Gardening beyond the inner yard: what do you think?

As we plan this year’s garden, we are also looking towards the permanent, accessible garden beds we plan to make, both near the house, and in the outer yard.

The satellite image I used to plan things out for this year’s gardening was cropped from an image that included the outer yard and beyond. Looking at the image, I figured out the line where the pipes run from the house towards the barn. Back when my parents still had cows, they set up water to the barn, and to a pair of water fountains for the cows. There is also the pipe from the septic tank by the house, to where it drains well away from both house and barn.

I was thinking of putting the permanent raised beds directly south of the house, making sure not to do anything above where the pipes are, in case they some day need to be excavated. Looking at the satellite image, I figured that would require putting everything to the West of the pipes. My sense of perspective is really off when looking at the satellite image, though. This morning, I stood right where the pipes should be, and realized we might not have to do that.

The lines mark approximately where the pipes should be, under my feet and running towards one of the fountains (the little bit of orange you see in the distance). The pipe from the septic tank diverts off to the West (to the right, in the photo). The grey water gets pumped to an outlet hidden by the collapsing log building. The water pipes go to the fountain, to the barn and to a second fountain on the other side of the barn. I have zero memory of how pipe was laid to get to the fountain behind the barn. I only remember the trench from the house towards where the fountain is. I would have to confirm with my brother to get a more exact idea of where the pipes are.

The yellow line going to the left is running through a power pole, holding the electrical lines that power the barn. That is about midway between the barn and the main power pole, so while it looks far away, it’s actually not much past half way to the outer fence, from where I’m standing to take this shot. There is a vehicle gate through the fence, though, so we wouldn’t be going much beyond that post. It still leaves us with a lot of space.

There is a shut off valve at the well pump in the basement, for the water to the barn and fountains. I don’t know how many decades it’s been shut off, but I do know that, at some point, a smaller pressure tank was installed, so even if we did dare turn it on, we don’t have an adequate pressure tank to supply water to the barn and the house at the same time. The fountains are designed to be refill continuously as cows drank the water, so they have no “off” switch, other than the float that keeps them from overflowing. One of the fountains looks to be in pretty good shape and probably still works, but the other – the one in the picture – looks like it’s been bashed around. It used to have a box built around it, but that has been falling apart. I think the renter’s cows have knocked it about.

I have no idea how they are powered, nor how the power to them is turned on and off.

Which is all my roundabout way of saying that, any gardens in this area would be watered from the house, not the barn.

In the distance, you can see the fence for the outer yard. At some point, we want to make sure that is fixed up and cow proof enough to eventually remove many sections of the fences around the inner yard, so it’ll all be one big yard around the house.

One of the reasons why I want to set up in this area is because it’s fairly close to the house, we can see it out our windows, and it would be easy to water it. There’s a tap on the south side of the house, and it’s basically a straight line over the chain link fence to this area.

The area in the above picture is shows quite a bit; I had to set my phone to wide angle to get as much as I did, which is partly why the perspective is so off. It doesn’t show all of this area, though.

Here is the rest of it.

The yellow lines mark roughly where the pipes run.

I think you can see some of the problems with this area. It’s not just overgrown, but rough, with low patches. That patch of brighter coloured tall grass is basically marsh grass growing in one of the lowest spots. The area needs to be leveled, or at least smoothed out. That antique tractor needs to be moved, and the trees trying to grow through it taken out. There’s an old disk rake beside the tractor, and other miscellaneous parts and pieces floating about. Of course, there’s also that collapsing building. That’s a log building that was the second of three log cabins previous owners had built, with the third one being the old part of the house we’re living in now. Sadly, no effort was made to preserve it. It is full of all sorts of stuff that was “stored” there until the roof collapsed on top of it all.

At least the old chicken coop, behind the tractor, is still pretty solid, though the entire roof structure is slowly sinking.

We wouldn’t need to go as far as the stuff that needs cleaning out until we’re starting to build greenhouses or some such.

So this area is where I was thinking we could set up the permanent garden beds, and maybe even a greenhouse or poly-tunnel, some day.

While walking around the area with my daughter, however, I found out she thought I meant somewhere else.

She thought I meant on this side of the pump shack and old chicken coop. That yellow line, marks where there is a buried cable providing power to the storage building. Which, some day, I’d like to empty of my parents’ stuff and turn back into a workshop. My late brother had a marvelous set up in there, but it’s now stuffed full of my parents’ things that we emptied from the house. It’s so full, that when we finally cleaned out the basements and the old kitchen, we had to use the barn and the “extra” house in the inner yard to store things.

So… not someplace we can put garden beds (though if we cleaned it up, we could use the space between the pump shack and the old chicken coop).

