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What to do with a Tiny, Shady Back Yard - A Journal

Updated on October 15, 2014
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Learning to Love What I Already Have

For ages now I've been moaning about wanting a garden and wanting to grow stuff and not really making use of what I already have.

I decided that enough is enough and that I have to learn to love what I've already got. I think most of us spend too much time thinking about what we want that we don't appreciate what we have.

As you can see from the image opposite, our back yard is a tiny, dark, narrow space and that shaft of sunlight that you see there is the only sun it gets and that's just in Summer! In Winter it's completely in the shadow!

Our little space is boxed in by our neighbour's first floor height decking on one side, our bathroom on the other and a woodshed stuck 6ft up on that white wall at the end of the yard (our neighbours at the back have a much higher garden than ours).

I started working on making more of my backyard in 2009/2010.

6th February 2009

Back Yard in the Snow

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This is what our back yard looked like before I decided to change things around a bit.

The plants were already there when we moved in.

We mainly used the space for drying clothes and storing rubbish bags/recycling.

Brainstorming What to Do with My Back Yard

One day I got really frustrated with waiting for the day when I would have a big outdoor space and I decided that I was going to make the most of what I already had.

I started doodling some ideas that, whilst being slightly fantastical, appealed to me.

I loved the idea of collecting pebbles and rocks and just making lots of art with them in the space but of course that would take a long time to collect all of those pebbles and imagine if we moved out! It would be a nightmare to move all those stones!

As 3/4s of our garden is in the shade all day I started thinking about plants like ferns and bluebells and how I'd like to collect pots of them.

I also thought about moon gardens but wasn't sure if those plants relied on getting a lot of sun during the day.

When I started off I also didn't have any money to spend on things so I couldn't make any extravagant changes for a while.

Doodled Ideas for the Back Yard
Doodled Ideas for the Back Yard | Source

One of my more fantastical and impratical ideas included collecting lots of giant ferns. I imagined myself moving through them like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park!

June 6th 2010

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This was the day when I got a sudden urge to tidy up the back yard.

The yard was a bit of a state, especially under the sheltered bit at the back of the bathroom. We used it to dump a lot of stuff that we don't have room for in the house.

You can see from the photos how tiny and gloomy the space is and how the walls around it are so high. Unless it was a really hot day then the washing never dried out the back.

June 23rd 2010

I decided I wanted to do something fun to make this backspace feel more personbal so I started arranging the pebbles I'd collected already along the little patch of soil at the end of the yard.

It was only a small thing to do but it made me happy!

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28th June 2010

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Opposite you can see our back yard from above.

I had some terracotta pots that I planned to plant some seeds in as soon as I got my hands on some soil.

In the image below you can see the yard in full sunlight.

Frogs wander through our yard a lot. I found lots of desiccated frog skeletons when I cleared up all the stuff under the corrugated plastic roof at the back of our bathroom.

As soon as I have the spare cash I plan to get some of these planters that go upwards so that I can make the most of the tiny patch of sunlight we actually get.

July 3rd 2010

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I planted some free seeds that my partner got from a smoothie bottle - also in one of those pots I've got a sprig of Rosemary from my Dad's garden. I decided that the best way to grow things on a limited budget is to ask people for cuttings!

July 17th 2010

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We roamed around some stately gardens today and I found "Wooly Lamb's Ear" - this was a plant we used to have in our garden when I was little and I used to think they were rabbit ears growing. I decided to buy some Wooly Lamb's Ear seeds when I got home.

The seedlings I planted in 2010 all got chomped by snails so I'll be trying again this year - but I'll keep them inside until they're much bigger I think.

July 19th 2010

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Today some spinach seeds and some catnip seeds arrived - I'd purchased these previously.

I love spinach so wanted to try growing it and we get a lot of cats wandering through our garden - which I know some people hate but we love cats.

I started collecting all sorts of seeds for my backyard - not sure where they'll all go.

July 28th 2010

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My neighbour gave me loads of old plastic pots she wanted to get rid of and I bought some compost and planted some of my seeds.

Looks like some of the bigger pots in this picture could do with a bit of weeding.

August 4th 2010

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My spinach has started to come up today!

Something gigantic is growing amidst the free seeds I planted.

August 7th 2010

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The catnip and Wooly Lamb's Ear are started to come up!

I also got some more Rosemary cuttings from home as I was worried the first one might not survive.

August 11th 2010

My neighbour-but-one gave me two planter bags which I filled up with soil and planted with some spinach.

I'm starting to have trouble with slugs and snails eating my seedlings so I'm experimenting with putting broken egg shells around the seedlings - it doesn't seem to work!

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August 22nd 2010

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From the free seeds I planted earlier I was expecting poppies and corn flowers - what I actually got was a massive dandelion.

I think a dandelion seed must have blown down from one of the gardens above and taken up residence in my pot.

May 7th 2010

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The first time I found the hedgehog - nesting in a bag of wool I'd left outside.Photo taken after the hedgehog had inexplicably climbed up really high and got stuck and I had to help him down!Hedgehog watching me whilst I put the washing out.The Monster Spinach!
The first time I found the hedgehog - nesting in a bag of wool I'd left outside.
The first time I found the hedgehog - nesting in a bag of wool I'd left outside. | Source
Photo taken after the hedgehog had inexplicably climbed up really high and got stuck and I had to help him down!
Photo taken after the hedgehog had inexplicably climbed up really high and got stuck and I had to help him down! | Source
Hedgehog watching me whilst I put the washing out.
Hedgehog watching me whilst I put the washing out. | Source
The Monster Spinach!
The Monster Spinach! | Source

I left the spinach plants out all winter, thinking that they'd just die off but they're really huge!

A hedgehog has recently taken up residence in the backyard and I think he's eating all the slugs - huzzah!

He found a bag of wool I chucked outside in disgust after a felting project went wrong and made a nest in there.

Not a lot else to mention - some of the rosemary I planted last year is still green but doesn't appear to have done much so I'm not sure if it's rooted or not.

I keep finding lots of the pots have been tipped over - I suspect hedgehog interference!

January 2011 Update

I got really fed up with snails eating my plants so I started to grow some spinach inside on my bedroom window - that has done quite well over Winter.

I also grew some garlic bulbs but they're looking a bit old and bedraggled now!

I'm thinking of getting some bluebell seeds for the back garden this year.

I also collected a lot of seeds from vegetables that we bought last year and I'm thinking about planting them this year - I'm not sure if they'll grow but it'll be fun to find out!

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    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @Parleo: Thanks for commenting :D

    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @ChrisDay LM: Thank you for visiting :D

    • Parleo profile image

      Parleo 6 years ago

      The hedgehog is great. And in a bag of wool! Very cute.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Let's brighten up that shady corner a bit, if we can. Loved the granite rocks picture!