24 DIY Ideas For Covering Dirt In Your Yard

Do you have a dirt yard or an area of dirt in your yard you are wondering what to do with? 

Sick of backyard dust?

Thankfully, there are many ways to turn dirt in your yard into a beautiful landscape, and we have compiled a comprehensive list of DIY landscaping ideas for you to choose from.

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Lay Sod Or Seed With Grass

One of the simplest things to turn your dirt yard into a green lawn is by laying sod or seeding with grass.

Laying sod is the fastest method for producing a lush, green lawn but if sod is over your budget, planting grass seed is a less expensive option which will save you those extra dollars.

Seeding a lawn can require 2-6 months of planning, especially if you want to use homemade compost. 

For warm-season grasses, plan to seed in the spring, and for cool-season grasses, plan to seed in the fall.

Prepare the ground with starter fertilizer or spread your compost over the entire yard and till into the soil. 

Scatter the grass seed by hand, or use a seed spreader. 

Water 2-3 times daily for 5-10 minutes a day, just enough to keep the seeds moist until they germinate (7-21 days).

Water the newly germinated grass once a day and allow it to grow to 3-4″ inches before mowing for the first time. 

Sit back and admire your beautiful new lawn!

Plant Native Or Ornamental Grasses

Don’t want to mow? 

Plant native or ornamental grasses – they are low maintenance and grow well in good or poor soil. 

Cut them back at Halloween, then way down around Valentine’s day, and watch them roar back early during the spring.

By cutting them to the ground in mid-February, you will save yourself a lot of cleanup work because you won’t be pulling out dead grass from among your new fresh new grass in the spring.

Lay Mulch Or Wood Chips

Mulches are organic or inorganic materials that you spread over your garden soil and are an inexpensive and appealing option for covering dirt in your front or backyard. 

To prevent the growth of weeds, put down weed control sheets, landscape fabric, or black plastic sheeting between the soil and the mulch layer. 

These will save you an enormous amount of time weeding and maintaining your landscaped areas.

Cut X’s in the fabric at the locations where you will be adding plants, so they can grow through from the soil.

Organic Mulch

Organic mulches come in a variety of organic materials, including: 

  • Shredded leaves
  • Chipped or shredded bark
  • Grass clippings 
  • Pine needles 
  • Hay or straw 
  • Shredded paper

Because it is organic, it won’t last forever; it will decompose over time, but in the process, it will improve the quality of your soil by adding structure and nutrients. 

In general, the drier and woodier the mulch, the more slowly it decomposes and the longer it lasts.

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is an inorganic mulch made from ground-up recycled tires. 

Because it doesn’t decompose, it won’t add any nutrients to the soil, but it allows water and fertilizers to pass through.

It doesn’t need to be replaced or topped up over time and also comes in different colors, which, when mixed, can give it a more interesting look.

Rubber mulch is often used in children’s playgrounds because it provides better protection against falls than organic or stone mulches.

Wood Chips

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Technically also an organic mulch, wood chips are an attractive material to use in your yard. 

Many sources consider them superior to other organic mulches, and they have the added advantage of usually being free.

This is because wood chips are a byproduct of tree pruning and removal, and most arborists or tree removal companies are happy to deliver them to your house for free rather than take them to a landfill. 

Stone Mulch

Stone mulches are crushed rocks or gravel that come in various colors, textures, sizes, and shapes.

They include:

  • Pea gravel 
  • River rock 
  • Granite 
  • Quartz 
  • Marble 
  • Lava rock 

Whereas organic mulches and woodchips are most commonly used in flowers or gardens, stone mulches are popular for walkways and driveways.

Similar to rubber mulch, stone mulch doesn’t provide any soil-building benefits because it doesn’t decompose. 

However, because stone mulches don’t retain moisture, they also reduce the chance of fungal growth.

The wide range of available stone mulches gives you a wide choice for look and style but will add aesthetic value to your garden.

In general, stone mulch is more expensive than organic mulch and is more difficult to install due to its heavier weight. 

However, it won’t need to be replaced every few years and will give you a beautiful path or drive.

Pour A Concrete Slab

Having a concrete slab poured by a professional will be quite costly, but two cheaper DIY options involve pouring your own. 

As long as you aren’t overambitious as to the size, there is no reason why you won’t successfully pour a concrete slab to cover the dirt in your yard to use as a stone patio.