My daughter then suggested this area.

In the foreground is where we need to be able to drive, and you can see the start of what is a very rough driveway to the back gate. It’s the area between that driveway and the shed that she is talking about. We’d have to remove the pile of stuff there, which includes a stack of massive steel doors and what I think are pieces of steel door frames. There are also what look like steel balcony rails. They’re quite large and heavy, too.

This area would be easier to clean up. It’s rough, but not as rough as parts of the other area. The shed does create some shade, but most of the area gets full sunlight. The main problems are that this is getting pretty far from the house, we can’t see if from the house, and it’ll be harder to get water to it.

Unless we can get the old well and manual pump in the pump shack going again. Which we want to do, anyhow, so that we have a back up water supply if we ever lose power.

The yellow in this photo marks the “driveway” to the back gate, with a turn off that leads to a gate in the outer fence line. Someone drove through here when it was muddy, leaving deep ruts that are still a problem. We will be cleaning up the dead and dying trees in that shelter belt row there, and will be planting nut trees in the area closer to the fence, and behind where that pile of branches is – one of several piles we need to get chipped.

This photo shows where the drive leads to the gate in the outer fence. It’s hard to see the fence line, but in the corner there is roughly where we would like to someday build a small, barrier free house for my husband and I, and the girls will get the main house to themselves. That is many years in the future, however, and may never happen. Meanwhile, we could start putting garden beds in the foreground area.

Also, that’s a cat path cutting through the grass! 😀

For these permanent garden beds we are planning, they will be designed for accessibility. That means the beds themselves will be about 3-4 ft high (roughly a meter) and no more than 4 feet (1.2m) wide. The lengths are flexible, but the paths in between must be at least 4 ft wide as well. This is enough room for a walker or wheelchair to go through, and be able to turn around. Which means the paths also have to be level and solid for wheels. Handily, that will also make it easier to move around with wheel barrows or wagons, too. The space needed for the paths means that everything will be pretty spread out, compared to your typical raised bed garden layout. Space, we have. Functional space… that’s a completely different issue.

If we can get the old well going again, that solves a lot of problems. The old chicken coop used to be a “summer kitchen” before my parents bought the property from a family member. It had a wood burning cook stove and was used to do the canning and cooking, without over heating the house in the summer. If the old well can be fixed, it would be worthwhile to rebuild the pump shack, and I’d love to turn it into a summer kitchen. Maybe not with a wood burning stove (that would increase the property insurance rates for my brother, significantly), but I like the idea of having a place to cook outside of the house, that’s still sheltered.

A moot point, if we can’t get the well going. We will test it out this spring, once we can move things around in there to access the pump again.

Okay. These are our options.

There’s the area between the house and the barn.


Southern exposure: gets full sun all year.

Easy to get water to by running the hose straight from the house.

Can be seen from the house.

Easy to get to from the house. It’s straight from the main doors.


No wind protection from the south. We’ve found the southern winds to be much more of a problem than any other directions.

Must work around pipes running underground.

The ground is very rough and uneven in parts. Will need to be smoothed and leveled. We’d likely have to hire someone with heavy equipment to get the area to the West of the pipes leveled.

Then there’s the area by the storage shed.


Relatively easier to clean up. Does not need as much leveling.

Does have some shade, but most of the area gets full sun, all year.

More potential space, if we decide to continue adding beds along the “driveway” to the secondary gate.


Further from the house.

Can’t be seen from the house.

Harder to get water to (unless the old well can be fixed).

No protection from winds from both South and North.

With vehicle access needed to the storage shed and gates, there is less flexibility in space.

Personally, I’m leaning towards the space I can see from the house, but my daughter thinks the other area would be better.

What do you think? Can you think of other pluses and minuses for either area? Any suggestions?

The Re-Farmer

18 thoughts on “Gardening beyond the inner yard: what do you think?

  1. Just reading this makes me tired!!! You are ambitious. The thought of the amount of soil it will take to fill 3-4′ tall raised beds is daunting! Hope you have a Bobcat with a bucket, and a big pocketbook! Best of luck as you make your decisions and put your plans into motion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Lol.

      We plan to adapt hugelkuktur principles in filling them, starting with layers of wood on the bottoms. Soil will be used in only the top foot or so. We will be getting a couple of loads of garden soil, because I found I can get it locally at a really good price. We will be getting for this year, and next year, and the loads will just be dumped in a couple of piles near where they will be needed, so we can haul it to where it’s needed, as we figure things out.

