28 Small Backyard Ideas: Make the Most of Your Yard

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Updated February 7, 2022
Mother and son playing with hose outside
Photo: AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

These ideas will make a big impact

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Don’t let the size limitations of a small backyard take away from the fun of outdoor living. It’s possible to get creative with the area you do have. Between landscaping, gardening, functional furniture, hardscaping, and recreational activities, these small backyard ideas can help you find ways to maximize your property. 

Gardening and Landscaping Ideas

Work within the confines of your space by using gardening and landscaping techniques to create the illusion of a bigger yard.

1. Vertical Planters

Small backyard with hanging planters
Photo: John Keeble / Getty Images

If you have limited room in your yard, get creative and use vertical space to your advantage. Suspending planters on a wall or fence adds decorative appeal while still allowing you to experience the enjoyment of gardening. The pops of color from the flowers will draw the eye up, making the yard feel taller and wider.

2. Hanging Potted Plants

Hanging macrame potted plants
Photo: kanyapak katsang / Getty Images

Hanging planters is another way to bring greenery into your yard without taking up valuable ground space. Display your foliage using macrame hangers for a boho-chic feel.  

3. Space-Saving Container Garden

Container garden next to outdoor bench
Photo: Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Container gardening allows you to individually plant flowers, vegetables, or fruits without having to dig a traditional rectangular garden. Choose different sized containers so you can have a variety of plants to tend to. Tuck the containers in an unused corner to breathe new life into your yard.

4. Enchanting Fairy Garden

Boy setting up a fairy garden
Photo: Annie Otzen / Getty Images

A whimsical and playful fairy garden adds personality without taking up a lot of space. Enlist the help of your family to put together the garden to make it an immersive project. Choose miniature woodland figurines, and place them in an inconspicuous spot to add to the magic.

5. Functional Herb Garden

Outdoor potted herb garden
Photo: 13threephotography / Getty Images

An herb garden is a good foliage choice for small backyards, as it doesn't require much ground space to flourish. Keep your herbs in easily accessible containers, stacked on shelves or a ladder, so you can quickly snip a sprig of fresh basil for your sauce or a pinch of cilantro for your tacos.

6. Low-Maintenance Succulent Garden

Little girl planting vegetables and succulents in garden
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Succulents are another option for small backyards, as they can thrive in many soil and weather conditions, taking up as much or as little space as you prefer. Combine rocks and  low-to-the-ground succulents with flowering shrubs for an added pop of color.

7. Lush Foliage 

Outdoor garden and patio
Photo: Grecaud Paul / Adobe Stock

Don’t shy away from large plants just because you have minimal yard space. Mix climbing greenery with lush flowers to give an English countryside cottage aesthetic. Tall hydrangea bushes, slightly overgrown wildflowers, and scaling ivy provide the perfect backdrop for al fresco dining in the spring.

Functional Furniture

Choose furniture pieces that work within the confines of your space while still fitting your outdoor living needs.

8. Pop-Up Greenhouse

 Portable greenhouse in backyard
Photo: Justin Smith / Getty Images

If you want a greenhouse without the commitment of a permanent structure, try a pop-up option instead. This greenhouse can be set up and taken down in a breeze, making this a perfect choice for small yards. Start your plants in the greenhouse in the early spring, then take it down once you’ve re-homed them to their summer growing location.

9. Multipurpose Workbench

Gardening on outdoor workbench
Photo: SolStock / Getty Images

Set up shop outdoors with a multipurpose table in your backyard. This piece serves as a gardening station but can be used as a workbench, too, or even a high-top dining table. Finding versatile furniture is a good way to save your outdoor square footage, rather than taking up space with pieces that overlap in their uses.

10. Moveable Fire Pit

Outdoor firepit and conversation set
Photo: irina88w / Getty Images

Take part in outdoor fun regardless of size limitations by opting for a smaller fire pit that can be moved as needed. This mosaic fire pit is clean and refined, and despite its smaller size, still provides warmth on chilly nights, allowing you to extend your s’more season.

11. Dreamy Hammock

Woman reading a book on hammock at night
Photo: Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

Kick back and relax on breezy summer days with a hammock. If your yard has limited access to trees, try hanging it from a porch or on a wall mount. What’s more, if you suspend the hammock beneath an outdoor light fixture, you can enjoy lounging from day into night. 

12. Fold-Up Conversation Set

Outdoor patio chairs and table in garden
Photo: Kristin Mitchell / Getty Images

Portable outdoor furniture is a smart way to save space if you have a small patio. These fold-up chairs and side table can be easily transported for an impromptu garden picnic or afternoon break. Then, stow them away when you need to open back up the backyard space.

13. Illuminated String Lights

Friends sitting around a fire pit under string lights
Photo: Cavan Images / Getty Images

Hang string lights to brighten up the area and keep the fun going into the night. 

14. Ornamental Wrought Iron Bistro Set

Wrought iron bistro set in backyard garden
Photo: Pauws99 / Getty Images

A wrought iron bistro set adds an element of charm to an outdoor space, with the added bonus durability. Place the table and chairs on a stone patio, and line the area with garden beds and hearty shrubs. Then, paint the pieces an unexpected color for a modern take on an old-world look.

Hardscaping Ideas

When planning your backyard landscape design, fixed items such as decks, sheds, and patios add functionality and can help you make the best use of your space.

15.  Multilevel Retaining Wall

Stone retaining wall in backyard
Photo: Elenathewise / Adobe Stock

Slopes, hills, and banks in a property can make the area less usable, especially if the yard is on the smaller side to begin with. Combat this natural grading by digging out a flat plain and holding the hill back with a stone retaining wall. This not only provides more functionality, but also adds visual appeal and dimension to the space.

