Small Yards Tips

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What are some design basics for a small yard or garden bed?

Design tips for a small yard

When designing a small yard, consider not only the area that opens into the garden, but also any views from other floors or windows. There are some visual tricks you can use in small space gardening to help defy garden boundaries and make your small yard feel larger. You should definitely consider blurring the lines between the garden and the house. Use plants to blur walls and fences, which ensures that your eye doesn't abruptly stop at the garden's boundaries.

Are there advantages to a small yard?

Attracting attention in a small yard

One of the advantages of smallness is that it encourages you to focus on quality rather than quantity. Just a few carefully chosen and well-placed plants or ornaments can change an otherwise bland plot into an evocative haven. To attract attention and keep the viewer from taking in your entire garden at a glance, consider using:
A garden willow chair placed by a large pot of tulips
A wall-mounted fountain which will save more space than a freestanding one.
An ornamental water spout protruding from a wall and flowing onto a pebble surface below. Use your imagination!

Do trees or shrubs have a place in small yards?

Trees or shrubs--do they fit in a small yard?

Although tree and shrub possibilities are limited by your space, don't despair! Dwarf varieties and slower growing trees such as Japanese maples (Acer japonicum) can, and should, be used to provide focal points. Flowering trees are often effective in small gardens and spaces. They may be used by themselves or as part of a shrub border. Many can even be grown in containers for use on surfaced areas. Because they are small, flowering trees can give early morning or late day shade when the sun's angle is low. Prune smaller trees so you can put chairs underneath.

What are some considerations when designing with a very small yard?

Prioritize needs with a small yard

In dealing with a very small yard, it's important to prioritize your needs and wants. Ask yourself a few questions...
Do you plan on entertaining there? While you could set up seating on the terrace, setting up a table and chairs in a secluded corner of the garden will draw guests into the space and help to create depth crucial in a smaller space.
Are you interested in dabbling with flowers or vegetables or is a low maintenance, all green landscape more to your liking?

What are some tips when planting in a small yard?

Consider planting arrangement

In a small space, you should consider your planting scheme carefully in order to allow enough space for the plants to grow properly and be shown off to their full advantage. You may also want to limit your color scheme to provide a more unified look.

Are raised beds a good idea for gardens in a small yard?

Build raised beds.

If space is at a premium in your yard, squeeze in a few raised beds. Raised beds can add height and interest to a flat garden and are practical for gardening in as well (easier to weed and maintain and they warm up faster in the spring). You can easily control soil quality and drainage by filling them with a planting mix of your choice. You can plant them with perennials, or annuals that spill over the sides, or even vegetables.

What are some suggestions for adding flowers to a small yard?

Use seasonal colors

Add bulbs and perennials in your yard for seasonal color. If your yard is very small, include only one or two varieties of flowers for each season and only a few colors. For added interest you might consider changing flowers and colors from season to season.

How can a small yard be made to feel bigger?

Using vertical elements

Add vertical elements to the garden by using various levels…berms, steps, or a terrace. Changes in levels add dimension and lengthen the route through the garden, which will make the space feel bigger. Level changes also divert the eye from the garden's boundaries and add an element of surprise as you move through the garden.

What can I plant to gain more space in my small yard?

Using vines in a small yard

Climbing plants offer endless possibilities to provide your yard with vertical interest…and you can save valuable ground space by growing plants vertically! Use annual or perennial climbers or shrubs to transform a stark brick or concrete expanse into a curtain of color or foliage. Encourage vining plants to grow up and over arbors and arches to create a cool, green ceiling or a dramatic canopy of blooms that doesn't require extra ground space. By using deciduous plants, they will provide welcome filtered shade in summer and let the warming sun shine through in winter.

How can you maximize space in a minimally spaced yard?

Maximizing space in very small yards

If you're interested in “puttering” in the garden, look for ways to maximize the space you have in order to gain more room to garden! For very small yards, consider getting rid of the lawn (if you don't have room for a mower!) and using paving to establish different garden rooms (areas) or just one room!. You can even grow plants between the chinks of the pavers or bricks.

What are some ideas to give a sense of space in a small yard?

Illusion of space

To make your yard seem larger, construct gently curving paths. By curving the paths you can make them "disappear" at the garden's edge (perhaps at a false gate in a fence) to suggest that more lies beyond.

What are some ideas for your yard if you feel you have no “growing” sp

Ideas for more

If you feel as though you have no “growing” space, then create some - on walls and overhead, in containers and window boxes, between pavers and in raised beds. Window boxes can be mini-gardens and provide a view from inside and outside your window. Mix in a few sweet-scented plants and enjoy the wafting fragrance as well. Buy or build a high-quality box that will last and make sure it is very well secured, because boxes complete with moist soil and plants are very heavy.

Are there any tips for homeowners without much garden space?

Tips for a VERY small yard

If you have a very small yard, you might consider hardscaping most of the yard (using pavers, brick, or stones), with maybe a small portion of lawn as a kind of carpet. Consider creating levels to your plantings, similar to a forest, with a canopy, understory, and groundcover. This gives the eye layers to look at and eliminates the flatness of the landscape.

How can sculptures or garden art "fit" in a small yard?

Using focal points

A favorite sculpture or other garden art can be showcased in your small yard. Water in the form of a small fountain, pond, or even a shallow bowl
filled with aquatic plants can give your small space an elegant intimacy. Think of your yard as an extension of your home and consider decorating it to complement your interior (with weatherproof furniture, of course!).

What are some consideration when choosing shrubs for a small yard?

Choosing shrubs

When choosing shrubs for a small garden, avoid using too many different varieties of shrubs and flower colors. If you select several with complementary colors, textures and sizes, your design will have unity and be visually pleasing.

What is the best method to create a screen in a small yard?

Quick screens

For a small garden, walls and fences may have greater value than “planting” screens because they require little ground space and achieve the purpose faster. To get the same effect with plants, you would have to give up at least 4 to 6 feet of surface area and wait three to five years.

Is there an alternative to cutting grass in a small urban front yard?

Alternative to a lawn

If you have a small front yard, groundcovers make an excellent alternative to a lawn…especially if growing and cutting a small patch of lawn in a small urban front yard is a nuisance to you. This is good choice providing there is no pedestrian traffic that will injure the groundcover.

What are some considerations when adding plantings to a small yard de

Tips when planting in a small yard

While you may want to plant everything at once, you should really try to nail down your plan first as a small garden can be overwhelmed quickly by haphazard planting. Try to keep things simple and avoid a hodgepodge…repeat garden elements. An example would be, rather than planting a wide assortment of plants, use a few types repeatedly in different areas of the garden. Rely on just two or three that best express the garden's mood. Choose one or two types, say pavings, walkways, and use those same materials throughout the garden to create a visual, as well as a physical, connection.

What are some ideas to make a small yard appear larger?

Mirrors can make a small yard appear larger

If you have a small garden area, install a wall-mounted mirror. Such a mirror can reflect an intriguing view and give the appearance that your yard is twice the size!

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Guru Spotlight
Jolyn Wells-Moran