Even with a petite patch of green, you can make the most of your space and create show-stopping scenic landscape designs. To get you there, here are some of best small space landscaping ideas to define your minimal yard’s curb appeal and have your neighbors wondering how you did it. In addition, we also included some tips on how to work with what you have. You’ll be surprised to know that you’ve been missing out on the beneficial use of these existing resources to your garden all along.
Capitalize on Raised Beds
By elevating the soil, you will grow more plants in less space and give your yard a scene of height. The raised soil is enclosed with frames which could either be surrounded by wood, rock, or concrete blocks to prevent it from eroding. The frame also serves as a barrier to pests such as snails and slugs and keep pathway weeds from sprouting in your garden soil.
What’s more, raised beds are easy and fast to make you can accomplish one in an afternoon. Also called garden boxes, raised bed gardening is formed by filling up a box or a frame normally three to four-foot wide with loose soil. Here is some raised bed design you can make in your spare time.
Using Logs of Wood. Logs can be used to create the bed edges. For logs with the large diameter, lay one or two horizontally. Choose straight logs as it will be more difficult to align curvy ones unless you are willing to do the trimming. You can also work on smaller diameter logs such as firewood. Align it into the soil as how you fence a yard, just don’t leave any gap to ensure a firm hold on the soil.
Using Concrete Blocks. Lay out concrete blocks with open ends facing up to outline raised the bed. You can maximize the use of the edge by filling the openings with soils for planting pockets, perfect for small plot plants like herbs. Or you have the option to pave it for a smoother look.
Using Sandbags. Earthbags, or aptly known as sandbags are made from cotton or polypropylene bags filled with native soil. You can find them cheaper in some bag companies who often have printing mistakes and sell this at a very reasonable price. Stack about two bags or go as higher as you want. Line them on the perimeter to outline the bed. Earthbags makes a great frame because they are a stable and heavy wall that can withstand flood, snow and high winds, protecting the plants within the border. If you can’t find sandbags, you can make use of old cotton sheets and fill it up with compost soil about three-quarters full to make it fluffier
- Bonus Tip: You can take advantage of more raised beds integrated with other hardscape features such as stairs. It will help the eye move up and create a beautiful visual distraction from the lack of square footage.
Step up Your Planting Method for an Illusion of Space
Many well-choreographed small gardens revolve around tricking the eye into making the area appear more spacious. Such strategies can transform a minimal landscape that feels cramped and claustrophobic into one that feels cozy and spacious. It’s just a matter of paying attention to how you use color, scale, and weight when planting.
Play with Warm and Cool Colors. Warm colors are typified by yellow, orange and reds or varying shades in between. Warm colors, by nature, advance toward the eye and often stand out given any setting. Planting a garden of warm-colored perennials in a not so spacious yard, for instance, will attract attention and distract the eye from the fact that space is tight or narrow.
Meanwhile, cool colors recede and disappear when viewed from a distance. Cool colors can be blue, green and violet or combination of these hues to create other cool colors such as purple, mint, pink and coral. Growing plants like perennials with lighter hues create an impression of depth and increase the feeling of space in the small area.
To increase the apparent length of your pathway when viewed from the entrance, place majority of warm and vibrant plants nearest to the gate or entrance. You can gradually concentrate change from warm to cool as you go halfway. Because cool colored plants recede more when put at the back of the warm, the pathways distance will appear longer than it really is.
The method can be used in different orientations depending on your chosen point of view, be it on the patio, deck or other walkway areas. Just use the same trick of planting warm to cool-colored plants to make a big difference in making a small area look larger.
Plant from Big to Small. Seeing a gradual height transition or ‘step effect’ on structures will soften the tight box-like structure of your yard. Start with trees because seeing bigger forms first gives a better sense of overall structure. You can also use trees to partially block a view of your yard. Since one can’t see the entire yard from a spot, you create an impression that your garden goes beyond what it really is.
After planting high trees, you can plant smaller trees and shrubs next. Don’t forget flower-bearing ornamentals too, they will instantly add charm. From there, you can focus on the ground. Lay out some ground covers like sweet woodruff, bishop’s weed or thyme. Planting by height is perhaps the trickiest prescribe rules, but when done successfully can be crowning touch of a landscape.
Make a Striking Water Feature
Love the tranquility and calming effect of running waters but your space can’t afford a full-blown waterfall? Not to fret, there are still a lot of alternatives to enjoy a similar effect. Water features don’t have to be oversized to create a striking focal point. Following are small water feature to give your little space a big boost. Not only are they beautiful, but will also offer you and your guests a nice, tranquil and relaxing outdoor space.
Artificial Pond. Even a small pond liner will be just large enough to make a statement in your landscaping. Just dig out an area, add a pond liner and pump, and you’re on your way. You can keep koi fishes or varieties of vibrant-colored fish to add interest. Water garden plants will enhance the look too and rocks would make a beautiful surround. If you want to make it a focal point, have a dramatic stone path leading up to it or accent it with bright colored stone river rocks. You can also make use of one of the landscaper’s trick by planting vibrant and warm colored-plants around the liner to attract the eye towards the water feature.
- Note: Choosing a pond’s location is the crucial part. Too much sun or shade is lethal. Make sure ponds get 4-6 hours of sunlight during the day to ensure that the water stays clean and clear of algae. Also, choose a location that won’t be subjected to runoff rainwater.
Urn Fountain. Urn fountains are a great alternative to full-size water fountains. It doesn’t eat much of a space yet beautiful and eye-catching. You can grow some perennials around it or match with a pair of decorative statues. Have some aquatic plants within it to attract a wide range of colorful butterflies and birds. Evoke that tranquil space by having a design that spouts water for a calming running water sound.
Birdbaths. Birds are one way to amuse, watch, and care for your garden. And one way to attract them is to incorporate birdbaths. You’ll likely see varieties of beautiful birds such as robins, blue jays, and thrushes that prefer birdbaths over bird feeders. Birdbaths are also a great way to add something extra to your space. Most birdbath designs aren’t too fancy or overbearing so make sure you placed one in an area where it won’t be upstaged by larger elements.
Bubbling Containers. Bubbling containers are perhaps the most compact water feature you can ever make for your yard. You can select nearly any size of pots, slip in a pump and fountain and you got soothing sounds of bubbling water. You can also incorporate this pots to larger water feature like ponds. Submerge it to create an amusing bubbling brook. But if you want to feature them alone you can set up a stand or arrange them on a table top and they will make a good focal point as other larger water feature setup.
Construct a Garden Bridge
When it comes to garden bridges, space is not a constraint. Even the smallest of gardens can feature a tiny bridge that can potentially become a focal setting. If you happen to have an artificial pond or natural stream, a garden bridge is a must. As previously elaborated, a small artificial stream is not too difficult to craft either. Give your garden it’s well-deserved charm. Small garden bridges over a water feature can bring both functionality and beauty in a landscape. Here are some dreamy bridge garden ideas for different occasions.
Arched Wooden Bridge. Unrivaled in curb appeal. Garden bridges in wood do not tug too tightly on purse strings. They are often arched to fit into small streams. Many of the designs come in minimal models with or without railings. If you have a spare time and have modest woodworking skills you can easily build this type of bridge. You can paint it to fit your color scheme or you can leave it unstained if you want to expose its wood beauty. They do well with lighting fixtures too. Top it off with gorgeous LED lighting to create a surreal setting that will host some of the memorable evening gatherings.
Footbridge. Best for oriental theme. Footbridge or widely known as Japanese Bridge is a Japanese concept of aesthetic and philosophical ideas that avoid artificial ornamentation and highlight the natural landscape. The design is simple with its trademark arched design and array of wood planks that are often left unstained nor craft with rails to let the landscape take the visual precedence instead of the bridge. Simple yet elegant, these bridges are not just relegated to Japanese gardens alone. Even contemporary garden landscapes and rustic themed adapt the bridge design that looks even more appealing when coupled with lovely koi pond and colorful scenery.
Swinging Style Bridge with Rope Rails. Ideal for tropical backyard. A wooden deck is laid out with rope railings to create a classic rope bridge fit for the tropical backyard. From there you have the option to suspend the bridge using ropes anchored at end towers to create a swinging or suspended bridge. Swinging bridge is a unique design that offers style and functionality. The way a suspended bridge can be built high up allows them to be able to span a great distance, making it ideal for small gardens. Whether it crosses an actual stream or a garden of flowers, this type of bridge can easily fit into any theme.
Stone Bridge. Great for English-style and fairytale themed garden. There is something about stone bridges when combined with lush greenery, a bustling stream, and a few mossy rocks that turn the setting into a scene out of a fairytale, truly spellbinding. Built up with either shingled facade or beautiful array of drystones, the architectural element can accentuate any style you are aiming for. Stone bridges can be contemporary if desired, and often takes only a couple of stone slabs to create a simple garden bridge for that small urban garden.
Repurpose Your Resources to Make the Most out of Your Space
You don’t really need to spend a hefty amount of money to do costly expansion and enhancement in your yard. Sometimes it just takes unexpected elements to maximize the use of your resources and offer a dramatic visual relief at the same time. Repurposing or upcycling materials you don’t need rather than dumping them or impacting them on landfill with unnecessary waste is being resourceful and can save you money in a lot of ways.
Putting Extra Potted Plants on Ladders. Repurpose old ladders that aren’t safe for climbing any more into a place to put your potted plants. The steps can hold court for potted annuals and perennials. Place it sideways to use the other side for your suspended plants. You can also grow flowering climbers around it for a perfect backdrop for your showier plants. Place some decorative garden ornaments like vases or birdhouse at the top to add interest.
Using Cabinet Drawers as an Alternative for Raised Beds. Do you have that old cabinet you are not using or want to dispose of? Why not repurpose the drawers into a garden bed? This is perhaps the easiest material you are going to work with. You just need to drill random small holes (standard is ¼ inch to ensure not to break the surface) to the bottom of the drawers for drainage. And presto, instant garden boxes! As for the body of the cabinet, you still can upcycle it to form raised bed by making little adjustments like attaching planks of plywood to form a box suited for raised beds.
Using Pallets as Planters. Are you short of garden planters? You might want to save money by making some nice garden planters from pallets. Salvaged pallets are something that can be found almost anywhere. In fact, there might be some sitting in your dumpsters right now. You can also ask it from the small business that might be planning to dispose of their old palettes. You can use the pallet to let your favorite climbers and vines grow or you can turn one into a stunning ornamental vertical garden perfect for your limited space. Consider putting it against a contrasting backdrop for visual appeal.
Using Basins and Tubs for Mini Pond. You can get creative with water basins and galvanized tubs by filling it up with water and putting some gorgeous aquatic plants. Water snowflake and blooming water lilies are among the ideal water plants that provide color in tight quarters and add beauty to your large water-filled container. Add a spout or a tube that carries out and spills water for that running water effect. You can make use of medium-sized vase as a spout for a more dramatic effect.
The lists could go on. You can use your other existing materials like tires to create stair or grow your plants. You might be thinking other ways to use the hardwood pallets such as to edge a fence. There are a lot of ways you can use your resources; the key is to be just creative. Incorporating recycled materials is one way to personalize your outdoor haven and add character to your garden.
Incorporate a Tall Structure
Adding a little drama to your garden by adding big gates, arbor or pergola at one end act as a focal point. It will draw the eye in and make the space larger. Also, incorporating large forms that cover a portion of your garden gives your garden more depth. Here are some large contained structures you can incorporate into your landscape design.
Picket and Lattice Fence. Create an ornamental fence to welcome your guests into your garden. Functional fences like picket and lattice are an ideal way to add enclosure without closing off your yard too much. Have some flowering climbers like roses, wisteria or jasmine to not only appeal to the visual interest but will also welcome guests with their fragrant scents.
Partitions and Decorative Panels. Raise some artistic decorative panels to act as an interesting outdoor focal point. Wood slat partitions and corrugated acrylic panels are elements that are nice to look at. If you want to try unique materials, bamboo construction adds interest to a retaining wall and gives your yard an Asian flair. But regardless of the material, placement is the key. Subtly slant it at a far end of your garden to give the tiny side some visual heft.
Arbor and Pergola. If you are looking for patio structure ideas, pergola gazebos or arbor built on a deck can fit perfectly in your little backyard. It’s one way to rehab a shed. Adding structures like a pergola or arbor in a small setting also creates a different environment in a space that could otherwise feel monotonous. What’s more, you can showcase your favorite climbing vines either on the horizontal lines or around it.
