Our side yard wasn’t very functional and right about now, invasive ivy would be taking over. We had to rip it out four(!) times last year. This year, with everything going on… we decided to get back to our roots and plant a little garden. Emmett and I both grew up on farms with giant gardens and we even had a huge one at our first home, but given we live in the city / suburbs now, we really don’t have room for anything too large. We opted to use our side yard for some potted plants, a raised bed, and a little herb garden. We leveled it out, transplanted the existing periwinkle, ripped out the ivy, and lined it with gravel to make room for our new vegetable garden. Click through to see how things shaped up, get the DIY resources, check out what we’re growing, read about future plans, see how we hid our HVAC units, and for some before & after images.
If you missed my tiered herb garden DIY, pictured below, you can find that tutorial here!
First up… a before image. This is what the side yard looked like at the end of winter / beginning of spring:
It honestly doesn’t look too bad in that photo, but come summer- the ivy takes over, wrapping its way around the HVAC units, and crawling up our house. It sounds charming, but it was out of control. After transplanting the periwinkle, adding gravel, and installing our little garden… this is what it looks like today:
Better and functional, right? We never utilized this part of our yard until now. Although it isn’t exactly my “finished vision”, I’m really happy with the way things came together. Next year, my plan is to add a trellis to further hide the duct work, purchase matching planters, and source some decorative plant cages… maybe willow trellis or wrought iron? Right now it’s clean and functional (which was my goal), so next year will be more about beautifying the space and making it feel aesthetically pleasing. We did this quickly because I wanted to hurry and get things planted for the season and stick to a tight a budget.
We had to do some major dirt work with a tractor we borrowed, but I’m going to skip that part and just share the raised bed / garden tutorial since that seems more applicable for most people. This is what we used…
SUPPLIES + TOOLS
- raised planter bed (we painted the exterior white)
- raised bed soil (we used 8-9 bags)
- plant labels (I used my label maker for these)
- an eclectic mix of pots we already had on hand
- landscaping felt weed barrier
- staple gun
- panel screens (to disguise our HVAC units)
Step 1 // Assemble the raised bed and level it. Assembly didn’t take long at all, and we also decided to paint the exterior of our raised bed, so it better matched our fence and exterior.
Step 2 // Staple weed barrier to the interior of the bed. To prevent the soil from washing out when you water your garden, you’ll want to staple landscaping fabric to the inside of the bed.
Step 3 // Add your raised bed soil. We just used basic raised bed soil, making sure to break it up while pouring it in. You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any big clumps.
Step 4 // Measure and plan your garden. Depending on what you want to grow, you’ll need to plan for the appropriate negative space. Once you’ve determined your plants and their spacing & location, you’re ready to start planting!
Step 5 // Start planting. Follow the instructions on your seed packets or starter plants. Certain plants like to be dug deeper into the soil, while others do great being planted container deep.
Step 6 // Label everything. This step obviously isn’t necessary, but I like to be organized and labeling everything makes me happy. I obviously know what is planted in my garden, but the labels are helpful if you’re just getting started or are sending someone outside to fetch something for you.
Be sure to water your plants regularly and make sure they get adequate sunlight. Lots of people begin a garden and forget how much work or care goes into maintaining it. My biggest piece of advice is to stick with it and create a routine, in an effort to avoid neglecting it.
We planted all sorts of things this year… strawberries, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, zucchini, all sorts of tomatoes, onions, melon, and of course plenty of herbs in our little herb garden! I’ve been loving watching things grow this season.
Lots of people wondered how we would hide our HVAC units (the big eyesores). We landed on these readymade panels because they matched our existing fence, fit the budget, and were quick & easy to install.
They’re honestly more sturdy then I expected them to be, and I think once the garden begins to grow larger, it will also help to further disguise the air conditioners.
I’ve shared this tip in the past, but thought it would be relevant and helpful if you have gravel integrated into your landscaping… see all the debris in the above image? This is the time of year the trees are dropping pollen and seeds like crazy. I use a leaf blower to “clean” the gravel, as well as a water hose. I really only have to do that this time of year, so it’s very low maintenance.
There you have it… our little urban garden! Do any of you have a garden? Are you interested in starting one? I have such wonderful memories working in the garden. It has definitely been fun starting our first garden since moving to Utah. Let me know if you have any questions! Have a great week, friends.
PeggiMay 18, 2020 at 5:45 am
What a change! For a budget-friendly solution, those panels do a great job of hiding the hvac. Ugh to ivy and it’s equally invasive friends! Around here we have a popular vining, berry-producing plant that is very persistent! I think the combo of the raised bed and collected planters is charming! I’ll be interested to see your trellis/tuteur selections next year; I do love their look! In the past, we’ve had large, varied vegetable gardens, but now we plant just a few tomatoes. My favorite part was always researching varieties and planning a pretty mix of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Harvesting food you actually grew was pretty heady, too.🤣 When you guys had a large plot, what did you do with all the produce? Are you a canner? We found that even two vegetable fiends like ourselves couldn’t keep up with my “enthusiastic” planting. Thank goodness for our friends’ goats! Here’s to a productive week! (My school year ends on Friday!)💖🌿🍅
LaurenMay 18, 2020 at 8:45 am
Yay Peggi!! One more week!! That’s exciting!
DannaMay 18, 2020 at 10:01 am
Peggi, you are almost done for the school year! Thank you for all you do for the kids.
SarahMay 18, 2020 at 10:15 am
Yes!! Thank you!!
SarahMay 18, 2020 at 10:24 am
I think so too! A berry producing vine?! That sounds even worse than regular invasive ivy. Yikes! Our old garden was around 40 feet by 50 feet, so this feels so small to us. When we were harvesting produce from that garden, we would eat fresh veggies all spring & summer, share with neighbors, then I’d can the other 80%. We had a big pantry in our unfinished basement with hundreds of jars of food. One summer Emmett ate 32 pints of salsa and we still had plenty leftover. It was a lot of work, but really fun. These days we don’t have time or space for that. Last year we just had two tomato plants on the patio and Emmett asked me to can nine or ten jars of salsa for him (HAH!). Obviously we didn’t have enough tomatoes. Anyway… hope you have a great last week of school!! :)
LaurenMay 18, 2020 at 8:56 am
I loved your side yard project at the old house, and this one was just as inspiring! I particularly love that you prefer to hide your HVAC units. I would love to find something like those panels that’s made out of wood. That would match the aesthetic of my house more. We have two units and the worst part about them is they’re green. A super ugly, muted, almost pastel version of army green. I’ve been wanting to disguise them for awhile now. I love the way it all turned out and when your garden takes off it’s going to look even better! We don’t have a garden (yet), but the plan is to remove everything from the container beds on our side yard and plant a decent sized garden. I too have invasive ivy of all varieties; some from my yard and some from a neighbor’s yard…it’s a bear, but my greatest challenge in the containers is ferns…they do NOT give up easily! I’ve torn them out every year for the past three and they’re still coming back! Next year we plan to tackle that project; lots of prep work in the form of brickwork repair, but it’ll be a nice spring-long project! I adore all of your decorative plant cages; I never knew cages like that existed! And question: did you and Emmett install the concrete border or was it already there? Beautifully done Sarah! I love it!
SarahMay 18, 2020 at 10:18 am
Thanks so much, Lauren! I bet they make pre-made panels from wood too. I’d search around! This year it’s more functional, but next year my goal is to make it beautiful. Baby steps! Invasive ivy is the worst. It killed a couple of my favorite plants last year and even grew up INTO the pipes you see in the photos. Such a headache! Ferns?! That makes me miss living in Kentucky. Here in Utah, we have zero humidity so ferns don’t grow. I can’t even keep them as houseplants. I miss seeing ferns hanging from everyone’s front porch like they do in the south. It sounds like the wild ones in your yard have been a battle. Great question about the concrete border… that was existing (it was just covered in dirt and overgrown plants). Have a great day! :)
DannaMay 18, 2020 at 10:09 am
Good use of space! The panels for the a/c units are perfect. I hope you have success with all your plants. It is so rewarding to plant and grow food to eat. We are planning to move where we will have more room possibly 1-5 acres. I would love to have gardens and a chicken coop.
Have you done canning? My grandmother did every year. I just had a conversation last night about this with my mom who wants me to for us and her.
Have a good Monday!
SarahMay 18, 2020 at 10:15 am
Thanks Danna! It really is so rewarding to plant and grow your own food. My parents and grandparents always plant by the farmer’s almanac, so I try to do the same (just in a different climate zone). Emmett and I would love to end up with acreage someday, too! We want horses, animals, a giant garden, and room to roam… like we both had growing up. That’s more of a longterm goal for us someday. I do can our produce! I feel like you can’t have a BIG garden and not can… otherwise it goes to waste. I make all sorts of tomato things: salsa, pasta sauce, chili base, tomato juice, etc… pickles, onions, all sorts of delicious canned food that lasts for years. It’s really fun! My grandma taught me when I was a kid and it was a chore I always had to help with until I moved out. Hope you have a good week :) xo
TraciMay 18, 2020 at 10:13 am
Great job as always! Did you purchase two sets to hide your hvac? It’s like you have read my mind. Last week I tried to find instructions for your old one but it looks like Emmett made that one from scratch-more work than hubby and I are able to do, so this post is right on time. Thanks
Laura HarkinMay 19, 2020 at 6:10 am
Looks great! Question: do you have to remove the whole panel to access the a/c units? Or do they open somehow? Also, on the right side are they connected to your fence?
SarahMay 19, 2020 at 7:53 am
The backside is open…. so there is about 3 feet where you can walk behind into the HVAC section. It connects to the fence, but not to the brick… if that makes sense.
DarcieMay 19, 2020 at 11:16 am
I love this! Inspiring as always. I actually love the varied pots… makes it interesting. I have a space under my deck that would make a great patio spot, but I keep putting off the project because digging out the ground, grading, and setting pavers seems like quite a bit of work (it’s a sloped area for water drainage). Did you consider pavers for this, or was it always going to be gravel? Do you have any thoughts on gravel vs. pavers? This definitely seems like a quick project and maybe more cost effective too. I really appreciate you showing quick, inexpensive fixes along with more in-depth projects. :) It helps a recovering perfectionist feel okay just pulling the trigger!
SarahMay 19, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Thanks so much, Darcie! I love hearing that. This was always going to be gravel… although I love both gravel and pavers- it totally depends on the space and the aesthetic you’re going for. I actually have a paver patio tutorial here: https://roomfortuesday.com/install-custom-paver-patio/