25 Small Backyard Ideas & How To Make Them Look Spacious
You can’t change the size of your backyard, but there are plenty of smart gardening, design and decoration strategies to make a small yard do the heavy lifting of a much bigger space. From vertical planting to harnessing the illusion of perspective, here are 25 big ideas grouped under five themes for a spacious small backyard.
[Theme 1] Get Perspective
[Small backyard idea #1] Ins and outs
Making the most of transitional space integrates internal and external design. Using materials that flow from inside to out – for example, timber or tiling – turns a small backyard into an outside room.
[Small backyard idea #2] Vanishing point
A couple of strong horizontal design features can trick the eye into generating a vanishing point to which your whole outlook recedes. Try a strong planter box along a fence combined mid-height screens dividing an open area.
[Small backyard idea #3] Frame the view
Small pergolas or arbours (a bower formed by trees or shrubs, often on a trellis) help to frame a view and create a grand feel in a small space.
[Small backyard idea #4] Highways to heaven
Breaking up a small, open space into even smaller spaces will help make everything feel larger. Use micro garden beds, dedicated pathways, furniture, and screens to carve up a small yard into cosy nooks.
[Small backyard idea #5] Mirror mirror on the wall
Add depth to your garden by hanging vintage or second-hand mirrors on fences so that they reflect surrounding greenery or sky.
[Theme 2] Be Flexible
[Small backyard idea #6] Screen time
If your neighbour has just added a second story, don’t panic. Use fast-growing screening trees to ‘render’ unsightly walls away. Screening plants like non-clumping bamboo can reach 5+ metres in one or two growing seasons.
[Small backyard idea #7] Borrow the vista
Conversely, if your neighbours have large trees or established screening plants, frame your smaller yard to capture their greenery. Use textured screens on a fence to draw the eye into your neighbour’s canopy.
[Small backyard idea #8] Create a destination
Use a welcoming spot like a fire pit with luxury camp chairs as a destination. A focal point draws the eye and helps outdoor spaces to appear tidy.
[Small backyard idea #9] Pack it away
Just because you’ve got a small backyard, doesn’t mean you don’t need a spot for gardening gear. Try a colourful kids cubby as a shed. Organise the internals so that you don’t need to enter the structure – just pop the door and grab what you need.
[Small backyard idea #10] Take a seat
Many traditional bigger backyards use planting beds around their edges. You can do the same with a smaller yard, but raise the beds and include edge seating to maximise space. Raised beds also keep plants in check.
[Theme 3] Go Vertical
[Small backyard idea #11] Tier up
Use tiered planters, trellis, shelves or even standing pallets to plant up rather than out. Vertical gardens are also a great way to get the most from your water supply – water from the top down for an automatic drip-feed system.
[Small backyard idea #12] Hang it all
Hanging plants leave the space below for other garden and design elements. Don’t forget to tier your hanging plants too, one below the other.
[Small backyard idea #13] Big red
Tomato plants, as any green thumb knows, can go wild and take over a small space – hang your tomatoes instead to maximise their height rather than width. Their trailing tendrils and eventual red harvest will look spectacular.
[Small backyard idea #14] On the level
Depending on what type of planters you use, you can stack them or tier them to maximise ground and vertical space. You don’t need to spend a fortune, especially for infrastructure that’s only in the weather. Try pallets, blocks, crates and planks.
[Small backyard idea #15] Up not out
Choose plants, shrubs, trees and dwarf varieties that grow up more than out. Prune carefully to make the most of the green you’ve got.
[Theme 4] Try Variety
[Small backyard idea #16] Get colourful
Creative colour use enhances a small space. Soften an element to make it recede, or use bright complementary colours to make a design feature pop.
[Small backyard idea #17] Grass is for cows
Where are you going to keep the lawnmower anyway? Chip out your grass and use a range of soft materials like stones and bark for low maintenance colour and texture. If you’re truly committed to the green, green grass of home, try a small patch of fake turf – the colour still pops, but there’s zero maintenance.
[Small backyard idea #18] Don’t dig it
Digging up your tiny backyard to build a traditional deck or paved area is probably unfeasible. With some careful ground preparation, try modular and snap-in deck and tile products that provide structural soundness with ultimate convenience.
[Small backyard idea #19] Light it up
An advantage of a smaller space is that you can more economically run wiring into planting beds. Use low voltage (or even solar powered) uplights or fairy lights to create ambiance.
[Small backyard idea #20] Mobile technology
For maximum variety, keep some garden elements mobile. Plant a herb or flower garden in an old wheelbarrow and follow the sun around a tight space. A vintage drinks cart will have the same effect. If it’s full of herbs, bring it inside when you cook.
[Theme 5] Stay Cheerful
[Small backyard idea #21] Expand your palette
Multiple elements in a small zone create interest and the illusion of space. Mix hard and soft landscaping materials with pathways, planters, shrubs, screens, furniture, and artwork.
[Small backyard idea #22] Change it up
The wonderful thing about a small backyard and smaller planting spaces is that you can easily change things up – pick new flowers for a new season, and spend a few dollars on matching cushions.
[Small backyard idea #23] Small and smart
From pallets to barrels to crates to kitchen colanders, you can create a magnificent landscaped garden without overspending or over-consuming.
[Small backyard idea #24]. Upcycle pathways
Paint an old pallet, use second-hand colanders as planters or stack crates to upcycle your small backyard into a design delight. On a smaller scale, use shiny tin cans and colourful wool to create mini herbariums or micro flower shows.
[Small backyard idea #25] Get creative
There are endless opportunities to pepper your backyard with tasteful and inexpensive art. From laser-cut wall-mounted screens to quirky animal sculptures made from steel, use art to express some backyard personality.
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You can’t change the size of your backyard, but there are plenty of smart gardening, design and decoration strategies to make a small yard do the heavy lifting of a much bigger space.