      No Bobcat, though. That’s one of the things that disappeared while this place was empty before we moved here. No deep pocketbooks, either! Lol


  2. I find I’m much more attentive to the gardens/plants I can see from the house—outa sight, outa mind kind of thing. Same with the beehives, I have them scattered around the property, but rarely check those I don’t see everyday, other activities distract me away from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Long read. 🙂 I’d agree with the earlier comment about your showing great planning and forethought here.

    My thoughts: Not being able to see the garden from the house shouldn’t be an issue unless you think the vandal is going to show up and wreck it OR you’re worried about deer. Said deer will likely come raiding at night when you’re sleeping anyway.

    The pipes can be worked around once you’re certain of their exact location, and likewise a raised bed can compensate for any sort of slope. Trees or tall shrubs can act as a wind break, but that takes time and more money.

    As you said, pros and cons either way. Looking at what you wrote however, the deciding factor for *ME* would be that water issue you mentioned. No water, no garden. Will it be worth the extra work (and potentially money) to get water to the second location? Just otherwise tending the garden once you get it going will already add a fair amount to your chore list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks.

      I don’t expect to see deer, nor our vandal, during daylight hours, but I still like to be able to see it from the house. Especially if we end up building a polytunnel. I’d like to see if things are being damaged by weather without actually going out in it! Lol

      We want to see about getting the old well going, either way. It’s just a matter of when we can do it.

      As for the wind, I think we will need to solve that problem before we build in either location!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Trees or tall shrubs are the easy solution for a wind break, BUT that takes major cash for mature plants or waiting multiple years for them to develop.

        As for watching the back area, you can always rig up a live feed camera like a home security system. It’s not that pricey nowadays.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We definitely intend to plant trees for a wind break in the long term. There are shelter belt programs, but even then, it gets pricey. Budget wise, we’ll be investing in fruit and nut trees, first, so that makes it even longer term. Transplanting young trees already on the property is another option.

        In the short term, we will likely do something with the fencing, which is something we can do in the area by the barn, but not so much in the area by the storage shed.

        Cash is always the big limitation, unfortunately. :-/ We can do it, little by little, but it’s very much a matter of prioritization!


  4. Pingback: Gardening beyond the inner yard: potential location changes, and fence plans | The Re-Farmer

  5. I have started watching online yard sales and going and picking up the free cement blocks when they are offered. if you lay them with the holes up you can plant lettuce and spinach or flowers in the holes. One tip that has saved me lots of work is remembering to put plastic or cardboard underneath to keep the weeds from coming through. Also if you are going to plant nut trees do not put any walnut trees close to your garden. Lots of plants will not grow where there is a Walnut tree. If you are planning on using boards you could cut 8′ square fence posts in half and nail your boards to these. you could start at your highest point and lengthwise put 1 inch drop every 4 ft. make it level width wise. then you could fill holes between the beds to the bottom of these boards first and then put your good soil inside the beds. I like to mix horse or rabbit manure with clay or sandy soil. Just a couple tips to ponder. Looks like you have a lot of work cut out for you, but that is what makes a place home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all the info!

      We used cardboard under one small garden area, but things grew through anyhow! Not enough layers on top. We keep running out of material. Even with all our moving boxes!

      I found a salvage yard where I hope to get all sorts of things like concrete blocks, pavers, and other material at very low prices. I have to arrange to go there with my brother and his trailer; our van doesn’t have a trailer hitch.

      In looking at nursery sites, they have been good about warning with trees, like walnut, have to be kept well away from other plants.

      Alas, we do not have animals to produce fertilizer for us yet (unless you count the deer!) but this year, we will kick start things by buying a 5 mix garden soil that includes compost and two different types of manure. The price is so good for a truck load, we’re planning to get two; one for this year’s garden, and the other to start on the permanent beds.

      Yes, it’s a lot of work – and I’m loving every minute of it!! 🙂


  6. Pingback: Our 2021 Garden: luffa, Crespo squash, decisions made, and we have sproooooots!!! | The Re-Farmer

  7. I have used 6 mill black plastic and am in my 4th or 5th year using it. A little salty but has been worth it so far. Last year I put it down between the garden and the house and then covered it with river rock. Sure cut down on the mud tracked in the house and it looks nice too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If the deer decide to eat your garden try a spray made with garlic and hot peppers. I dry a few hot peppers the years I have grown them I combine this in the blender with one whole bulb of garlic pealed. I put warm water to the line allowed in my blender. after blending I let it set over night. In the morning I filter it through a coffee filter or paper towel. I then put this in a sprayer and fill it to the 1 gallon mark. One year I planted my sweet potatoes and the deer pulled them up every night for about a week before I figured out what would work to keep them in the ground. The first night I used this one plant was pulled the next morning. After that they left them alone. I reapplied after a hard rain is all.

    Liked by 1 person

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