Purchase Mixed Concrete

If you don’t want to mix your concrete, pay a company to drop off the mixed concrete you need to pour your slab. 

Before dropping off, prepare the area for pouring.

If your slab is above ground, build a wooden box from 2×4′ feet pieces of lumber to pour the concrete into. 

This will ensure the slab is shaped correctly after pouring. 

If below ground or at ground level, dig a hole to your preferred size and depth, then encase it with 2×4′ feet pieces of lumber before pouring in the mix. 

Add rebar for extra reinforcement.

If you want to know how much concrete you need, measure your slab size and check with the company dropping it off. 

They should have the experience to tell you how much you need per square foot. 

Once you have everything prepared and your mix delivered, pour it in and scrape the slab level.

Mix Your Own Concrete

Mixing your concrete is a relatively simple procedure that will save you a lot of money. 

You will need:

  • Concrete mix
  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel

Because your wheelbarrow can only hold so much concrete mix at a time, you may want to space out the job and pour your slab in sections or create a segmented design by pouring smaller blocks in 2×4′ foot wood or plywood molds. 

After removing the molds, fill the gaps with an attractive stone mulch!

Lay Paving

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Got dirt in which nothing will grow? 

Paved patios and paths are affordable DIY options for covering the area. 

Bricks, paver stones, or even rubber pavers are all suitable materials.

Lay Bricks

Bricks are a wonderful option for covering the dirt in your backyard, and there are many “how-to” websites and YouTube videos that will walk you through the steps for laying them.

One mistake homeowners often make when it comes to brick is to assume used bricks will be cheaper than new bricks and easy to find.

Used bricks are in high demand. 

Older bricks which no longer have sharp corners are famous for creating a more rustic look, so they are often more expensive than new bricks.

If you want the brick, it’s worth asking family, friends, and neighbors if they have bricks they don’t want. 

Otherwise, you will need to do some hunting, research, and price comparisons. 

You may find it’s cheaper to buy new bricks for your paving project.

Lay Paver Stone

Pavers come in two types, concrete and natural stone. 

Both will look beautiful and come in a wide range of shapes and colors. 

Even new pavers may be a cheap option. 

Regular concrete pavers are often as low as 50 cents each.

However, if you want to cover a large area of dirt to create a large patio or long driveway, even this can add up. 

A great option is to look for used or leftover pavers. 

People want to offload them, and you will get them for a deal. 

Check Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Freecycle, or local classifieds for your area.

Pour Your Own Pavers

Another dollar-saving option is to pour your concrete pavers. 

Make your molds from plywood or 2×4′ foot wood, or purchase commercial molds. 

Depending on the size of the pavers and how quick they are, use Quikrete or regular concrete.

For pre-made molds, we like this reusable concrete path maker mold

They are made of heavy-duty, reusable polypropylene, and the plus-size will reduce your repetition and working time.

Lay Rubber Pavers

Another popular option is rubber pavers. 

They are durable, wear-resistant, and comfortable to walk on. 

Level and tamp or compact your dirt before laying weed control sheets or landscape fabric, then lay and interlock the pavers.

These Hexagon Rubber Pavers are water absorbent and breathable, non-slip, and suitable for outdoor use. 

Expand them to cover larger areas, and if damaged, single pavers are easy to replace without affecting the overall appearance.

Lay A Flagstone Pathway And Patio

A basic, sand set flagstone pathway and/or patio is another attractive DIY option for covering the dirt in your yard, and there are multiple websites and YouTube videos that will walk you through the steps.

Leave a small space (1-1.5″ inch) between each stone if you intend to fill the spaces with paving sand. 

Leave 2-3″ inches between each stone if you plan to fill the gaps with strep-resistant groundcover plants.

After your flagstone walkway and patio is complete, all you will need is the right patio seating.

Add Stepping Stones

Adding stepping stones is another great DIY solution for covering dirt in your yard. 

Your choice ranges from simply dropping a set of pavers on the ground to creating more intricate curving walkways with multiple stones.

Lay Commercial Stepping Stones

Use natural stone such as flagstone, fieldstone, or slate, or use concrete pavers. 

If you lay them directly onto tamped soil, erosion or poor drainage may cause them to shift or sink over time, so seriously consider laying a compacted gravel base for your pathway. 

Lay paving sand to cushioning and level, then place your stones or pavers at a comfortable distance from one another for normal walking. 

