Small backyard landscaping ideas to maximize your space.


Written by Francesca Singer
Reviewed by landscape designer Bret Douglas of Iron Clad Landscape Management

Whether you prefer backyard solitude or you host guests regularly, your outdoor space is a valuable resource — even if you have a small backyard. 

From birthday barbecues to drinking your morning coffee in the great outdoors, it takes some thought and planning to make your small space comfortable for any activity. Although small spaces take a little more forethought than larger ones, all landscaping projects can add value and interest to your home. 

Are you ready to maximize the limited amount of space you have? Here are some small backyard landscaping ideas to help you out.

1. Build a small patio outdoor seating area.

small colorful backyard patio landscape

Building a patio is a great way to add extra living space to your backyard. You'll need to choose a flat area in your backyard and determine the size of your desired patio. You can use materials like bricks, pavers or natural stone to create the patio surface. 

Related: How much does it cost to install a patio?

2. Install a raised garden bed with a rock or brick border.

raised garden in backyardA raised garden bed can provide a focal point for your small backyard and allow you to grow your own herbs, vegetables and flowers. Adding a border of rocks or bricks helps define the garden bed and creates a polished look that makes your yard more attractive.

First, find a spot in your backyard that receives adequate sunlight and is easily accessible for watering and maintenance. Then, build or install a raised garden bed and fill it with the soil and plants of your choice.

Related: How to start a garden.

3. Build a vertical garden using trellises or wall-mounted planters.

vertical garden on backyard wall or fenceVertical gardening is a smart strategy when landscaping a small yard. 

First, you need a spot that is appropriate for mounting trellises or wall-mounted planters. Then, just fill the planters with soil and your choice of plants that will thrive in your climate and growing conditions.

A trellis adds interest to a small garden and makes it feel bigger. It can be made of wood or metal and covered in climbing plants such as vines, roses or wisteria. 

4. Install a small water feature to add tranquility to your space.

water feature or fountain in backyard

Photo credit: Northern Cascade

 The sound of running water can add a peaceful ambiance to your outdoor living space. The only important consideration is finding a location in your small backyard that is near an electrical outlet. You can use materials like stone, metal or concrete to build the fountain or water feature.

Related: 15 landscaping tips and tricks for beginners.

5. Add a pergola or arbor to provide shade and support for climbing plants.

pergola shade structure in small backyardPergolas and arbors can add beauty and functionality to your backyard by providing a shaded area for outdoor dining or relaxing. They also create a support structure for climbing plants. 

These additions are a perfect complement to a small outdoor patio. You can use wood or metal to build the structure, and add climbing plants like roses, clematis or ivy.

Related: Cool off with these 12 shade ideas for your backyard.

6. Build a deck to add extra space for outdoor living.

wood deck in small backyardBuilding a deck is a common way to create additional outdoor living space in a small backyard. 

Choose a spot in your backyard where you want to build your deck or platform. You can use wood, composite decking or other materials to build the structure. Make sure to use a level to ensure that your deck or platform is even.

Related: How much does it cost to build a deck?

7. Lay a pathway made of gravel or stepping stones.

gravel pebble pathway in yardAdding a pathway can help define your small backyard and make it easier to walk through. You can lay a hose down to visualize how the path will look in your backyard and determine the length and width of your pathway. 

When using hardscaping materials like gravel, stepping stones or natural stone, utilize a level to ensure that your pathway is flat and even.

Related: 15 hardscaping ideas for your yard.

8. Create a small, cozy seating area.

backyard seating areaOne of the most common small backyard landscaping ideas is adding a seating area for outdoor dining or relaxing.

If you don't have a patio or deck, you'll want to create some sort of foundation and barrier (with gravel or much, for example) to keep the seating area free of weeds and long grass.

9. Install a fence or privacy screen.

wooden privacy fence in the backyardIf you have a small outdoor space, a fence or privacy screen can add some separation from your neighbors, and provide a bit of coziness and privacy.

Determine the length and height of the fence or screens, then select your materials (perhaps wood or bamboo). You'll also need to set posts, install the fence or screen panels and add any finishing touches like paint or stain.

Related: Cedar fence vs. pine: Which one should you choose?

10. Create a small pond or water garden to add a touch of nature.

small pond in small backyardWater features can add a tranquil and calming element to an outdoor space. They can also attract wildlife like birds and butterflies. 

You first need to determine a location for the pond or water garden in your small backyard. Then, excavate a hole to accommodate its size and shape, and install a pond liner. You'll also need to add a pump, filtration system and any water plants or decorative elements like rocks or statues.

11. Add a small fire pit surrounded by seating.
fire pit in backyard

A fire pit can make a small backyard feel even cozier. In places where the weather is generally mild, a fire pit can make backyard gatherings a year-round affair.

Choose a location with no overhanging branches or power lines, build the fire pit with materials such as stones or bricks, and add seating of your choice around it.

12. Create a small zen garden with rocks, sand and succulents.

small backyard zen gardenA small zen garden can create a peaceful, relaxing and low-maintenance outdoor space. Consider this if you want to create a meditative space to relax and unwind. 

A zen garden typically contains materials such as rocks, sand and drought-tolerant plants such as succulents.

Related: 15 drought-tolerant landscaping ideas and tips.

13. Install a greenhouse or cold frame to extend your growing season.

cold frame in backyardHomeowners who want to enjoy fresh produce year-round should consider installing a small greenhouse or cold frame. You can build either structure using a kit or from scratch. A cold frame should easily fit in your small backyard.

14. Build a small outdoor kitchen.

outdoor kitchen in small backyardA small outdoor kitchen is a convenient and stylish way to cook and entertain outdoors. Essential items include a grill or cooking range, a countertop for food preparation and a sink for hand washing. Beyond the basics, you can install appliances and built-in amenities suited to your needs and budget.

Related: 17 small front yard landscaping ideas.

Get free estimates from local landscapers.

While everyone likes to dream about potential projects to transform their small yard, not all of us have the time or DIY skills to bring them to life. If you're ready to make a change in your yard, it might be time to download the Thumbtack app and start getting free estimates from landscapers near you.

Related: How much does landscaping cost? 

A note about project costs included or linked in this article: Figures represent national average cost estimates using data provided by Thumbtack pros and additional research. These figures are provided for educational purposes only and are subject to change at any time due to various factors. Details about your specific project and local rates can impact costs.

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