From Weeds to Wonderful: A Three-Week Garden Makeover With a Horizontal Fence


The first party guests arrive in the newly finished backyard

Editor’s note: This is the latest in our long-running Bed Stuy Reno, a renovation diary written by a Brownstoner reader about a budget renovation of an Italianate brownstone in Bed Stuy financed with a construction loan.

When I finished most of the house renovations last year, there was no budget left for the backyard. Which in hindsight was a good thing, because I needed to recover from all the ills of going through a gut renovation.

Fast forward nine months later and I had enough saved to start my budget garden renovation. My old contractor offered me a great price to complete the work and as much as I like to save money, I really did not want to work with him on this project. I knew that I needed an expert and I wouldn’t have time to watch the project like a hawk.


The backyard “before” had weeds, debris left over from the renovation, and no fence

Back in March, I began looking for a landscaper. I knew exactly what I wanted for the garden and didn’t want to waste my budget on a design build firm. I got several recommendations from friends, posted the job on Sweeten and Angie’s List, and got a few names from Brownstoner and Houzz.

Here’s what I learned: Landscapers are as flakey as contractors. Several did not show up, and even one very well known firm viewed the space, said they would be in touch with an estimate, and then disappeared without a trace.

And then there was the company I fell in love with. On the first visit, they talked about building a vegetable patch and they had wonderful ideas on which materials to use.

They even followed with a very long email on the benefits of material choices. Unfortunately, their estimate came to almost twice my budget — which I told them about prior and during their visit.

I ended up going with a general contractor who was more reasonable. I told him my vision for the garden and he said “two weeks.” And we worked together on things that could wait and reduce the costs, such as the deck flooring.

We ended up finishing in three weeks because of a couple rain out days. His guys arrived every morning at 8 a.m., a rarity — as you’ll know if you’ve ever been through a renovation.


We found a lot of bluestone in the backyard

As for budget, the materials I used were relatively inexpensive and I saved a ton of money by reusing bluestone we found in the yard. The majority of the budget went to the cedar fence, and yard demo.

The concrete pavers and gravel ran a few hundred dollars. And the grass was also inexpensive but I’m sure I’ll be paying for that in water usage until I get a rain collector.

Not long after the garden was finished, I threw a barbecue party to celebrate.


More photos of the renovation below:

Workers clearing out the yard before putting up the fence.

The new fence going in.

The fence is almost done, the bluestone has been placed, and the concrete pavers are going in.

The view from the backyard of the back of the house and the deck overlooking the yard.

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The finished yard.

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