My 2024 Backyard Garden Plans and the Emotional Benefits of Gardening


Backyard garden beds filled with hostas, ferns, and evergreens. A brick path runs through the center of the large garden.

Gardening season has arrived in Minnesota and this year, I was eager to get an early start. In mid-April, I began clearing out our backyard garden beds. At the time, I wrote on Instagram that our backyard was about to become my entire personality. It was a joke… sort of? Either way, I am determined to finally put my stamp on our backyard garden beds, an area that has been largely untouched since we moved into this home. 

Today I’m sharing my backyard garden plans for 2024, what I’ve done so far, and a few emotional benefits this new(ish) hobby of mine offers.

How Our Backyard Garden Has Evolved Since 2020

When we moved into our home in 2020, the backyard garden beds were lush yet overgrown and full of weeds. Over the years, I’ve gone through cycles of weeding these beds and leaving them be. I haven’t added any new plants to the areas that have been cleared out, which has just left room for invasive species to grow. 

Lush backyard gardens
Our very overgrown garden in 2020.

In comparison, the garden beds in our front yard are in pretty good shape. After a bunch of mature bushes, trees, and shrubs died last year, we did a big landscaping project to revitalize these gardens. I also planted bulbs here last fall—and fought to keep rabbits from eating them, an effort that was about 50% successful.

Front yard garden
Our front yard garden this spring.

My Backyard Garden Plans for 2024

So far this year, I’ve taken note of what’s growing and what’s died since last year. Joe and I raked up piles of leaves and removed weeds including common burdock, garlic mustard, creeping Charlie, and ground elder. We also added mulch throughout the garden beds.

Garlic mustard weed
One of many weeds I removed this year. This is garlic mustard.

It has been a lot of work, but clearing everything out is only the beginning. In past years, I cleaned out these beds and became stuck when figuring out what to plant. Then more invasive plants would grow in as a result. This year we are breaking that cycle!

As for the next steps, I’m determined to get plants in the ground by mid-June. Our backyard garden is shady, so anything I plant needs to thrive in shady conditions. I want to follow the concept of “chaos gardening” using mostly (but not all) native plants. The goal is to select and plant a variety of species that will do well in the space without needing too much tending to, then letting them grow wild for the most part. 

Backyard garden with no mulch
The garden beds before adding mulch this year, with weeds removed and established plants thriving.
Adding mulch to a backyard garden

These are the established plants that are currently in our backyard:

  • Hostas
  • Astilbe
  • Evergreens
  • Boxwood
  • Ferns

These are some of the things I’m thinking of planting this year:

  • Maidenhair ferns
  • Foamflower
  • Blue false indigo
  • More hostas
  • Bleeding heart
  • More astilbe
  • Rhododendron 

I’m trying to be realistic about the amount of time, energy, and space I have. While the process may not be perfect, I know filling the backyard with plants meant to thrive in that area will be a huge step in the right direction.

The Emotional Benefits of Gardening

Through my years as a beginner gardener, I’ve learned gardening takes time and effort, and the results are always evolving. It’s not only about the outcome but also about the experience itself and the benefits that come from it. There is ample research supporting the positive benefits of gardening—this recent article from The New York Times references many such studies.

A woman in dirty overalls after spending the afternoon gardening

Gardening is a great way to relax and de-stress, and it’s a good source of exercise! But the benefits of gardening go beyond the physical. It can also have a positive impact on your emotional well-being. I suppose this is a big reason I’m carving out time to invest in these spaces. Gardening forces me to slow down, be patient, and spend time outside. I feel so good and satisfied after I get outside and do it. 

I’m now exploring joining a community group of gardeners in my neighborhood to learn more and meet new people. I figure it will be a good way to learn from other gardeners! I can’t wait to look back at this post one year from now and see how far these spaces have come. 

BY Kate Arends - May 24, 2024


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