Tame a Slope and Turn It Into a Dramatic Landscape Asset
Having a slope is something to appreciate and take advantage of especially in a limited space. Even a partially elevated ground will give you an extra space on whatever little odds your garden may need. Landscaping a slope is also not challenging as one may perceive. Though it is advised to work with a landscape expert if you want to incorporate a slope in your flat yard. You can work your ideas with them and blend it with their experience and expertise to come up with something that is functional, practical and beautiful. To get you started, here are some fresh ideas you may want to incorporate into a slope.
Garden Stairways. Connect levels with a stairway that minimizes the severity of the slope. Potted plants will look good on the steps. Flower garden borders will look good on the edge. Or maybe you just want something to hold accent to your ornamentals. In that case, you can use the steps to showcase your favorite potted plants.
- Bonus tip: You can find this project cheaper in the DIY project using resourceful material like old tires or stone borders. Fill up the edge or borders with gravels and consider planting drought-resistant groundcovers or succulents to prevent erosion on steep grades. Lay it out it in winding curves to make the journey path more interesting.
Waterfall. A steep slope is an opportunity to create a dramatic, sheer curtain of water. A hillside water garden with waterfall is the ideal solution for embellishing that problematic hilly portion of your terrain. If such is your terrain, plant to construct your water garden with a waterfall on the hillside with some excavation. You may even incorporate a pond to facilitate the runoff. Just remember that you will need electricity nearby to bring life to the gravitational fall. A good electrician can provide you a help with the power needs.
Rock Garden. Another effective way to work with landscaping slope is by crafting a nice rock garden. It is also one of the easy methods to deal with slopes in a less expensive way within the scope of do-it-yourselfers. You will want your rocks to be in all different size to create a variety of expression. Leave holes big enough for your plants. With the combinations of some ornamental grasses and shrubs as well as annuals and perennials, you can create a big impact that can make your rock garden the main feature of your landscape design.
Fabric Landscape. Use a fabric landscape adjacent to a wall to display your favorite ornamentals. Dig in ‘shelves’ or small terraces in the dirt to plant. But before you lay out any plants, make sure the fabric is secure with appropriate landscape pins, pegs, and staples. Fabric landscapes cannot be left exposed so make sure to cover it with a selection of easy-care ground covers. Also, consider planting trees to give the loose soil a firm a hold to fend off erosion. Massive shrubs make additional protection to the loose soil and magnificent statement with a range of colorful foliage and flowers to choose from.
Paved Terraces. If one big slope won’t do, a low wall with few level terraces between may be the right solution. Incorporating a mid-slope patio or multilevel deck is also a good idea to have a place to sit and survey the rest of your garden. Have some decorative plants around. The contrast between natural plantings and a deck is always striking.
Create Small Backyard Zones
Breaking up open areas of a small space will give it a perceived space. You can do it by arranging different furniture groupings and paths that will divide a small backyard space into attractive restful seating nooks. The following are some location options and tips that will inspire you to fit a small outdoor living space in your yard.
Under a Shade. Do you have that bare spot under a large tree and don’t know what to do with them? Using it as a planting area won’t work as plants need a sunlight exposure. Instead, create a barren ground for a table and a set of chairs. You can use it as your dining area. There’s no better way to grab meal than with a view of your garden.
A ‘Thinking Bench’. A simple bench may be just what you need to have a place to relax. It’s not hard to fit in one. You can throw in one in a corner or amid your elaborative garden. Have some decorative ornaments around to enhance the look.
Repurposing Your Lawn. Don’t get us wrong, lawns are beautiful but if you have a limited space, you will want to utilize the lawn space into something more functional. If you have a wide lawn, then borrowing a square footage to establish a living space won’t be a problem. You can transform section of your lawn into escape nooks for reading and resting while making the most out of your space
Treehouses. If your space can’t really finance an outdoor living, why not hang one? Treehouses are great sky playground for kids, or can also function as an adult outdoor living space if desired. If you have the ideal tree that you can construct it with then take advantage of it. If you don’t have a sturdy tree to establish it with, it’s also not a problem. You can still construct a freestanding treehouse or small cottages. Having that mini house in your garden can give you that greatest garden escapes you are aiming for. In addition, it will give an additional element of interest in your landscape design. Have some windows on it or make it partially enclose so you can still have a pleasing view of your garden from above.