To determine the correct distance, walk naturally, then measure the distance between the middle of each foot. 

Fill the areas between each step with stone mulch, rock, ground cover plants, or grass.

DIY Concrete Stepping Stones

It’s much cheaper to make your concrete stepping stones than buying them, and one of the easiest methods for making them is the pour-in-place method. 

This method requires less preparation because the concrete is essentially self-leveling.

Alternately, prepare reusable molds from plywood or 2×4′ foot wood or strapping such as vinyl chair strapping, or use old cake tins or baking pans. 

For strapping, arrange it in the shapes you want for your stones and tape the ends together to give you the molds.

Mix your concrete and fill a few molds at a time, then level. 

After 30 minutes, the concrete will be partially set, and you will be able to remove the mold and reuse them to make your next steps. 

Once the concrete is completely set, it will be ready to lay, paint or stain.

Lay A Hardwood Pathway

A super-fast method to cover dirt in your backyard is to lay a pre-made hardwood pathway. 

We like the Reliancer 8′ foot Roll Out Cedar Pathway

This pathway has 40 boards and is a great way to create an elegant and rustic path through your yard with minimal cost and effort.

It’s flexible enough to fit any ground contour and is made of pressure-treated cedar planks which are anti-UV, fade-resistant, and weather-resistant. 

For low maintenance, lay weed control sheets or landscaping fabric beneath the pathway to prevent the growth of weeds between the boards.

Build A Pea Gravel Patio

Building a pea gravel patio over your dirt instead of laying pavers will save you a lot of time and money. 

One cubic yard of pea gravel will give you enough for a 100′ square foot patio 3″ inches deep, and building it is an easy DIY weekend project.

Lay border pavers or add a wood border to separate your patio from other yard areas for the best definition. 

Make sure the border is level with the grass or surrounding surface to reduce the chance of tripping.

The only drawback of pea gravel is its small size; it’s easily tracked outside the patio area onto surrounding areas and even into the house. 

An excellent solution for this problem is a resin binder, which will hold and fix your gravel in place.

Build A Wood Or Composite Deck

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Backyard decks are perfect for covering the dirt. 

They create wonderful square footage to use for family get-togethers, barbecues, or a quiet glass of wine at the end of the day. 

Contractor-built decks have a high price tag, but the price plummets if you take the job on yourself. 

Build A Wooden Pallet Deck

The simplest, low-cost option is to construct a deck from wooden pallets; you will save a lot of dollars. 

First, level and tamp the ground, or use a plate compactor to compress and flatten your deck area.

Lay weed control or landscape fabric to prevent the growth of weeds. 

Sand, the tops of the pallets smooth to prevent splinters, then stain or paint and seal to protect the wood. 

Assemble your deck from the prepared pallets, one or two pallets tall, then add your outdoor furniture!

Build A Floating Deck

Floating decks, also known as free-standing decks, are wood or composite decks which sit on or above the ground and are not attached to any structure, such as your house.

Floating decks are easier to build than attached decks, and in many cases, will not even require steps. 

Best of all, decks lower than 30″ inches above adjacent grade do not require a building permit.

Many websites walk you through the steps for building a floating deck. 

Although it may be tempting to build your deck directly on the ground, it’s preferable to lay a compact gravel bed to provide drainage and use concrete blocks to support the deck. 

This will keep the wood off the ground, ensuring it stays drier and lasts longer.

One of the most cost-effective ways to build a deck is to use pressure-treated stock lumber. 

You won’t need to finish the frame using pressure-treated wood, but finishing the deck boards with a protective deck stain or sealer is highly recommended. 

If you leave it unfinished, the wood will turn gray and may splinter over time.

Alternately, if you want a composite deck, top a lumber frame with composite decking boards made from a mixture of wood and plastic. 

For durability, use “capped” boards – they are coated with a sturdy polymer and can last for 25-30 years.

Build A Fire Pit

Fire pits are luxurious in cooler weather and provide natural gathering sites for family and guests.

Buy A Fire Pit Kit

The easiest DIY option is to purchase a ready-made fire pit kit. 

The kits come with a fire pit ring, all the blocks needed for construction, and are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and stone patterns.

You don’t even need to size or cut the blocks with most kits, making them a perfect DIY project. 

All you need to do is prepare your location, then follow the instructions to put the pit together.

Build Custom Fire Pit Using Masonry Blocks

Firepit kits will run you from $450-$700. 

