28 Small Backyard Ideas For Creating A Mini Outdoor Oasis

The Studio Garden
Photo: Paul Costello

It's time to get dreamy. Don't try to convince us that there's not much to be done with a small yard. Southerners (especially of the green-thumb variety) all know that smaller spaces are oftentimes the ones that are most ripe with potential. We've gathered our favorite small backyard ideas that make the most of every square inch—and nothing is off-limits. With just a few tweaks, a small backyard can be bursting with life to become a hub for gardening, playing, and entertaining. We've even pulled a few top-notch ideas from front yards, side yards, and even a patio or two that hold plenty of small backyard landscaping ideas in their own right. From subtle additions to broadening landscaping strategies, and adornments that are easy on the eye, these tips can make a big difference to a small space. You'll find there's plenty of space to get growing, no matter how small your spot is.

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Create a Spot To Sit

Garden Bench Along Fence in Backyard
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Lydia Pursell

Everyone needs a spot to sit and stay a while—all the better if it's tucked away in a tidy little garden. It's a good idea to design your sitting area around what the purpose(s) of the area will be, whether it be leisure or entertainment. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you'd like.

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Frame It

Pamela Scurry's Charleston Garden
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Frances Bailey

This is for those who love and value their privacy. Don't be afraid to close off your backyard from your neighbors and the rest of the world by surrounding it on all four sides with lush green walls. Even the lower columned porch is wrapped in cushiony vines that serve to provide additional cover and draw a connection between the house and yard.

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Make an Appealing Alley

Side Yard Walkway with Endless Summer Hydrangeas in Birmingham, AL Garden
Robbie Caponetto

Working with a small backyard is all about taking advantage of every square inch of space. Even a narrow alley is given its due with a lane of French hydrangeas opposite a soothing fountain. Let this inspire you to create your own backyard alley lined with your favorite flowers and greenery.

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Grow Up

Nicole Burke Kitchen Garden in Houston, TX Raised Garden Bed
Robbie Caponetto

Running out of space? Look up. Trellises, walls, and arbors are small yard's best friends. They'll add interest, make the space seem larger as they draw the eye upward, and leave you with plenty of room to keep exploring all the growth potential in your backyard.

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Let Symmetry Sing

Gray House with White Annuals and Green Bushes
Hector Sanchez

Like a good pair of sconces, a set of commanding topiaries can make quite a statement. Continue the trend and let your backyard speak to its symmetry. This technique works especially well for boxy or rectangular small backyards.

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Set a Table

Pink Outdoor Garden Dining Table
Alison Miksch

There's always room for a little table for two. If you're the type who enjoys a meal, morning coffee, or a cocktail hour al fresco, try setting out a space for a bistro table. Cover it with a small awning or an umbrella to create some shade on those sunny Southern days.

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Get Creative

Barbara Katz Circular Garden
Robbie Caponetto

Who says a backyard has to be a series of straight lines? Think outside of the box, so to speak, and opt for something more unorthodox. Like this circular yard. It's surrounded by layers of color, texture, and height, creating a backyard oasis that is truly something special.

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Go Overboard

Anthony Brewington Bungalow Garden
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Minimalism is always a good option, but maximizing your space is often the right choice, especially for those who want to go big and bold. We have found that too much is rarely enough when it comes to maximizing our backyard. Don't be afraid to pack it full of flowers, shrubs, vines, and more. It's all about creating a space that brings you joy.

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Dedicate It to Veggies

Vegetable Garden
NCAImages/Getty Images

Whether you have space only for a terracotta pot of herbs or are able to spare a square foot or two for a raised bed, a kitchen garden is never a bad idea. Just make sure you scope out the best companion plants before you start growing. It'll make the most efficient use of space.

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Forget the Yard

Green and Gravel Yard with Fountain
Hector Sanchez

If you want a space that doesn't require too much work to upkeep, opt for a natural stone, gravel, or wood instead of grass. This way, you will never have to worry about cutting the grass. And if you still want some greenery, place some potted plants and small trees around the space. If it's a walled-off area, add some climbing ivy.

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Play with Pots

Garden Home Cottage
Helen Norman

If you can't quite commit, like moving things around, or you have a bunch of pots sitting in the garage, let this be all the small backyard inspiration you need. Group them together for a big impact. Or spread them throughout the yard in the spots where you feel they are most complementary. Using multiple pots—especially of different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns—is an excellent backyard design choice for someone who wants the option to create and re-create the landscape of their backyard with relative ease.

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Create a Pergola

The Patio Garden
Photo: Alison Miksch

Build a pergola and they will come. Seriously, neighbors, friends, the FedEx delivery person—there's no one who can pass up a glass of tea on a shady pergola. Don't even think twice about using up the majority of your backyard real estate for this classic addition.

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Go Formal

New Orleans Garden
Photo: Hector Sanchez

If you're the formal type, let your backyard follow suit. A boxwood hedge, brick-bordered beds, and a pea gravel path make up the bones of this formal garden. Use this as inspiration to create your own picturesque backyard.

