16 Brilliant Ideas for Small Backyard Gardens

garbage enclosure off of porch
Photo: Jon Jensen

A small garden space doesn't mean you can't have the garden you want. Here are our favorite ideas for small garden ideas, including small patio garden ideas, to help you maximize your space!

01 of 16

Create an Outdoor Room

outdoor seating area under pergola
Matthew Benson

Turn a tiny patio into a gorgeous outdoor room by adding a freestanding pergola. Here, a small wooden pergola was constructed over a gravel patio and enhanced with a teak seating arrangement. The pergola creates a sense of enclosure and makes the patio seem much larger than it is.

02 of 16

Go Gravel

patio made of sand with sitting area
Ed Gohlich

Crushed brick or gravel is a beautiful, low-maintenance paving option for small gardens. It's also easier to use and less expensive than brick or flagstone. Make sure to spread a layer of landscape fabric underneath the gravel to keep weeds from popping through. On this California hillside, the gravel also allows rainfall to percolate through to the soil instead of running off down the incline.

03 of 16

Capitalize on Trees

outdoor metal tables and chairs
Peter Krumhardt

If you have large trees with bare spots underneath them, why not put the barren ground to use by creating an outdoor living space? In this small garden, several trees made growing a lawn or flower border impossible. So, the homeowners paved part of the area with flagstone and added a table and chairs.

Small Garden Tip: When working under a large tree, leave any exposed roots alone and never raise the grade around the base of the tree.

04 of 16

Install a Pond

pond with rocks and lily pads
Peter Krumhardt

You don't need a huge backyard to have a water garden. In fact, installing a water garden is a great way to handle low or wet spots in your garden. Just dig out the area, add a pond liner and pump, and you're on your way. Even a tiny oasis will attract a wide range of colorful butterflies and birds. In this garden, Water Snowflake, Nymphoides humboldtiana, a small relative of water lily, provides color in tight quarters.

05 of 16

Double Your Pleasure

plants growing on wood on side of brick house
Rob Cardillo

Get twice the flowers and vegetables in your small garden by adding a trellis or low fence behind every planting bed. That way, you can grow vine crops vertically, so they won’t sprawl over their plant neighbors. In this narrow garden bed, a trio of rustic wooden trellises supports flowering vines at the back of the perennial border.

06 of 16

Choose Trees for Small Spaces

A small yard doesn't mean you can't have a gorgeous tree. See these shade-providing beauties that can squeeze into small spots.

07 of 16

Welcome Wildlife

flowers and bushes with bird house in yard
Erica George Dines

Even a tiny garden can become a haven for birds and butterflies when you choose flowers they prefer. For example, this square bed is packed with bird and butterfly favorites, such as black-eyed Susan and phlox. A bird feeder and birdhouse add to the garden's wildlife-friendly features.

08 of 16

Add a Mowing Strip

garden with walking path of rocks
Dean Schoeppner

Keeping turf grass from encroaching on your garden beds is much easier when you install a mowing strip at the border's edge. This mowing strip was designed to keep weeds at bay and act as a low-maintenance garden path. It also provides easy, mud-free access to the garden for wheelbarrows, mowers, and other equipment.

09 of 16

Eliminate Lawns

table and chairs on patio
Ed Gohlich

Put every square inch of your backyard to work by removing the sod to create useable outdoor living spaces. In this small courtyard, the turf was torn up and replaced by a gravel base that supports a gorgeous dining table and flower-filled containers. Plus, the homeowners have more time to enjoy the space because they no longer have to mow.

10 of 16

Add Drama

brick patio with white pergola
Janet Mesic Mackie

Give small gardens a big style boost by adding an oversized gate or arbor at one end to act as a focal point. It will draw the eye in and make the space seem larger. Here, a large-scale ornamental entry arbor gives this tiny side yard some visual heft. Plus, it supports a crown of climbing roses. White lilies in the center bed mirror the white roses and arbor.

11 of 16

Curve Walkways

view of outdoor sitting area
Ed Gohlich

One way to create a sense of space in a small garden is to put some curves into your garden paths. A slightly meandering walkway is always better than a straight path because it will give visitors the sense that they are traveling through a large landscape. Just be sure to make your path wide enough for two people to walk side by side comfortably. This curved path is especially appealing because a ribbon of tile separates each slab of concrete.

12 of 16

Rely on Pots

patio with fountain, bench, and flowers
Janet Mesic Mackie

Enjoy your own corner of paradise by packing your small garden with pots and planters overflowing with flowers and fragrant herbs. In this luxurious backyard, pots of geranium (scented and standard) and marguerite daisy provide the bulk of color surrounding a welcoming teak bench. A large terra-cotta bowl acts as a reflecting pool and birdbath.

13 of 16

Consider the Seasons

brick tudor-style cottage front door with wreath and tulips
Alison Miksch

When you plan your garden, think about how it will look in all four seasons. Many yards look terrific in the spring and early summer, but by fall, they fade. Choose perennials and annuals that offer late-season color and shrubs and trees that bear colorful berries or interesting bark in the winter.

A bevy of tulips in this tiny front border provides plenty of spring color. After they fade, summer beauties such as geranium and verbena replace them. Holly shrubs, which flank the front door, develop showy red berries that keep the landscape looking good after frost.

14 of 16

Rehab a Shed

porch area with sitting area and metal arch
Richard Felber

If the view from your backyard faces an ugly shed or garage, think about incorporating it into your garden design. Unfortunately, the only view was the homeowner's ugly garage on this narrow lot. But with a can of paint and an inexpensive French door, they turned this ugly duckling into a swan. In fact, they were so happy with the transformation they added a Mediterranean-style patio right up against the new garage doors.

15 of 16

Color Your World

colorful sitting area with umbrella
Ed Gohlich

Shady backyards are a great place to spend a hot summer afternoon, but they can sometimes be a bit dark and dull. Brighten the view with colorful pillows, fabrics, outdoor rugs, and pots in various colors and patterns. This shady deck is now a colorful spot for family fun.

16 of 16

Camouflage Trash

garbage enclosure off of porch
Jon Jensen

Nothing ruins the view in a small backyard faster than a set of garbage cans blown over in the wind. Instead of having your garbage in plain sight, build a wooden surround to keep them contained. Here, a set of stylish wooden panels camouflages the homeowner's garbage with a bit of space left for bags of potting soil and extra garden tools. When the gate panel is closed, everything is completely hidden.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles