When you’re landscaping a small area, it’s important to get creative and strategic with how you use your space. With plenty of in-depth online tutorials, many individuals are opting to DIY their landscaping design and decor as well as interior design projects. If you’re trying to add a fresh new look to your side yard or small yard landscaping, read on to learn our favorite tips and tricks for maximizing even the tiniest space.
1. Plan Your Landscaping Vision
Creating a picturesque landscape design starts with a vision. You want your design to be a well-thought-out masterpiece, not a compilation that is pieced together over time without a unifying vision.
Start by Analyzing Your Landscape
Take measurements and sketch out what you want the space to look like, taking the time to view your yard from different angles and considering neighboring yards, or similarly sized yards, for inspiration as well as dos and don’ts. Try finding an aesthetic that’s cohesive with the design choices you’ve made for the inside of your house, if applicable. (Some design trends, such as biophilic design, draw heavily from choices you make in your yard.)
|Tip: Getting a landscaper to look over your plans can help you maximize the space in ways you may not have considered.|
2. Choose a Focal Point
The next step when landscaping any yard is creating a focal point. This is especially true with smaller yards. Focal points are objects that help draw the viewer’s attention and provide a sort of axis around which landscapers often design the rest of the yard. Much like compelling photography, a cohesive yard relies on a focal point — if you don’t choose one, your attempt at landscaping can be dull, out of focus and incomplete. What’s great is that a focal point can be anything from a firepit or water fountain to a bright flower bed — there are no hard-and-set rules. In fact, you can create as many focal points as you want to create balance (or asymmetry) in your yard, though it’s easier to stick to one if this is your landscaping debut.
Examples of Functional Focal Points
- Hot Tub
- Water feature
3. Opt for Small Furniture
One of the largest space wasters is bulky furniture, whether it’s oversized chairs or patio sectionals. While having comfortable backyard furniture is key if you plan on entertaining guests or enjoying relaxing summer evenings with the family, you should always aim for smaller, more compact seating if your yard is tiny to begin with.
If you can’t find small furniture that fits your yard's desired look and feel, consider hiring a carpenter or furniture shop to build custom tables and chairs — or, if you’re feeling extra crafty, attempt to make your own. (Check out our backyard pallet furniture ideas for a fun and creative spring DIY project.)
|Tip: Winter weather can take a toll on outdoor furniture, and if you want yours to last more than a season you will need to cover or store it in colder months.|
4. Use Plants Wisely
Plants, trees and other greenery are staples in the landscaping world, but a rookie mistake is using the wrong plants for your space and climate. You should be aware of the following factors when choosing plants:
- How the plant matures: Even though a plant may be perfect at the home and garden store, you need to consider how the plant will grow, age and respond to replanting. Does the plant you’re eyeing grow vertically, or does it spread? Always plan your plant selections based on what they’ll look like at full maturity. Aim to choose greenery that won’t outgrow the boundaries you’ve set for them in your own yard or spill into a neighbor’s.
- What type of care the plant requires: Some plants demand more maintenance than others, whether it’s the amount of sun or the types of flora they’re planted next to. Do plenty of research or chat with the owner of your local nursery before committing, and pay attention to the amount of sunlight your yard receives at different times of the year to ensure you know which spots are bright, shady or both.
5. Take Advantage of Vertical Space
Short on square footage? Thinking vertically can open up an entire world of landscaping possibilities. When it comes to plants, consider using vertical space to avoid cluttering up the ground with too much greenery. You can make use of hanging baskets, wall mounts and other innovative containers to create plant walls or privacy screens. Even better, plant your own vertical herb wall to jazz up your meals.
6. Texturize, Texturize, Texturize
One trick to making a small space appear larger is to texturize the landscape. This entails mixing plants, artificial structures, open spaces and other landscaping elements to create a medley of shapes, materials and patterns throughout your yard. Indeed, strategically switching from one texture to another creates plenty of visual depth that can make even the smallest yard appear much larger and more nuanced than it actually is.
Common Texturizing Elements
- Water features
7. Implement Multiple Levels
Creating varying levels or heights to your landscaping can help you partition out spaces and make specific areas appear dynamic. This generally consists of some sort of elevation change to a flat site, including dropping a fireplace down, raising a patio area, lowering turf, adding walls on a slope or raising gardens.
Levels are also important for the following design reasons:
- Increasing usable area. Landscaping often involves meters, drainage structures and other obstructive elements that limit your workable space. With levels, you can build around or over such constraints and add new visual dimensions to your yard.
- Improving aesthetic. The same limiting factors above can also ruin an aesthetic. By building a raised garden over a meter, you can eliminate the eyesore and create a specific area for all the plants and decor you desire.
- Improving air circulation. Fences, garages and houses as a whole can prevent breezes from passing through your yard. By lifting and lowering certain parts of your yard, you can help increase airflow.
- Create views. Flat areas generally have minimal access to views. You can improve (and create) views by strategically changing your yard’s elevation.
8. Make Use of the Side Yard
Side yards are severely underrated. Though not every yard has one, the side yard’s extra space can be used for more than just parking an extra vehicle or storing your gardening tools. Taking your side yard into account during the design process can really change how you plan your yard as well as amplify the amount of canvas you have to work with. You might consider creating a stone path to the backyard for an interesting texture or filling the area with water features and plants. Since trees can crowd up a small yard quickly, side yards are the perfect place to plant them. (Though you should take note to avoid planting anything that needs a lot of direct sunlight since side yards typically get pretty shady.)
9. Find Smarter Storage for Yard Items
One effective way to open up untapped potential in a small yard is to eliminate clutter or wasted space using either a shed, garage or storage units. Rather than leave compost bins and yard tools out in the open, find space in your garage or build a small tool bin that keeps everything tucked out of sight. Alternatively, you can keep a classic or seasonal vehicle in storage to open up your space entirely. Be sure to analyze the unit features to ensure that your items are being stored properly.
Landscaping your lawn offers a unique opportunity to add a certain feng shui to your home or business. Be sure to take your time mapping out your plan to maximize your small space best for you.