I adore my new home. It’s large, beautiful and perfectly suited to our family. The only downside? Leaving behind my beloved 12 x 28 ft, perfectly sunny garden that I have loved on and built up for the past 3 years.

The challenge for me in our new backyard is that the landlords weren’t really keen on me tearing up grass in the main part of the yard. They said I could use the 10 x 12 ft area between the shed and the back fence. The only issue is that it’s between the shed and the back fence and is shady, shady, shady!

I began working on the garden plot over a month before we moved. We rented a tiller and my darling husband spent a rainy morning tilling it up, ankle deep in mud (yes, this man truly loves me!). Then I got some plywood for walkways and began to figure out how to lay out this garden to maximize what I had to work with.

I spent several days taking trips over to the new house to work on the garden, but also to analyze the sunlight at different times of day. I wanted to figure out how many hours of sunlight I was working with, and whether there were areas of the garden that were better suited to certain types of vegetables than others.

You can see the 6 tomatoes in the front left and the bean teepee on the right (not to mention other garden "stuff" that still needs to find a home). The cucumbers are to the left of the tomatoes, right along the shed.

What I discovered was this:

  • The front, left 1/4 of the garden actually got some pretty good sun (the above picture was taken late afternoon when the shade begins to creep in)
  • The side of the shed was just covered in sun most of the day, even if the ground below it wasn’t.
  • The rest of it was definitely a bit lacking in the sunshine department, although the entire area does have some sun at least part of the day.

Based on that knowledge, I began to make my plans. I also had a small strip of decorative garden space that I was allowed to rip up (I had to leave most of it as-is, though). Since it seemed to get more sunshine than the main garden, I put 5 sun-loving tomato plants there, and a couple basil plants (because tomatoes LOVE basil).

Small garden strip along the fence, where my tomatoes and basil live.

In the main area, I chose that sunny front corner to place my remaining 6 tomatoes (I would have done more, but I didn’t think there was enough sunshine to make it worth planting more than that, based on the space that I had).

I used the remaining part of the sunny corner (which dipped into the shadier portion) for a large bean teepee, figuring that the beans would still do well since they would grow upwards and reach into the sunshine pretty quickly, even if the ground was shaded much of the day.

The sunny side of the shed was begging to be used, so I opted to grow one of my favorite vertical plants along it– cucumbers! I plotted my walkways so that I had a good foot of space in which to plant the cucumbers in a strip right along the shed, with plans to add chicken wire to the side of the shed to support the vines as they grew up it (not in the picture, but we just added it today now that the cucumbers plants are a lot bigger than in the picture).

The rest of the space is unplanted as of yet, because I intend to use it for a fall crop. The remaining space gets good partial-sun and should be ideal for growing greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.), carrots, beets, peas, cabbage and more.

Lastly, I chose to containerize (surely that can be considered a real word, yes?) in order to take advantage of another sunny portion of the yard that I couldn’t turn into a proper garden, at least not this year.

A friend gave me some extra raspberries canes, courtesy of her gardening neighbor. I planted garbage can potatoes again, just like last year. I also snagged a lovely pepper plant and a zucchini plant (I had germination troubles this year and then lost my seed pack) from our local farmer’s market and put them in pots.

This gravel area at the side of the house gets great sun and is conveniently close to the hose (because container gardening requires much more watering than gardening in the ground). Next year I hope to have Ryan build me some garden boxes to fill up this area to increase the space that I have to work with, but it’s perfect for pots in the meantime.

These pictures are all about a week old and the garden has been really thriving since then. I have been so blessed to discover that the behind-the-shed part of the garden actually gets more sun at this point of the summer than I anticipated it would, and my tomatoes and beans are actually doing amazingly well!

How have you worked with less-than-ideal spaces to garden and how did you maximize the space that you had?

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