Small backyard ideas

Updated March 13, 2018

Small backyards limit the choices for landscaping, but they can still produce a usable outdoor space. Dividing the yard into functional areas ensures the homeowner's needs are met. A flowing design that allows free movement from one area to the next increases the functionality of a small backyard.


Planning is a crucial stage in designing a small backyard. With limited space, each square foot counts. Identifying the ways in which the yard will be used helps guide the planning process. Accurate measurements of the yard and permanent structures allows for a detailed drawing of the space. Each area should be clearly marked on the drawing, including the dimensions.


A streamlined design with minimal features allows more usable space in a small backyard. Large decorative features that lack functionality eat up valuable space. Clean lines and uncluttered designs make the space feel larger and more relaxing. Too many landscaping features distract the eye and make the yard feel more confined. Landscaping should serve a purpose, such as dividing the yard into different usable areas.

Potted Plants

Potted plants save space while adding a lush environment. The flower pots rest well on a patio or deck and can be moved as needed. Window boxes allow flowers and greenery to decorate the exterior of the house without consuming ground space. Hanging baskets dress up a plain backyard fence or shepherd's hook. A simple row of flowers along the fence line offers a planted option that doesn't take up usable ground.


Patio furniture selection requires careful thought in a small yard. A small patio table and chairs save space while providing an area for eating or playing games. Consider backyard furniture that serves more than one purpose. Benches that open to reveal storage allow yard toys to be concealed and double as seating. Furniture that collapses for easy storage allows for more open space when necessary.

Water Features

A small backyard might eliminate the possibility of a large water feature, such as a pond and waterfall. Smaller water features add a serene feel to the area without consuming a large amount of space. Freestanding water fountains fit easily into a corner of a deck or patio. Wall fountains can be mounted to the side of the house or a sturdy fence. Bird baths offer a simple water feature that might attract wildlife to the yard.


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About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.