A cheaper option that costs about $60-100 is to build a custom fire pit where you buy the components individually and put them together. 

Many DIY websites can walk you through the individual steps.

For a basic circular fire pit, use masonry blocks (also known as retaining wall blocks). 

Dig a base for the pit larger than the actual pit will be, then fill it with 4-6″ inches of river gravel or lava rocks and tamp well.

Place the blocks next to each other on the base, arranging them with natural angles to create a complete circle. 

Use masonry adhesive or mortar to keep the circle stable as you stack the blocks but leave 2-3 small gaps halfway up to allow airflow.

For an attractive finish, use flagstone as the capstone. 

If you plan to use the fire pit for cooking, purchase a metal grate to cover it, thereby ensuring you are able to retrieve any accidentally dropped food.

Build A Rock Garden

The contrast of vibrantly colored plants juxtaposed with rocks is an attractive option for covering dirt areas in your yard. 

If price is a concern, use cheaper landscape stones with rock borders and smooth colored stones to form pretty combinations.

Where possible, choose natural stones and hardy perennials for year-round greenery and color. 

Lay weed control sheets or landscaping fabric under the smaller stones that cover the flower beds and cut X’s in the locations you will be adding plants to grow through from the soil.

Add A Dry River Bed

Another great way to deal with dirt in your yard is to create a dry river bed. 

It’s a wonderful garden feature made from rocks and stones, which will make excellent use of any rocks already present in your yard.

In addition to looking beautiful, dry river beds can fix many garden problems such as poor soil or drainage issues.

Large pebbles or river cobbles are classic choices for creating a dry river bed and come in many colors that contrast beautifully with green grass or dark mulches.

Define your river bed by placing larger stones along the sides and contrasting colors and tones to create a stunning look.

Build a wide river bed for large yards and add a wooden bridge with rails to give it an authentic, rustic look. 

This Vingli Classic Wooden Arch is a stained and finished fir bridge that will make a beautiful addition to your dry river bed. 

Its solid arch frame with three support poles underneath has a maximum weight capacity of 450 lbs.

Make A Zen Garden

Convert your dirt yard into a peaceful area for walking or meditation by turning it into a Zen garden.

Zen gardens are filled with sand raked into rippled designs, representing water, interspersed with plants and pointed rocks, representing land areas and mountains.

Before laying the sand, dig shallow holes, place your rocks and add your chosen plants. 

Cover the entire area with landscape fabric, cutting out appropriately sized holes to accommodate your rocks and plants.

Build a Pond

Many water features are attractive and easy to create for your yard, from rock fountains to water walls and flower pot fountains to water gardens. 

For a large area of dirt, a pond with a fountain is a stunning feature, especially if it is deep enough for fish.

Multiple websites and YouTube presentations can walk you through all the steps needed to build your garden pond.

This Lowe’s video is just one example of this process:

Once finished, add plants and accessories and install a nearby bird feeder so you will have plenty of feathered friends coming to bathe. 

Place some seating near your pond for visitors and family members to enjoy this wonderful addition to your yard.

Plant Ground Creepers Or Groundcover

Plant flowing, attractive perennials such as creeping Jenny, creeping phlox, or creeping thyme create a beautiful backyard space where there used to be just dirt. 

Similar to grass, these groundcovers can withstand foot traffic but do not need mowing. 

This is a simple, low-maintenance solution.

Plant A Moss Garden

An effective option for getting lush, green groundcover is to plant a carpet of moss, particularly if you live in a wetter geographical area. 

Moss grows well and in good and bad soils, and you will get a green yard that doesn’t need watering or weeding.

Plant A Flower Bed

Plant a variety of colorful annual and perennial flowers in your dirt area and add a rock border. 

Choose low growing plants for the front edge, such as: 

  • Sweet alyssum
  • Lobelia
  • Impatiens
  • Eastern pasque 
  • Rose vervain 
  • Stonecrop

As you work away from the border to the center and back of the bed, plant medium height and taller blooms like: 

  • Snapdragons
  • Zinnias
  • Marigolds
  • Leopard flowers
  • Black-eyed Susans
  • Petunias

Pretty it up by laying mulch between your flowering plants to discourage weeds.

Plant Wildflowers

If you prefer a more natural look, plant wildflowers. 

They are low-maintenance, easy to grow, and will bring a feeling of unrestrained beauty to your yard. 

