Chicago Bungalow DIY Projects Landscaping and Gardening

Project Landscaping: The Before

I’ve never attempted to landscape anything in my life. In the (almost) two years we’ve lived in the bungalow, we have only ever touched the yard with contempt (“This grass isn’t going to mow itself!”) and every year we make plans to “do something” and never follow through. It could be argued that “do something” is the most vague plan ever… for any project, which is probably why we haven’t bothered.

The view from my back steps.


Last summer, I bought a bunch of outdoor plants on clearance (by a bunch I mean about four) and planted them in various spots around the yard. Only one returned this year. However, my indoor plant experiment is going much better: there was an initial learning curve (and some plants died horrible deaths) but after I got the hang of waterings and schedules and preferred levels of sun exposure, things have mellowed out and everything is growing and happy.

A view of the backyard looking towards the house.


I’m hoping to apply the lessons I’ve learned indoors, outside this year. I’m already getting a late start, so this might only go as far as plants in pots and cutting the grass for the flower beds, but that’s OK. Patience and having a well laid plan are probably two of the most important factors when tackling a project like this (I keep telling myself, over and over and over…). If I prep the flower beds now that means I’ll be able to plant my bulbs this fall. If I pot some of the outdoor plants that I’m still hoping to get (mostly grasses) I can move them around to try out different placements before they go in the ground.

I’m also looking at how I can include my garage in all this. I’ve always loved vertical gardens and live walls, and I really want to incorporate that feature into our small backyard. I’ve actually had the idea for a while but became super serious about it when I was on the Belmont bus riding past the new Amazon Whole Foods in Lakeview a couple of weeks ago. It would also be a better option for growing veggies if we decide to try our hand at that.

Below are just a few sketches and a quick mock-up of the landscaped backyard in Photoshop. The idea wasn’t to plan everything out in detail but to give me a quick visualization of my ideas so I could see if they would be enough or too much in the space. I tried to incorporate some of the tips from the seminar I went to (you can read that post here) and choose three things that I want my yard to accomplish: soft privacy, grass for the dogs, but most importantly, lots of greenery.

Prairie grasses, Little Lime, and a live wall are at the top of my backyard wish list.
Painting the garage dark gray is also on the list. I think it will make a beautiful backdrop for all the greenery.

With this sketch concept I’ll map up a more comprehensive plan of which plants I want, how much space they’ll need, and where I want to plant them, so that when next spring rolls around I’ll actually be ready to fill in my garden!

4 replies on “Project Landscaping: The Before”

I love your plans! Have you seen the blog Yellow Brick Home? Their yard is a similar size to yours, I think, and they did a big landscaping project last summer. The view of your garage from your back door is what made me think of their project. I think using the vertical space is so smart!!


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