Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What to do with the side yard? by Donna Duffy

Have you noticed how narrow side yards have become in newer neighborhoods? They are usually covered in rock and serve only as a pathway from the front yard to the backyard. In older neighborhoods, like mine, side yards are typically wider and offer more options for development.

But what to do with the side yard? It has the house on one side, and often a fence on the other side. It’s usually a shady area, and can be full of tree and shrub roots. It’s a high traffic area, resulting in compressed soil. It’s one of the more challenging parts of the yard for many of us.

When we moved into our house, the side yard had a shed, a locust tree and some spotty grass. I left it that way for a summer or two, then decided it was a waste of water to try and nurture the grass. So I killed the grass and put wood bark mulch in its place. Well, that took care of the water waste, but it was pretty boring. So one summer, I decided to take on the side yard as my main project. I added a meandering flagstone footpath, several large planters, a volunteer sumac, and a hammock under the tree. I planted perennials in the planters, not sure if they would last beyond the first year. At the entrance, I put an greenish metal arbor and gate.

It’s now an interesting, maintenance-free walkway. The perennials have survived in the planters with minimal winter water. The tree drops its leaves on the mulch, and I don’t have to rake them up. It’s a great place to hide out and take a nap in the shade. In the backyard, I continued the flagstone pathway in the lawn all the way to the pergola. For not much money or effort, I solved my side yard dilemma.