25 Small Backyard Ideas & How To Make Them Look Spacious

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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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 backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: don't dig itDigging 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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

Small backyard idea: 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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25 Small Backyard Ideas & How To Make Them Look Spacious
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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.

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