So we bought this house, with its 0.25 acre lot, most of which is house. The backyard (not including the deck) is about 675 s.f., fully fenced. And, last spring, as the snow melted and the sun came up, we learned that the backyard was 675 s.f. of weeds. I tried pulling them, and Round-Upping them, and I certainly didn't water them, but it was no use. So I cut my losses and put down black weed-block fabric over most of the backyard, leaving a strip along the trellised wall for morning glories and some tomato plants (which would turn out to be truly prolific with very little maintenance - yay!).
This was after I'd weeded the path for an hour
The weed-block fabric stayed on all summer, fall, winter and into this spring. During that time, H and I came up with a plan for the backyard: some garden beds for homegrown veggies and herbs, and crushed rock for the rest of it. One April Sunday, when the skiing wasn't so great that we stayed up there all day, I dug out five gardens, ranging from 4x10 to 2x4. The beds were surrounded by cobbles that had been in the backyard already, giving them a rustic look, and I pinned down professional grade landscape fabric everywhere else.
On May 7th, H and I headed to West Jordan for crushed rock. We had no idea how much we'd need (other than roughly figuring how many s.f. we needed to cover) nor did we know how much this was going to cost us. How much is rock? A couple hundred dollars a truckload? The guys at Arrow Rock & Stone were great. There were at least eight different varieties of decorative rock for us to choose from, including one on clearance for $40/ton. Guess what we picked? They loaded us up with 1,840 pounds of clearance Fiesta stone and we took it home, then hauled it by hand, in 5-gallon buckets into the backyard. (There's a shed on the side of the garage and the gap between it and the fence is just enough to walk through, but not nearly wide enough for a wheelbarrow.)
Trucks is useful
After we'd unloaded it all, it was clear that we needed more for decent coverage, so back again to AR&S for another 2,180 pounds. H was awesome: a full bucket was too heavy for me to carry, so he did all of the shoveling and most of the carrying (I could lift a three-quarters full bucket), more often than not shuttling the buckets back and forth while I tipped them over and spread the rock around. His lower back was a little sore the next day, but after 2+ tons, it's understandable.
Two tons of Fiesa stone later ...
The project took us 4 hours, including the two trips for materials, plus my +6 hours earlier this spring, and cost us $126 ($40 for weedblock and $86 for the rock). I've got tomato plants and packets of seeds just waiting for the threat of frost to pass us by - next weekend should be good for planting - and we're thinking a firepit might look good down there in the gravel. Sure, it's not your typical backyard, but we live in the desert and now, in the backyard at least*, it looks like it.
* The lawn on the north side of the house is another post altogether. Frickin' yardwork.