate farm adventure. 


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