Suburban Cottage Garden

We did it!  We've managed to squeeze it all into our tiny suburban lot.
Yes, it's a little tight, and it has been called 'cosy'...but I love it.

(early spring 2011)

(summer 2017)

If you've visited here before, then you are aware that this is an ongoing process.
Working when finances will allow. So far, six summers and counting.
Challenged with a tight budget and close property lines.
Oh, how I would love to have more money and soil to work with!

(my first apple tree- cortland )

(my first pumpkin!)


Ironically, I feel like all the constraints we've had has made this garden even more special to us.

Click on picture to take you to some before photos of my garden.

(herbs, veggies, flowers and a pool)

(view from patio)

Nestling into this home nicely, with no plans to move, we were prepared for serious sweat equity. Making sacrifices to our household budget to get the projects done. It's not complete yet, there is always room for more changes, at the moment I am eyeing up our side yard.  Currently, the side yard is used as a parking lot, but I see a fruit tree and some three sisters plantings.  Not this year though, I will enjoy and dream....and work on a plan.

Here are a few points that I followed over the years. They have helped when I was feeling discouraged and sore.

1. Make a plan
Decide how much time and money you want to spend on your outdoor space.
Will this be your address for awhile? Or do you know it will be short term.
Draw up a rough copy of your yard, what stays and what goes. Add in your wish list. This is when Pinterest, you-tube, blogs and all those glossy magazines are so helpful.  Now go ahead and dream big, this is when it's easy to make big changes.

2. Prioritize
What do you want the, play area, food, privacy, relaxation?
Privacy and grass. They were number one on my list.
With three girls that loved to pass a soccer ball and having a dog, a fence went up and grass was laid.
Shortly after that I carved small corner beds for young trees to get their roots in the ground. That first year was heavy on the sweat equity.  Agghh, who am I kidding, every year is heavy on the sweat equity!

3. Break it up into bite size pieces
Even though I wanted a lot more then grass and trees that first year, I knew I didn't have the energy, money or time to take on any more. Having a prioritized plan in place reminded me that it was going to eventually happen, just not at that moment.  Sometimes the priority list changes but that is completely up to you. The water feature jumped up quickly after experiencing the tranquility in my sister's garden and that moved the front yard project down a few years.

Click on image to see our xeriscaped front garden.

4. Resources...
Work with what you have; a lovely old lilac, a messy path way of pavers, a pile of rocks, broken furniture or toys. All of which can be repaired, reinvented or relocated.
Compost! Compost! Compost!  Nothing repairs the soil like compost. It's free.
Start seeds, divide your perennials, plant exchange with friends, visit year end nursery sales.
Thrift stores and garage sales can be great resource for flower pots, garden tables or garden art.  Be creative.

5. Get busy
Try your best to get each job done before you begin another. Making sure to give yourself time to take a break and enjoy.

6. Changes
After all is said and done, the dream may change, and that's ok.  In fact it's wonderful.
My tastes have changed and my direction has swayed, making this even more personal then before.



  1. I have enjoyed your post! It made me realize how my needs/wants/dreams have changed over the years. We started years ago with a tiny house, tiny lot, tiny boys and NO money. Slowly things changed and we were able to move up. Now, the boys are gone, the house echos, and I can't keep ahead of the weeds. Life does change.

    I will take your advice. I need a more detailed plan. Hmmm.

    Happy Bloom Day!


    1. Thank you Jeannie! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  2. What a beautiful oasis. It looks like you've been creating your garden as a real labor of love. Your plants look so healthy and vigorous. It all looks peaceful and serene.
    Carol ("Mimi") from Home with Mimi

  3. Thank you Carol! It is a labour of love! Just wish that summers were longer:)

  4. A great post, Abby! I've been gardening for the past twelve years, and I can tell you, that unless you are rich and can hire all the help you want, a garden doesn't happen overnight or even in one season. Excellent advice, and you've done a fantastic job of transforming your back yard. Love the water feature.

  5. What a delicious space to enjoy. We once had a townhouse, and managed to cram a sandbox, a large patio and lots of vegetables. The gardeners, had not one inch of grass to cut. LOL...yours is beautiful. Sandi

    1. Thanks Sandi! It must have been a well loved space! Hahah, no grass is actually my long term goal!

  6. Your yard has come full circle, both front and back! Such a lovely garden, I'm sure you enjoy it tremendously. Your planning advice is very helpful. Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!
    xo Kathleen|Our Hopeful Home

  7. Well, I think you have done an amazing job! You have completely transformed it. I love how you created a private space from an area that use to be wide open to the neighbors. We have one area that use to be very private area, but now it is wide open because the neighbors cut down a large tree. We are working with it to bring back a private cozy feel. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    1. Thank you Jann! It almost hurts when you lose that privacy. Here's to speedy growth!