Top 10 garden design ideas for small backyards

Top 10 garden design ideas for small backyards
(Image credit: Getty)

We’ve rounded up 10 garden design ideas for small backyards that can instantly elevate any compact outdoor space into somewhere you'll want to spend all of your time. Even if you’re not blessed with a big outside space, some clever garden design ideas mean you don’t have to be. 

But before you jump straight in, the key to making the most out of small backyards is to plan ahead. The best landscape design software can help you do this by allowing you to visualize your dream garden before making it a reality.  

To give you some design inspiration, we've found 10 brilliant garden landscaping ideas to help you unleash your space’s potential. From keeping grassy areas neat and tidy with one of the best gas lawn mowers, to getting creative with the furniture you put on your decking.  

Top 10 garden design ideas for small backyards  

With a little TLC, small backyards can still pack a punch. Creating a tiny outdoor sanctuary is easy when you’re armed with the right garden landscaping ideas. Plus, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t have to spend a fortune to reap the rewards.  

1. Create a vertical garden 

If your garden is short on space, start thinking upwards rather than across. Make the most of what you’ve got by using any fences, walls or balconies to create a vertical garden. As the name suggests, vertical gardens allow plants to grow upwards either in planters or plant pots that are positioned on your garden walls. They work perfectly in small backyards. So go wild and create a green oasis. Hang tiered planters on your wall or capitalize on your fence space. For a super easy budget fix, buy an organizer that hangs on the back of a door and place it on your fencing - planting herbs or flowers in each of the pockets. Before you know it, the plants will be growing and the hanger will be covered.   

2. Keep things off the floor  

The best garden design ideas are simple but effective and this second tip is just that. So whether it’s a bench swing that can be suspended, or a hammock you can tie up from one wall to the other – when it comes to choosing outdoor garden furniture, choose items you can keep off the floor. This will help create the illusion of a larger space and make sure your floor space stays uncluttered.

3. Create zones

Sectioned areas can make small backyards look bigger because creating a split-level or multi-level garden gives the illusion of a larger outdoor space. It also allows you to give each level a different purpose. If space allows, you could create a sunken seated area that is perfect for socializing, a grass level that has been sectioned off using one of the best lawn edgers, and a patio area where you can dine al fresco or keep warm with a patio heater. If space is super tight, you could try using planters or outdoor rugs to zone off different spaces.  

Top 10 garden design ideas for small backyards

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4.  Have multifunctional touches 

Garden furniture with built-in storage? Genius! A bar that doubles up as a table? Perfect. When it comes to garden design ideas for small backyards, picking furniture and features that have a multifunctional use is essential. This will help you transform your outdoor space into a relaxation haven, an eating area, and a socializing space using just a few pieces of furniture. Opt for a sturdy bench that is also a roomy storage unit for toys or gardening tools. Or if you have low walls, pop some cushions on them to create extra places for people to perch. 

5. Prepare to make compromises 

Having limited space to play around with means you’ll have to make some compromises – but that’s ok. Compromise doesn’t mean your small space will be lacking. It just means you have to get creative with your garden landscaping ideas. You might not have room for a swimming pool, but maybe there’s enough room for one of the best hot tubs? You might not be able to get a six-seater on your small piece of decking, but maybe you could fit a table that extends for when you need to host larger groups. 

6. Don’t overdo it 

Sometimes, less is more. And when it comes to small backyards this really does ring true. You wouldn’t cram your small box room with lots of unnecessary pieces of furniture so don’t do it with your small outdoor space. Be tactical with the furniture, décor, and features you choose to have in your backyard. You don’t have to decorate every corner. Only add features or furniture you know you will use. 

Top 10 garden design ideas for small backyards

(Image credit: Getty Images)

7. Choose the right lighting  

There are lots of clever interior design ideas that work for both the inside and outside of a home, and using clever lighting to make your space look bigger is one of them. Invest in some brilliant outdoor lighting to keep your space looking great all year round. Try suspending a string of lights above any seating areas. This encourages people to look up rather than across, making small backyards seem more spacious. Or use some pathway lights to elongate your area. Check out the best solar lights for ways to brighten up your garden.   

8. Double your space 

It’s a well-known fact that mirrors can help create the illusion of a never-ending space. This same trick can be used for small backyards and gardens too. A well-placed outdoor mirror can do wonders when it comes to enhancing a cramped outdoor space, so use this garden design idea to hang mirrors decoratively on walls, double up plants by placing a mirror in flowerbeds, or use mirrors to reflect light into more shady spots.  

Top 10 garden design ideas for small backyards

(Image credit: Getty Images)

9. Get crafty with color 

Small backyards really benefit from using the right colors. If you have any exposed walls, try to camouflage them as much as possible using green paint so they blend in with the surrounding plants and blur the boundary. Or if your garden is lacking in sunlight, paint your walls white. White paint has color reflecting qualities and is one of the best garden design ideas when it comes to creating a bright, airy, and light space. 

10. Bring the inside out 

Make your garden an extension of your home and think of it as an extra room. This is easy to do if your small backyard is on the same floor as your living room or kitchen. Maybe you have bi-fold doors that you can open up, or wooden flooring you could extend onto your decking. Or try to continue with the same colors that you’ve used inside, outside. This clever garden design idea will create the sense of one big space. 

Becks is a freelance lifestyle writer who has worked extensively for Top Ten Reviews during the past year. She started her career in print journalism at a local newspaper and has since then worked across digital and social media for food titles and home interior magazines. When she’s not writing, she’s reading and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.