MAKE THE MOST OUT OF The Far Corners Of Your Garden
The best part about having a garden is…using it! Whether you want to have activities, entertain guests, or just sit back and enjoy, the important thing is that it’s there for your pleasure, anytime. But every garden has an neglected or unsightly corner, right? How do you make the most out of those spaces? Sure, the patio next to the back door gets a lot of action, but how do you draw them in deep to take full advantage of every square foot?
Do you have a junk drawer in your house? No judgment here. Surely we all have at least one. (I think I have three). Unfortunately, for a long time, I also had one in the garden. There were pots with dead plants, 5 dozen bamboo poles I rescued but didn’t have a plan for, an assortment of orphaned pavers and bricks, my son’s punching bag that never got punched. What a mess! The best part was that it was in a hidden patio behind the garage. No one could see it. The worst part was that it was in a hidden patio behind the garage. No one could use it.
There in lies the problem. These garden junk drawers become barriers to using real living spaces. If you don’t fix them, you’re surrendering part of your property! Other common barriers to having functional spaces are:
- Broken or nonexistent paths
- Large items stored without containers
- Broken down fencing
- Unpleasant views
- Uneven paving
- Overgrown plants requiring maintenance
Think of it this way. What if you suddenly found out that your neighbor’s fence was built 5’ inside your property line? Probably you would want to reclaim that space, right? So, let’s look at how we can reclaim space in order to take control over what we already own.
How to make the most out of the far corners of the garden
How do you draw them in deep? The same way we do it inside the house. People use the kitchen because that’s where the food is. The living room has the t.v. and places to sit. The bedroom is where we go to sleep. The bathroom…well, you get the idea. Rooms have a purpose.
Gardens should also be designed with rooms that have a purpose because, when you do, people will go to them.
Include these rooms to Draw Them In Deep
- Cooking/dining room: depending on the space available they might be the same place or divided, but they are always adjacent to one another
- Entertaining room: this may be part of the dining or lounging room and has an adequate amount of seating for your needs. It’s the place you bring your guests to enjoy the outdoors
- Lounging/relaxing room: outwardly looking in to the garden
- Private room: inside and surrounded by the garden
- Fun and games room: big open flat space for games
- Vegetable garden and gardening work room: a great place to have a potting table and shelves for proper storage of garden tools, amendments, and pots
These are all garden rooms that have purpose and that, matched with the right family, would get a lot of great use—IF they are convenient to access. If an outdoor room is inconvenient to get to or cluttered and messy, no one will go there!
do’s and don’ts to creating spaces that draw them in deep:
- DO make sure there is a smooth, direct, and uncomplicated path to your room. If it is at the top or bottom of a slope, it is imperative that you either have a smoothly leveled and paved ramping system, or a proper set of steps. By proper I mean they should be no shorter than 5 1/2” and no taller than 6 1/2”. The tread should be no smaller than 12” deep. You can still use natural materials like wood or stone, but they must follow those dimensions and be perfectly stable. Even if it’s a flat path, be sure that you have a paving or planted surface that is maintained. Gravel, decomposed granite, even mulch is fine if it’s properly maintained. If it’s planted, be sure it’s trimmed and filled in. No one wants to walk through mud, sand or scratchy, tall brush to “relax”.
- DON’T store “stuff” outside in or near your destination room. Whether it’s garden tools, extra pavers, or that broken bike that you plan on fixing yourself as soon as you have a free minute, it should be put neatly away in a storage unit. Home Depot or any hardware store will have Rubbermaid units of various sizes. Even an ugly storage unit is better than no storage unit. Trust me on this. Apart from being unsightly, that broken bike or extra pavers will remind you of what you haven’t had time to do. Every. Single. Time. And not only won’t you go out there but you definitely won’t bring guests.
- DO make creative storage a challenge. A custom wood bench, with the correct dimensions can store tons of stuff. If you get some sizes of plastic storage containers and make a bench with storage in the seat, and a slow closing hinge for the lid you can hide a lot of sins. Also, built in BBQ’s have a lot of storage, and slim cabinets can be built along perimeter fencing or walls just like inside the house.
- DON’T make a circuitous path to your destination room. We all know that the quickest distance between two points is a straight line. I’m not suggesting that you cut through your flower garden to make a straight path to the courtyard. Just take care that a person doesn’t have to walk around unsightly areas, narrow pathways, or inconvenient terrain.
- DON’T put your compost bin in the very back of the yard. Unless your car is parked there, you have some other reason to go there daily, or you are a super avid and daily gardener it will get neglected. Compost is one of my most favorite things about gardening. It’s so rewarding to take waste and magically turn it into food for your plants…for FREE! That said, if not taken care of regularly it will turn into a soupy, smelly mess which you will avoid.
- DO tuck the compost bin right into the garden. Hide it with your favorite plants and make a beautiful pathway to get to it. You can use mulch or gravel for paving around it so you have somewhere to stand and tend to it.
- DON’T put a stand alone grill in the back of the garden. If you have a stand alone grill and a dining table, it will become inconvenient and frankly irritating to go back and forth to the house kitchen for supplies. For stand alone grills, the best place is with short, direct access to the kitchen door.
- DO put a full outdoor kitchen deep into the garden. Fully stocked outdoor kitchens will have cabinets, drawers, a trash can—plenty of room to store dishes, utensils and even food and beverages. This makes it not only convenient, but also an excellent way to be sure draw them in deep.
When designing a garden the best way to ensure that you draw them in deep and achieve the goal of using all of your available space is to resist the “junk drawer” scenario by working in ample storage space to your design. This way you have the things you need tucked away out of site leaving the usable space ready to be used.
Don’t relinquish precious square footage. Get the most out of your garden design by creating the rooms you most want to enjoy to relax, dine, and play!