Adorn Your Garden Walls
The best way to maximize the use of your space so far is perhaps by using your wall to grow your plants. Even if you are an apartment dweller, if you have a bare wall or bare fence, you can tend edibles, annuals, and perennials with these creative vertical gardening ideas.
Trellis Wall. Wall-mount trellises are a simple and cost-effective way to grow plants in a less space and add style to your outdoor decor. You have the option to spruce up climbers or hang container plants or a combination of both. You can either fill up the whole space with plants or partially leave it bare. Some ornate wall trellises are designed as a formal architectural complement to state walls.
Stand-Alone Wall. You can build a stand with affixed hex wire. It is a great way to hang in extra potted plants. To fully utilize the space, you can allow green climbers to spruce up the wall that can also serve as a backdrop for decorative terracotta pots.
Walls Mounted with Crates. Crates on the wall is a good spot for your herbs and ornamental veggies. If you have wooden wine crates, you will find that it’s easier to repurpose it as a vertical planter. You can attach it to the wall through hanging hardware or you can stack the box crates adjacent to your wall. With these methods, you can easily swap them to update your displays or for an easy access herb plants into your garden. Plus, wine crates add vintage charm. You can arrange them in configurations to form geometrical shapes for a stunning wall display
Wall Pockets and Pouches. Wooly pockets got you covered if you need more space for growing plants. They can accommodate annuals, perennials, and small edibles. Make an exciting selection of plants to flourish alongside the pockets. If you don’t find your pockets aesthetically pleasing, use spiller plants that hang over the pocket’s edges such as Pothos and heartleaf creeping figs. These plants drape down as they grow and can cover the edges of the pocket.
Hanging Planter or Basket. Using a hook or string, you can showcase your collection of potted pendulous flowers or perennials. Choose flower colors that will contrast the color of your wall so the plants will stand out. You can array them horizontally or use succeeding hooks like hanging baskets. In using suspended containers, opt for decorative bowls or pots like a hanging glass terrarium planter for greater impact.
Using the Bare Wall or Fence. Even if you don’t have the materials for vertical gardening, you can simply use the wall or fence to grow climber or other plants that can fill in a bare space. For a more interesting display of plants, choose a theme. It could be a gallery of full sun-shade annual, herbs, edibles, spring flower and so on. Next is to pay attention to colors. You can either select a color scheme or pick complementary of your choice. From there, pay attention to the texture. Start with heavy-textured foliage from the back and work your way up to smaller finer-leaved plants. This creates a nice line because heavier textured plants will frame and support fine-textured plants which could otherwise be lost if mixed in or planted behind the heavy looking plants.
You will need a beautiful walkway to stroll around your garden and mesmerize all the hard work you put into it. Curvy pathways work best not only because of their natural casual appearance. A slightly meandering pathway will give visitors an impression that they are traveling through a large landscape. That is because curve lines by nature appeal to the eye at a slower place and add mystery by creating a hidden view. Incorporating curvy paths in your garden beckon visitors to come on a journey to discover what lies around the bend.
As to how much curvilinear design or how ‘curvy’ it is should be influenced by where the walk is leading from and too. For example, if your garden walkway is coming off a front porch, start off with lines that are perpendicular to the porch. Then you can start the curve — be it one large curve or few curves with switch backs.
As for the width, a minimum of four-feet wide is always a good starting point. This will allow at least both shrubs and layer of perennials to grow closer to the walkway.
Optional Additions. You might also want to consider including landscape steps within the walk way. Even a few steps in a curve adds depth to your landscape look. And rather than creating a plain landing, you will find that changing the width to form shapes like circular or diagonal will make the design more interesting.
Don’t Let Your Small Space Define What You Can to Your Landscape
A small garden has a lot more potential than you realize. Embrace what you have and work on it. After all, every outdoor space is unique with different attendant challenges and possibilities. Just follow the above small landscaping ideas; trick the eye with a color scheme, make a feature of foliage or simply adorn the small space with inviting accessories. Apply the ideas you have learned and you will notice in the end that even the smallest back lawn, the most petite of the patios or tiniest of terraces can become an enjoyable place to spend time with.