Garden Makeover

Tackling the backyard is one of the most daunting home-improvement tasks you can take on, but we’ve worked out a way to help you achieve the garden of your dreams. Over four parts, Brendan will transform a backyard junkyard into a beautiful outdoor area. He’ll tell you what materials to use, how many people you need, when to call in the professionals and how much it will cost to create your dream backyard.

Of course at any stage you can hire a landscape architect to do all the work for you, but if you’re keen to do it yourself, we have plenty of suggestions to help you get what you want out of your garden.

Our four-part backyard makeover consists of:
Part One: Planning and Clearing
Part Two: Marking Out the Garden
Part Three: Paving and Decking
Part Four: Styling and Finishing Touches

Part One: Planning and Clearing
The first part of the makeover is designing your dream garden and putting those plans to paper, and then clearing the space in preparation for all the hard work.

Before you pick up any tools, the first thing you need to do in your garden makeover is look critically at your garden and assess its good and bad points. The Timms family garden already has a good foundation and layout, and the big doors opening from the house into the garden give a strong connection between the two. However, there are huge amounts of junk in the garden that have accumulated over the years, making it seem cluttered and messy. In other gardens the good points might be a beautiful view, and the bad points could be an ugly area that needs to be screened.

Once you have objectively ‘analysed’ your space, put your plan down on paper:

  1. Measure your garden – the more accurate it is the better informed your design will be

  2. Draw to a measurable scale eg: 1 to 50 or 1 to 20

  3. Plot everything that is existing includes walls, fences, buildings, trees and paths

  4. Once you have your base plan, get your hands on some tracing paper eg butter paper which will allow you to scribble down all your hopes and dreams! In this way you can work on what you have already and you’ll be able to see where you want to go. This also helps you see both the good and the bad points of your garden

  5. Ask yourself what function requirements you want to satisfy eg entertaining area, kids area, veggie garden, exercise space….what do YOU want from your garden? This helps you to solidify what you want from your space. Use borders to create ‘rooms’ in your garden, which will enable you to make the most of your garden

  6. Never lose sight of the bigger picture – it’s very easy at this point to get bogged down by details. What is important now is to have your ideas clearly marked out. With a good layout you can then fill in the spaces. It’s like building a house, from the ground up and the outside in.
By drawing the space out on paper, we can immediately see the new scale of the place and start to visualise the changes we’re going to make. Each ‘section’ takes on its own feel and function, much like a house with rooms. For example, with the Timms backyard, the new paved area is to draw people out into this section of the garden – this can be achieved by the campfire element.

Next step in the garden makeover is to clear the back yard of all the junk and clutter so you can really see what you’ve got to work with. Call in family and friends to pitch in. Get rid of everything that isn’t part of the new design. But before you throw out all your junk take a second look – you might find a couple of special pieces that will really add some character to the finished look of your new garden.

Part Two: Marking Out The Garden
In the second part of our garden makeover, Brendan and the team start marking out the garden borders.

Creating Your Garden Borders

  1. Once you’re happy with your paper plan, it’s time to draw out the space eg garden beds, hedges, paved areas, walls etc. It’s a good idea is to use a bag of lime – it’s white and will dissolve into the ground without damaging the environment. Alternatively you can use marking paint in an aerosol can.

    Mark out where you’ll be placing the hedges with your lime. Leave the planting till the end – you don’t want to damage all that beautiful greenery.

  2. The next step is to start marking out all the “rooms” of your garden. Mark out the concrete areas with chalk. We’re going to erect timber screens to act as borders and give the space an edge. This can also serve the purpose of hiding some of the less attractive items that family members are reluctant to part with. We are using a wire mesh, which lets in the light but also allows plants such as climbers take their place in the garden. The posts will be recycled timber – cost effective and adds character.

    It’s a nice idea to make use of what is existing in your space already. With the Timms family garden we have a timber stack that supplies the family’s fire and will also add a border and another texture to the garden.

  3. While you are outlining your boundaries it’s at this stage that you want to get the electrician in. You’ll need a professional to let you know where the cables/wires are going to go so that these can be considered while you are doing things like the decking and paving. The electrician will also need to make a return trip at the end of the renovation to install the lights.

  4. Next on the schedule is to mark out where the pavers are going. Once all that is done, you’re ready to get your hands dirty!
Part Three: Paving and Decking
In this our third part of our garden makeover, Brendan and the team get busy with paving and decking.

If you’re using professionals for your garden makeover, this is the time to call them in. If you’re going DIY, this is where the hard work starts. We’re using a mixture of the two.

In our backyard makeover Brendan is tackling the concrete paving himself.

  • After laying a timber frame marking out the square grids, concrete is poured into each square. The larger the grid the bigger the area looks. For varying texture Brendan is adding blue metal to some squares and then green and blue oxide to others. The result is a colourful chequerboard effect.

  • Paving can be done in any number of materials, such as clay or concrete paving bricks, stone, concrete itself and bitumen or asphalt.

  • A fun tip: a humble ice-cream container makes a perfect mould for concrete pavers. Simply place a mark at the desired height on the inside of the container so each of the pavers is the same thickness. Try a full strength concrete mix (3 parts blue metal, 2 sand and 1 cement). You can pave an entire yard this way to achieve a lovely cobblestone effect.
Decks have become a popular addition to many houses around Australia, enabling us to make the most of the great climate. In our makeover we used professionals to lay second-hand tallowwood over existing concrete.

  • Decks are generally made completely of timber, occasionally timber framed, sheeted and tiled, or they may be patios covered in concrete or pavers. They can be built using a range of durable timbers such as brushbox, turpentine, tallowwood, jarrah, merbau and pressure-treated Radiata pine.

  • Timber decks are prone to rot. Often, water is trapped because the boards are too closely spaced and swell when wet, actually holding the water. The moisture is then trapped in the joints, causing rot. Decks built on the southern side of houses tend to get little sun, and do not dry out easily after rain.

  • When laying the decking it is important that 4 - 6mm spaces be left between the timbers to ensure good water run-off. Fixing should be with galvanised steel nails and hardware to stop corrosion or staining of timbers.

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Posted by Report
I have a very sloping block with a lot of natural sandstone levels. My husband and I have two young boys (1 & 2 year old's) and we would like to make our backyard safe for them to play in. We have put a swing set up but getting down to it is rather dangerous.

We have put some veggie and herb gardens out front of our house but would love to continue down the back of our yard, I would also love to have a chicken coupe.

We have also started a business so are rather time poor. We would love to get someone's professional opinion as to what we can do with our property.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by ReneeReport
I would love some help in the backyard. We have garden beds and edging done, no plants and rocks at the moment. Would love a garden makeover for the kids and I to play and relax with family and friends.