Before & After: A “Jungle of Weeds and Webs” Becomes a Beautiful Backyard with a Fire Pit and Garden

published Mar 18, 2022
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There’s nothing like a few warm weather days in February to get people dreaming of spring and enjoying outdoor space, whether that’s in a park, a restaurant’s outside seating, or a spacious backyard.

But one thing that makes time outdoors extra dreamy is a great outdoor setup, with great greenery and patio chairs to boot, and homeowners Shannon and Mark Goshen’s (@70sranchreno) newly re-landscaped backyard has it all.

Although: “I’m not sure re-landscape is the right term,” Shannon explains. “It had never been landscaped previously.”

Before, the yard “was basically a pile of mulch and lots and lots of weeds everywhere,” she says. There were no deliberate landscaping choices, the fence was stained, and the back patio — one of the reasons the Goshens were drawn to the house in the first place — was actually in rough shape, not to mention covered in spider webs.

“As a result of our jungle of weeds and webs, we truly never spent much time in our backyard,” Shannon says. She and Mark wanted to change that, so from October to December, they got to work giving the outdoor space a MAJOR upgrade.

Step one was to remove the anything overgrown or dying — or weeds — by hand. “We had several rose bushes to remove which were not fun to dig out!” Shannon remembers.

Next, they used spades to dig a trench along the perimeter of the yard to create a 5-foot flower bed. “This took a lot more time than we anticipated,” Shannon says. “We hit a layer of very rocky, cemented soil that was a serious workout to get through!”

Although it was an arduous task, the freshly added flower bed — including the brick wall they installed by hand and a new drip irrigation system — is Shannon’s favorite part of her new outdoor space. “I spent the past year planting and tending to nearly 50 plants, including perennials, annuals, evergreens, and berries such as elderberry, blackberry, and serviceberry!” she says. “We also have three raised beds that Mark had added prior to this project, for seasonal veggies. Spending every morning and evening in the garden has become my new routine.”

(Dreaming of warmer weather yet?!)

Shannon and Mark removed 3 to 5 inches of soil from across the yard and instead went with decomposed granite as ground cover, leaving a patch of soil where they will later plant grass. The soil removal and granite installation process also came with challenges, including “mysterious chunks of concrete buried in the yard” that had to be excavated out, plus the hard work of adding the granite in layers, raking it smooth, then watering and tamping it down. “It took many, many long days to complete this part of the project,” Shannon says.

After the yard was in ship-shape, Shannon and Mark made more cosmetic changes. They removed railroad tiles flanking the perimeter of the house and built gravel-filled trenches in their place, along with adding gravel to the perimeter of the patio and house. Shannon and Mark don’t have gutters, so the gravel works well to catch rain falling off the drip-edge of their 1979 ranch house.

They power-washed their dirty fence, and Shannon stained it with Sherwin-Williams exterior stain in Black Alder. “The wood stain really did wonders to freshen up the look of the weathered fence,” she says.

Her tip for future fence facelifters (especially those working with a fence as old as hers, which was original to the house): Use a stain brush to coat each panel individually as opposed to a paint sprayer. “I found this to be the most effective way to fully coat the fence, despite it being more time consuming,” Shannon says.

Lastly, to give new life to the once-shabby entertaining area, Shannon and Mark built a wood-burning fire pit with leftover bricks from the garden project as well as a grill pad, and they removed the lattice detail from the old patio and replaced it with more modern privacy walls (painted Sherwin-Williams’ Alabaster White) and then added more stylish patio furniture.

Their nine weeks of hard work (and even blisters from all the digging and landscaping!) paid off big time, and they spent $3,000 total on the upgrades.

Although it was physically demanding, Shannon says the DIY work saved them a lot of money. “My advice would be to definitely make sure you are up to the task, and research what you are comfortable taking on yourself DIY versus hiring out,” she says.

She’s most proud that they brought their dream backyard to life despite the obstacles. “Mark and I achieved our goals of turning our mess of a yard into something really special for us, and we took on each challenge this project brought together,” she says. “We spend more time in the backyard than we ever did, sitting by the fire, enjoying many meals outdoors on the patio with friends.”