creating outdoor spaces

this month’s small family home blogger assignment is simply “creating space.” i considered getting all woo-woo with this topic, but then i decided to use the extra page views to crowdsource some ideas for creating spaces in our backyard, front yard and sideyards. for me, more space = more choice = more anxiety, so please — take a look at the photos below and let me know what the heck you think we should do with our 5,500 square feet of land.

i know no one will be able to tell me specifically what to plant or where — i’m more looking for  zone/function suggestions. should we do a patio? deck? both? an outdoor gym? a trampoline? is a jungle gym/play set worth it? should we paint something permanent on the concrete pad out front — like maybe a four-square court or hopscotch course for frankie? how much space should we carve out for garden beds, veggie beds and grass? SHOULD WE GET CHICKENS?


i’ll give you a moment to collect yourself. it’s okay. these are the “befores.”

a few things to keep in mind:

  • our lot is 50′ x 110′, perfectly flat and faces west. our summers/falls are mild, dry and sunny. our winters/springs are mild, wet and cloudy. we can grow anything from lemon trees to lupins.
  • we have one car, but we have parking space for about four vehicles. a camper van might be in our distant future, but we’re open to converting concrete to plants in the front and side yards.
  • we want to cultivate a house that people want to hang out at — i don’t want frankie always disappearing to the neighbour’s house because they have better toys or more things to do.
  • we plan to rebuild the back deck, staircase and do something about the patio stones underneath the deck — but don’t have any ideas for design yet.
  • we don’t have any outdoor storage, but our basement has both driveway and backyard access and that’s where we keep all the shed/garage items for now.
  • we don’t live near any family and so don’t do any entertaining for large groups.
  • food on the island is really expensive, so we’re definitely keen to grow our own produce. (plus: earthquake — it’s always good to be able to feed yourselves.) backyard chickens are common here and consider my interest piqued.

thanks in advance for your suggestions — or just words of encouragement. it’s going to be fabulous, right? did i mention the city of victoria doesn’t collect yard waste? hellllp.

don’t forget to read the other blogs writing on this month’s topic. hop on over to justice pirate, the streamlined life, fourth & west, a life shift or tiny ass camper.

16 thoughts on “creating outdoor spaces

  1. Ooh, exciting! I would make a seating area at the end of your yard with a fire pit – either propane or wood burning. So nice for outdoor time in the winter. You are going to want some kind of storage shed for garden stuff, bikes etc. We kept our bikes and strollers in our basement but gardening stuff gets mucky and it’s nice to keep it out of the house.

    Playhouses – hmm, at our old house the kids didn’t use it (too spidery) but they love the one at our new house. Do something raised off the ground with a slide. Chose a good location (not to dark and spidery) and don’t go too small – make it big enough to be a proper clubhouse and it will get used for years. You can put a sandbox under it to have a sheltered spot and then just board over it when sandbox days are outgrown.

    I would look to planting some fruit trees or other trees around the perimeter of your back yard. Some tall perennial shrubs too.

    Yes, yes, to raised beds – if it is sunny down the side of your house that can be a good spot. And chickens?! We can’t have chickens because of the bears but, wow, yes chickens!

    Interested to hear your plans – our new (old) little bungalow is a blank (and weedy) slate too. My Pinterest boards are bursting – but have to keep tackling on small project at a time.

      1. Mine are now 7 and 9. We moved to our first house from an apartment when they were 2 and 4 and built the first playhouse that summer from a Rona kit. At 6 and 8 we inherited a playhouse at our new home. I thought they might have outgrown one but they play in it all the time. It is a little larger than the Rona one so space to sit, and store stuff, and play their detective games or whatever they are in to.

        Important things : a door that closes, fairy lights, shelves for important treasures and hidey spots. The start of every summer we do something new with it – maybe solar powered fairy lights, or a chalkboard, or an outdoor kitchen (the best!) underneath, a mini climbing wall, a pulley system. I usually come up with the idea but let them run with it and help them build or create. It keeps it fresh for them and is a great focal point for their outdoor play.

        We also have a mini picnic table (see Ana White’s website for easy plans) which has had a ton of use of the years, and an area of tree stump and logs for seating , impromptu stepping stones etc.

        Oh, and a dedicated fairy garden area has had years of use and love from my daughter.

        1. oh wow, that sounds amazing! i wonder if we build a full-height shed that can be a playhouse, but then be used as a regular ol’ garden shed once she outgrows it. you’ve given me a lot to think about, thanks!

  2. Ooo I love that you turned this idea into how to work with the yard space!!! Oh man. It would be fun to have chickens no matter where one lives, but how badly will neighbors complain or will there be someone to watch them if you go away? Those are thoughts I tend to think about when living in a close quarter neighborhood. It is a great idea to plant your own produce since you said it is expensive near you to buy things like that.

    1. Chickens are really common here! Our next door neighbours have them as do the ones across the street. They don’t bother us, but I am wondering if they will be one more chore to take care of… or if it would be delightful. Decision pending.

  3. 1) I’m keen for low maintence (which means zero-scape in the okanagan because drought)
    2) you have beaches and parks, nonsense with this backyard playground 😛
    3) I both adore chickens and hate the smell. I say support your neighbor and buy eggs down the street.
    4) square foot gardening along the perimeter.
    5) it is utterly ridiculous that Victoria doesn’t collect yard waste. I consider the okanagan behind because we don’t collect glass or compost. Yard waste is just a given.
    6) clearly I’m your least helpful comment.

  4. I am ALLLLLL about having backyard chickens, (I am in Australia, so am not sure what the rules are there or what your winters are like!) we’ve found that a chicken coop that borders the veggie patch is great for pest control and tossing foliage over the fence – we’ve even had success growing things that bugs love to eat in little chicken proof guards within the chicken run! Trampolines are also the best, would you go so far as to put one in the ground? They’re SO fun.

    1. Thanks for the tip about the veggie patch! Our winters are mild but wet and backyard chickens are very common. I’ve seen those in-ground trampolines and, while they look really good, I like the idea of being able to easily resell the trampoline when we’re done with it and of not having to do any preparation to bring it home. I also use to have such fun jumping while the sprinkler was on underneath!

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