The backyard is the ideal place to enjoy quality time with family and a place to entertain friends. But what if you avoid using it because it’s too small? Implementing the designing, landscaping, and decorating principles used to transform larger outdoor living spaces will help you determine the essential elements you want to include. These backyard ideas for small yards focus on the space you do have, allowing you to turn your underused backyard into a delightful retreat.
Decide how you want to use the backyard.
Who will be using the space – you, you and another adult, everyone in the family? Once you know who will frequent the backyard regularly, you can decide how the space will be utilized. Will it be just for relaxing, or somewhere to dine al fresco, or an ideal spot to gather around a fire pit or a safe play area for the kids?
Start with a plan. Visualize what elements you want to incorporate in your backyard and make a list; then make a budget. Include the materials for any DIY projects such as a trellis for climbing plants; a wood hammock stand; or a bench with hidden storage for additional seating.
Create a landscaping design for your tiny garden.
When creating a landscaping design for your tiny garden, think about how much time you want to spend maintaining it. Does the idea of a small English garden appeal to you? Roses have a reputation for being high-maintenance (attract pests, prone to disease, need constant watering). Ditto for hydrangeas – beautiful to look at but need a lot of watering and blue hydrangeas will turn pink if the soil pH isn’t to their liking. For a low-maintenance garden, select native plants, grasses, and shrubs.
Keep your landscaping design eco-friendly by choosing native perennials over annuals that need to be purchased and planted every year.
Include “fixes” in your landscaping plan. For example, if there’s not enough space or soil for digging traditional flowerbeds, use container gardens to bring greenery into the backyard. When building a fence is not an option but you still want some privacy, grow more plants and shrubs, even small trees along your property line to make a living fence.
Incorporate vertical elements. Use a fence as a backdrop for a gutter garden made from recycled gutters. Recycled pallets, either freestanding or attached to a fence or an exterior wall make great vertical gardens.
Another way to make a tiny garden appear larger is to select columnar plants such as columnar apple trees or evergreens and flowering plants that grow tall and don’t spread outward. Columnar plants and trees draw the eye up, giving the appearance of spaciousness.
Use open space to your advantage.
When working with a small backyard, it’s tempting to include as many plants and shrubs or furniture pieces as possible. But overcrowding might make an outdoor living area appear cramped and feel claustrophobic. Use the limited outdoor spaces to your advantage by leaving at least one open area. A small bistro set strategically placed facing a flowerbed or a patch of lawn creates a sense of openness.
Be selective when choosing outdoor furniture.
Choosing outdoor furniture that is multipurpose increases the functionality and aesthetics of a small backyard. Look for seating such as benches, chairs, and ottomans with hidden storage.
Scale back – many manufacturers of outdoor furniture offer small spaces options.
Think portable. Carts can be wheeled inside or stored in a garage when not needed for entertaining. Folding chairs, tables, and loungers can be collapsed if they are not being used.
If the purpose of your backyard is to entertain select a table that can be extended.
Install a drop-down table or bar.
Brighten up the backyard with the right lighting.
If you would like to sit and relax after the sun sets, inexpensive lighting ideas include:
- Draping strings of lights from trees, overhangs, or fences
- Setting lanterns on tabletops
- Using solar-powered stakes to outline a pathway or flowerbed
- Shining one spotlight on a favourite corner or aspect of the yard
It doesn’t have to be extensive or expensive. It’s surprising how much ambience a well-placed lantern or a string of lights can bring to a small backyard.