Small ideas to the backyard


Planning is critical in the case of a small backyard or balcony garden design. Limited space means you may have to choose between an entertaining area and small garden. Keep the plan simple and you’ll reap the rewards of the appearance of a bigger backyard.


Use the following design techniques to add space:

  • Use smooth edges and perimeters.
  • Use stepping stones in the centre of the lawn to add length.
  • Consider the shade in your garden; a shadowy area at one side adds width.
  • An opening at one side also adds width.
  • Let the sun shine in! Tall fences can close-in a yard.
  • A flight of stairs leading to nowhere will give the appearance of a bigger yard.
  • A downhill slope adds length – the reverse is true.
  • Multi-levels using retaining walls, or creating separate areas, gives the appearance of a bigger yard.
  • Large leaves on plants will make the space beyond look bigger.
  • Fine textures increase the sense of space – the reverse is true.
  • Short grass usually adds space – so set your mower to a low setting .

But if space is really tight at your house read our DIY guide to creating a window garden and our special article about rooftop gardens.

Outdoor furniture

Today’s lust for outdoor living has seen the birth of massive outdoor settings, but bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to outdoor furniture. Many small 2-seater settings are available, but if you need to seat more people, use bench seats around a standard table to seat more people. Not only can you seat two or more to a seat, but also the seats won’t crowd the look of the table – you could even slide them under the table when they’re not in use, to hide them from view. Read our outdoor furniture buying guide for more ideas.


Parking your car on the lawn can be one of the fastest ways to kill it, but a new invisible grass paving product has changed that so you could turn your car accommodation into lovely lawn. Grass paving enables living turf to bear traffic, so you can make the most of your small backyard with this option.

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Vegetable garden

It’s hard to beat the taste of homegrown vegetables – and if you have kids, it could entice them to eat healthy food. Yates gives us some great vegie growing tips:

  • Sunny position.
  • Well-drained, good, composted soil (you could also use potting mix or hydroponics).
  • Fertilise to supply good nutrients.
  • Keep soil pH level between 6.0 – 7.0.
  • Mulch and moisten roots with water.
  • Rotate crops (swap vegetables between pots each season).

Cool Season (below 20 degrees C): broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions, peas, spinach and turnips.

Intermediate Season (15 – 25 degrees C): beetroot, carrot, parsnip, celery, leek, lettuce, radish, silver beet.

Warm Season (above 20 degrees C): beans, capsicum, eggplant, potato, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato and cucurbits (including cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins etc).

Herb garden

Planting a herb garden is a great way to enjoy fresh herbs without having to use too much space. You just need a big pot, which sits in a sunny position, filled with potting mix (ideally with a slow-release fertiliser); plant seedlings or seeds into moist soil and harvest when the herbs are full of leaves.

Fruit trees

Fruit trees are another great addition to the small backyard as they can grow in pots or in the ground, and they won’t take up too much room with regular pruning. Read our guide to planting citrus trees.

Or if you are prone to plant allergies read our allergy guide so you can plant a garden that’s kind to your nose.


Large pavers will make a small courtyard look bigger; and filling the gaps between the pavers with decorative grass creates an extra design feature.

A stretcher-bond pattern is one of the simplest paving designs. Depending on the orientation of the pavers and the position of the viewer, the pattern can make an area seem larger or smaller.


Many of us would like to cool down in a pool during the hotter weather, but smaller backyards are not ideal for a pool, especially if you have children who need to run around. A spa is a great alternative to the traditional swimming pool. Some spas cater for those who want to swim and have jets of water shooting out at one end so you can swim against the flow. Make sure you don’t place your spa in view of nosy neighbours! Strategically placed (non-spreading) bamboo, which grows vertically and fits into small spaces, makes a great natural privacy shield or you could use lattice with climbers, such as a passionfruit vine, to protect yourself from prying eyes.

Water feature

It doesn’t matter how small your garden is, even a small water feature will reflect the garden’s surroundings, giving the illusion of more space. Site the water feature at the front of the garden for added impact.