What Lurks Behind Your Garden Shed
First There Was Hedgehog
In Fact a Family of Hedgehogs
When, years ago, I built the garden shed I sited the corner close to the boundary but as bottom boundary line is at an angle the nearside of the shed was quite a distance from the boundary; creating a triangular space, a wedge shape of land that at first was mainly left to the benefit of wildlife.
After building the garden shed the wedge of land behind it was largely occupied by a thick hedge and a family of hedgehogs; or rather they used it as their nightly run to forage for food. Although I’m a strong advocate for encouraging and supporting wildlife in the garden, for an urban garden this wedge of land represented valuable space that could, with a bit of imagination, otherwise be utilised for my benefit; and with some consideration still be helpful to wildlife.
A practical guide which explains how to transform your back garden into a living ecosystem for wildlife with good advice for providing food, cover and water for bees, birds, butterflies and small animals.
Wasted Space or Wildlife
If it's wildlife behind your shed then that's great; if not then perhaps it's time to utilise that underused space at the back of your shed. When I say behind your garden shed I don't mean the small gap between your shed and boundary wall, hedge or fence, I mean what's around the corner at the end of your shed. If your shed is tucked right in the corner of your garden and close to the neighbours boundaries then most likely the small gap between shed and boundaries are donated to the world of wildlife; and so be it.
If on the other hand you, like me, have an odd shaped garden, or you shed is sited away from the boundary then if you haven't done so already, there could be potential for countless opportunities to utilising what might otherwise be wasted space; unless, of course, you've already donated that space to the wildlife. Otherwise if you do have wasted space behind your shed then you may wish to consider various ways of utilising that space, in which case I hope the ideas in this lens will help to spark your imagination and give you some inspiration.
Reclaiming Wasted Space in the Garden
Pushing the Boundary Back
Obviously I couldn’t move the boundary line, which was located between the hedge on my side and a fence in my neighbour’s garden, but I could remove the hedge in front of the fence and reclaim over 600mm (2 feet) of usable garden space. When the houses were built (almost 90 years ago) the boundaries were marked by boundary posts and planted with hedging.
Under English law, looking out from the house down your back garden, you would normally own the boundary on the right-hand side of the property and your neighbour to your left would own the other boundary; I’m not sure on the rules for boundaries at the end of the garden where two properties adjoin. However, in our area all property boundaries are shared ownership under covenant which in many ways I think is better in that if a neighbour wishes to replace a boundary hedge with a fence or wall they need to come to some agreement with their neighbour; usually in practice the neighbour most keen to build the fence being the one who foots the bill with the other neighbour being most agreeable because they get a free fence.
On removing the hedges I could have used my neighbour’s fence as the new boundary but as I wanted an Arris Fence built on top of a raised flowerbed I negotiated with my neighbour to pull his fence down as part of the re-build. The raised flowerbed I made took up no more space than the old hedge yet, apart from the hassle from periodically trimming hedges, is more colourful when planted up and I think more aesthetic.
And more importantly for the hedgehogs, into my final garden landscaping designs I incorporated a hedgehog tunnel connecting the adjoining gardens; which I am pleased to say they still use to this day on their nightly runs in search of food. I occasionally bump into one on a night but being such shy animals they don’t hang around to be photographed, they just go skittering off.
Compost Bins for Every Occasion
I use two compost bins for composting kitchen and garden waste, one is open top with slated sides tucked in behind my shed and the other is an old upturned black plastic dustbin with the base (which is now the top) cut out and replaced with a wooden lid. Both produces good compost at the base after a year which I rake onto the vegetable plot where I’m going to grow the beans using the no dig method e.g. let the worms bury it for you.
I know this principle of gardening, and I use elements of it in my own garden; particularly the no dig method of laying compost to let the worms pull the goodness down rather than your hard labour of burying it by digging it in; mulching your garden is the first step to this labour saving style of gardening. In fact this book is packed with lots of good labour saving ideas that’s good for the garden that I know either from personal experience where I’ve done it myself or from what I’m familiar with from my own research.
Utilising Reclaimed Space
Making Use of Spare Space
Initially I utilised the reclaimed space with useful essentials such as a water butt to catch rainwater from the shed roof, and a small compost area right in the corner.
An open compost bin being simply made just by blocking off the front with a few panels of spare exterior plywood that fit into simple slots made from pressure treated wood.