Choose wildflowers native to your area and prepare a customized seed mix.

Till the soil 1″ inch deep and remove any weeds. 

Scatter your seed mix by hand, then embed the seeds by walking lightly over the soil. 

Water regularly to keep the soil moist, and you will be rewarded.

Add Raised Planters

Convert your dirt area to a garden by adding raised planters. 

Raised planters require less maintenance and the plants need a lot less water than plants planted directly in the ground. 

They are ideal for growing vegetables, annual and perennial flowers, or ornamental grasses.

Landscape With Cheap Potted Plants

An array of potted plants and flowers is a great way to cover dirt areas in your backyard. 

Can’t afford a huge number of plants? Read on to find out how to find cheap plants or even free plants.

Get Cuttings From Friends And Family

Cuttings are an obvious and popular way to get free plants. 

Propagate them by rooting them first or planting them directly into the soil. 

An excellent low-cost rooting medium is dilute apple cider vinegar. 

Add a teaspoon of the vinegar to 5-6 cups of water, then place your cutting into the solution to root.

Go To Yard Sales And Estate Sales

Plants are among the least popular items at estate or yard sales, so arrive strategically late when anything left is normally drastically reduced.

Make a low but reasonable offer to take multiple potted plants off their hands and be prepared to move them without help. 

With a little research and love, you will have the plants looking great within a month or two.

Another option when attending yard or garage sales is to ask the owners for a cutting if you see a plant you like. 

Most people will be flattered and happy to give you one. 

Visit Flea Markets And Farmers’ Markets

Flea markets and farmers’ markets are also great places to find cheap and sometimes free plants. 

People will price their plants so they are affordable and low prices are why people visit these types of markets.

Go On Garden Tours

Organized garden tours, normally in the spring or fall, will allow you to visit other people’s gardens and see what plants grow well in your area.

Many tours sell cuttings of different plants at places along the way. 

Furthermore, most owners will be flattered if you ask for a cutting or two from their garden and will happily give them to you.

Visit Garden Or Horticulture Club Sales

Local garden and horticulture clubs usually hold annual or seasonal plant sales to raise awareness or money. 

These sales are often great places to obtain unusual plants at fantastic prices. 

As a bonus, they usually provide you with information on how to successfully grow the plants. 

Perhaps you will even join one of the clubs to attend their free plant swaps!

Rescue Plants

Dogs and cats are not the only living things that need rescuing, and plant rescue is a great way to get free plants. 

Think about places you might find unwanted plants which need rescuing or nursing back to health, such as trash bins and dumpsters for nurseries, florists, garden centers, or landscaping companies.

Shop For Highly discounted plants

Visit garden centers or retailers a day or two after major plant-giving holidays, like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s day. 

They may have unwanted plants which were neglected or have deadheads. 

If you don’t see a sale section, ask.

Give them time and love, and you will restore these hugely discounted plants to stunning beauty.

Grow Plants From Seeds

Seeds remain one of the cheapest ways to grow flowers, herbs, vegetables, and other plants. 

In general, you don’t need any special equipment. 

Add the seeds to the soil in a pot or plant them in the garden, give them regular water, and don’t be too surprised when your seeds germinate and sprout.

Plant A Vegetable Garden

Want to convert your dirt into fresh food? 

Many quick-growing veggies will convert your dirt into a productive vegetable garden within only 30 days. 

Prepare the soil with fertilizer or compost and plant your seeds. 

If you are new to growing veggies, start with some of the easier ones like: 

  • Lettuces 
  • Carrots 
  • Beans
  • Peppers 
  • Cucumbers

Water gently using a spray nozzle, keep your garden moist throughout the growing season, and weed regularly. 

Soon you will be enjoying your first crop.

Build A Berm

If you have removed dirt from specific areas in your yard for a pathway, patio, or fire pit and you wonder what to do with the pile of dirt, build a berm.

Berms are rounded mounds of soil that are added to level areas of your yard to improve the look of your property. 

Make them pretty by planting with bushes, shrubs, and flowers and covering them with organic mulch.

Lay Artificial Turf

Don’t want to go to the bother of growing or building anything? 

Want something low maintenance? 

Use artificial turf to give you the lush, green lawn you dream of without ever having to dig up another weed.

Modern fake grass is stain-resistant, drains well, and will remain beautiful without any effort on your part.