16. Terraced Deck

Small backyard deck
Photo: Delpixart / Getty Images

If your yard doesn’t have enough space for a traditional rectangular deck, find ways to work within the confines of the area. Creating a tiered, angled deck allows you to section off an entertainment area, despite the smaller scale.

17. Picturesque Water Feature

Small outdoor pond
Photo: Far700 / Getty Images

There’s nothing more relaxing than taking in the sights and sounds of natural water. A pond can provide biodiversity in your land to help plants thrive while creating a habitat for various species of wildlife. Even better, you don’t have to have a large and overwhelming water feature in your yard, as you can find kits in all shapes and sizes to fit your space.

18. Circular Patio

Circular patio with bench
Photo: Antoninapotapenko / Getty Images

Build up a circular patio to have a separate, elevated entertaining area. The stone pavers placed in an intricate circular design creates a unique configuration. Add moveable ottoman seating for entertaining and a semicircular bench to enhance the contour of the patio.

19. Corner Shed

Backyard with corner shed and lounge chairs in the winter
Photo: Joanna Dale / Adobe Stock

Turn an unused corner into functional space by building a corner shed in its place. This shed not only provides storage space, but also serves as a decorative addition with customized doors, windows, and siding.

20. Stepping Stones

Stone pathway in backyard
Photo: wuttichok / Adobe Stock

A stone path can help section off areas of your yard and provide a pathway to get from A to B. Fill in the space between the large stones with smaller pebbles for a hardscaped walkway. The best part? No lawn mower needed.

21. Dry Creek Bed

Dry creek bed in backyard
Photo: gmc3103 / Getty Images

If your yard has wet spots that leave your shoes covered in mud after you walk through it, you’re probably unable to get the best use of the space. Dig out a small trench, then fill it in with rocks and stones to create a dry creek bed to alleviate your moisture problem while creating a usable and attractive path. 

22. Modern Corner Display

Corner privacy screen panel in backyard
Photo: Joanne Dale / Adobe Stock

Adding a privacy screen panel can create a more intimate setting, provide more shade, and give a modern aesthetic. Place it in a corner, and add a small fountain in front to make this piece the focal point of your yard. 

Recreational Activities

Remember to make room for fun when thinking of backyard ideas to make the best use of the space.

23. Small Inground Pool

Family jumping into outdoor pool
Photo: Halfpoint / Adobe Stock

While an inground pool might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a small backyard, keep in mind that pool layouts have evolved over the years, and you may be able to find one that fits within your space. Our backyard pool ideas article has a few designs for small spaces, but consider a small inground pool, a plunge pool, or even a narrow lap pool. 

24. Wildlife-Friendly Habitat 

Closeup of bird eating from bird feeder
Photo: ascg Photography / Getty Images

Invite wildlife into your yard by providing food and shelter. Check out our guide to Creating a Wildlife Habitat in Your Backyard to learn how to attract different species using as much, or as little, space as you’d like. 

25. Built-In Trampoline

Kids playing on built-in trampoline
Photo: Rowan Jordan / Getty Images

Trampolines can provide endless hours of fun, but the structure is usually large and awkwardly sized. Opt for an inground trampoline instead, so your kids can jump into the fun without sacrificing valuable yard space.

26. Whimsical Treehouse

Father and son sitting in treehouse
Photo: Michael H / Getty Images

While you may not have a significant amount of horizontal space, get creative and find ways to use up vertical space instead. A treehouse brings the fun up high and is a good alternative to yard-monopolizing playsets. Bonus points if you build the treehouse together as a family project.

9 Steps to Build a Treehouse

1. Pick Your Tree

Look for a sturdy tree in your yard that can hold the weight of a treehouse and the little ones who will enjoy it.

  • Variety: Hardwood trees such as maple, hickory, oak, and beech are the best and strongest options for this type of project.

  • Height: Aim for a tree that can accommodate a platform at 6 feet to 10 feet high.

  • Health: Choose a healthy tree with deep roots that isn't damaged or dead.

  • Branches: Any branches that bear weight should be at least eight inches in diameter or thicker if it’s a softwood tree.

  • View: Select a tree with the best lookout spot or vantage point.

  • Number: Most treehouses use one tree, but you can also build your design across more than one.

If you need to remove trees or branches to build your treehouse, your best and safest bet is to hire a tree removal service near you to do the clearing and maintenance work. Tree removal can be extremely dangerous, as it poses a risk of personal injury and damage to your home.

2. Make a Detailed Treehouse Plan

Your unique treehouse depends on your tree, backyard space, and vision. Draw up a plan for your treehouse with the following dimensions and details:

  • Height of the platform from the ground

  • Width, length, and depth of the platform

  • Walls, railing, and roofing

  • Ladder height and width

  • Supports under the platform, including any diagonal beams or posts that run into the ground

27. Portable Games

Bean bag toss game and bean bags
Photo: DavidPrahl / Getty Images

Don’t let having a small space keep you from entertaining. Equip the area with recreational games that can easily be set up and taken down, such as bean bag toss, horseshoes, and ladder toss. 

28. Laid-Back Hot Tub

Hot tub overlooking backyard scenery
Photo: irina88w / Getty Images

Embrace the natural features of your yard by investing in a small hot tub to relax in and enjoy the view from. What’s more, a hot tub can be used year-round, so you can enjoy the changing of the seasons from the comfort of your backyard. 

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