Backyard Reborn: Before and After photos - This Abandoned House
From vacant and abandoned to the most distinctive house on the the transformation!
Learn how we bought and renovated our dream home at the height of the recession!

Backyard Reborn: Before and After photos

Posted on 9/25/2013 by Maggie Marystone in landscaping before & after rebates makeover deck outdoor living design ideas

One of the big reasons I wanted to buy a house was to have some outdoor space of our own. Not one of the five apartments I've occupied in Chicago had a yard to speak of. Here's a quick update on how our backyard makeover has come along since we moved in.

This is what the backyard looked like when I first looked at the house and property in 2008.

Backyard before we bought the house

It got worse before it got better.  Here's the yard during construction:

backyard during construction

When construction was over, this is what we were left with.  This was after a year of trying to get grass to grow.

backyard after construction

Many projects later, the yard was starting to come together.

painting the deck

Getting better, but what we really wanted was a TREE.

A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?
-Ronald Reagan

We headed over to the neighborhood garden center and found a beautiful weeping cherry tree, but it was a zillion dollars.  It was also too big for us to take home in the car, so we would have had to pay extra to have it delivered.  No can do. Next stop: Home Depot. 

In the far corner of Home Depot's outside garden area, we found the Clearance section.  One poor tree was lying on the pavement, having been blown over in a recent storm. It, too, was a weeping cherry! There was no price tag. We talked to the guy at the check-out, and he said, "You found it in the clearance area? Sure, how about $60?"  Sold.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
-Martin Luther
We hauled that baby home in the back of the Honda Civic and put her in the ground. Well, it wasn't quite that easy. In the midst of digging the hole, Brad discovered that a big, flat, wooden board was buried beneath the earth.  No wonder grass wouldn't grow there! He chipped away at that thing for a thousand hours (note to self: next time buy a pick axe), and then we put the tree in the ground. Behold. I think it looks like a Muppet.

tree has been planted

Brad did some research about how to secure the tree. Turns out it's super easy, and Home Depot sells little kits with everything you need.

tree secured secured tree

After we planted the tree, I discovered the Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program, which offers rebates of up to 50% on trees, shrubs, native plants, compost bins, and rain barrels. That brings the cost of the tree down to $30!  If you're in Chicago, apply for the rebate here. Many states and municipalities have similar programs, so do a little research to see if there's a similar program where you live.

There's still a lot we can do to improve the back yard, but it's coming along.

backyard 2013


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Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times - Years ago, I met Studs Terkel, and he interviewed me for his book about hope.  He called me Maggie Morningstone, and he gave me apple juice.