The water butt, which fills up quickly on a rainy day, being sited right next to the vegetable plot has proved to be extremely useful. And overflowing water from the water butt doesn’t just flow away down the garden path, sited under the butt with concealed channels from the overflow outlet is a soak away.
The soakaway (aka dry well) simply being made in the old time honoured way of digging a small hole (just a couple of feet around and deep) and filling it with rubble and gravel for good drainage; based on practices used in Britain since the Roman times, for an application like this it’s ideal for dispersing the surplus rain water from the water butt into the natural water table.
The reclaimed space has also proved useful for storing the garden canes when not in use; and having found a few car tyres I turned them into a planter that snugly fits in at the end of the new raised garden border.
And even then there’s still space left over for a cubbyhole where a patio chair conveniently sits so that on a warm sunny day, while out gardening, I can take the occasional coffee break and admire the beauties of the garden or reflect on the wonders of nature, before getting back and tackling the next garden task.
And Then Came the Shed Extension
A New Home for Old Garden Tools
Always looking for ways to better utilise space I embarked on a more recent project to build a small shed extension at the back of the garden shed.
The new extension isn’t big, it’s only 900mm (3 feet) by 450mm (18 inches), but with proper design it is possible to convenient store a lot of useful items in such a small space; in this case garden tools, giving me more elbow room in main garden shed which is used as my DIY workshop.
It’s a simple and cheap construction (nothing fancy) the main frame being 50mm (2 inch) by 75mm (3 inch) timber and clad with exterior plywood, which was also used to make a simple yet functional door.
The base sits on a few spare bricks I had and the roof is from a few spare roof tiles leftover when we had skylights fitted to a couple of our upstairs rooms. The fascia boards and soffits were from spare material left by the builder when we had the fascia boards replaced on our house.
Conveniently, just before I started this extension build I helped a friend remove an old and unwanted pantry vent from his kitchen which he was more than happy to give me so I incorporated it into my design for ventilation to keep the shed aired and prevent it from getting damp.
For hanging the main garden tools including the spade and garden fork I used 10mm screwed hooks which I had laying around in my shed for years collecting dust. I simply drilled holes in a piece of timber at regular intervals, slightly larger than the hook, so that I can position the hook wherever I like and hang garden tools off them.
My design allowed sufficient space to one side for shelving, for the smaller garden tools and other garden accessories (as shown in the photos below), and there was even space for a couple of useful door hooks.
Garden Totes and Tool Bag
Ideal for Small Garden Tools
I have a couple of garden tote bags hanging up on the back of the door of my garden tool shed when not in use which I find extremely useful. I use them all the time in the garden when gardening, potting up or sowing seeds in the greenhouse. They're so versatile in being able to hold a range of small garden tools with twine for outside and mini tools with my seed packets for sowing and potting up in the greenhouse.
New Home for Garden ToolsClick thumbnail to view full-size
And Still There is Space for the Wheelbarrow and Garden Hose
It Shows How a Small Area Behind a Shed Can Be a Pandora Box
Even with the addition of this small shed extension behind the garden shed not only is there still useful space for a compost area right in the corner (given a face lift with a few surplus pieces of decking), the water butt, car tyre planter and garden canes, but there is also space to conveniently store the wheelbarrow and hose pipe when not in use. And still sufficient space for a patio chair when it’s convenient for a quick coffee break between gardening tasks.
So I hope this lens demonstrates that even in out of the way places in the garden, such as at the back of your garden shed, there is always room for improvement and, with a little thought, ways to better utilise what may otherwise be just wasted space.
Maximising on Garden SpaceClick thumbnail to view full-size
Geeky Robo Mower
A video I made a while back when a local newspaper asked me to trial this Geeky Robo Mower for a week and to review it for their newspaper article.
Robotic Lawn Mowers
Automated Grass Cutters
A Goat in Your Back Yard may be one form of automated grass cutter but requires more maintenance than a robotic lawn mower.
We had the privilege of trying a robotic lawn mower for a week as a trial period for a local newspaper who wanted our feedback for an article they were doing, as shown in the video above; and I was impressed, if I had the spare cash I’d love one. The one we tried is similar to the one pictured below with its docking bay, the only real difference is that the batteries were not as good in those days so ours kept trundling back to its docking bay every hour for a quick five minute snack before meandering off again to do its stuff, whereas the one below can beaver away at cutting the grass for a full 24 hours before needing a recharge.