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Stick with a Simple Palette

The Studio Garden
Paul Costello

If you look in your closet and it mostly consists of one or two colors, you might not be surprised to find your garden design preferences follow the same pattern. There's nothing wrong with a classic color palette, especially if it's green. It's only natural.

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Don't Overthink It

New Orleans Cottage Revival

Go with your instincts. As long as you pay attention to your planting zone and sun requirements, your yard is your oyster. Do with it as you like and you'll create a space you love to live in.

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Add a Rope Swing

Shot of a father and his little son playing on a rope swing outdoors
Getty Images

If your small backyard happens to be graced with a big enough tree, you have the perfect opportunity to install a rope swing. Then, there's always the option to add a tire or a wooden seat to it. The swing will add some interest to your yard and will be a fun source of entertainment for kids—or adults who still love to swing.

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Build a Deck

2021 Idea House Morning Deck Seating
Laurey W. Glenn

Not the type to roll in the grass? Ditch the grass and build a deck on a bed of stone or gravel that utilizes the backyard space. Decks are versatile additions to homes, where you can add furniture, a fire pit, a grill, and more.

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Set a Bigger Table

Gravel Courtyard with Seating and Dining Space
Hector Sanchez

We already suggested a little table for two, but what if you want to throw a party, or simply have a larger family? Try a bigger table. When the weather is fine, set the table and enjoy a meal outdoors.

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Add a Chicken Coop

A child runs with chickens in a yard. There is a chicken coop in the background.
Getty Images

Maybe you've thought about living on a farm, but aren't quite ready for that yet. Or, maybe you just like having access to fresh eggs. Or, maybe you just think chickens are neat. Adding a small coop to your yard (depending on the permissions for where you live) is a great, albeit somewhat unusual, option to make use of the small space.

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Plant a Flower Garden

A woman leans over to smell flowers in a colorful flower garden.
Getty Images

You can use what precious little space you have to cultivate your own garden, blossoming with whatever blooms your climate allows. A garden will allow you to spend more time outdoors and reap the health benefits, and will also provide beautiful scenery in your yard.

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Build a Mini Golf Course

A young child holds a golf club and reaches fora ball on a mini gold course in a yard.
Getty Images

A game of skill for all ages. Consider adding a mini golf course to your space—it could even be a single-hole course. Take advantage of the naturally-occurring obstacles, like hills, trees, and stones, to create a miniature challenge for yourself and your guests.

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Create a Playground

A child climbs the wrong way up a slide in a small yard
Getty Images

If you've got young children, this is definitely one of your best options for utilizing your small backyard. Add a few pieces of entertainment for the little ones—a slide, a swing set, a playhouse, a sandbox, etc. It will help to keep them occupied and encourage them to spend time outside, possibly for hours.

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Hang a Hammock

A person relaxes in a hammock, reading a book, among greenery and a soft light in a yard
Getty Images

If you simply want a place to enjoy being outside, particularly while relaxing, opt for a hammock. You can always use trees to secure the hammock (if you have them), but using sturdy posts is also a perfectly safe option. Give yourself a space to dive into a good book or even be rocked to sleep in the peace of your own backyard.

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Add a Mini Greenhouse

She is planting seedlings in the springtimegrowth
Getty Images

If you love taking care of plants but don't want a garden (or want something in addition to a garden), build a tiny greenhouse. This will give you the opportunity to care for your plants year-round without having to bring them inside (and they sometimes bring bugs with them). With a greenhouse, you can protect your seedlings and more mature plants from frost, snow, extremely cold temperatures, and excessive watering from rainfall. Plus, greenhouses are just cute.

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Build a Fire Pit

copper fire pit
Grandin Road

Perfect for toasting marshmallows in the summer and fending off early fall chills to still make use of the backyard, a fire pit can be both functional and fun. Organize comfortable chairs and decorative throws to create a cozy spot for conversing around the fire. With just a few steps and some firewood (and some safety precautions!), you'll have a cozy backyard sanctuary.

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Hang Lights

Outdoor String Lights Above Picnic Table
Jennifer Davick; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Nothing makes a yard cozier than some mood lighting. Hanging string lights is an easy and affordable way to add charm to your backyard. As the sun sets, a flip of a switch is all it takes to create an intimate and stylish setting for outdoor entertaining. In the dim lighting, delicate string lights recreate the magic of fireflies in the air. Opt for bigger hanging bulbs, discrete flickers, or even hanging sheaths.

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Add a Birdhouse

Pedestal Bird Feeder

A tasteful and decorative addition that will have your backyard bursting with life, a birdhouse, bath, or feeder can be fun for the whole family. A lovely inclusion, particularly for kids who love wildlife and adults who enjoy birdwatching, this is a way to add both classic style and attract beautiful birds. Birds singing might just be the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon spent in the backyard.

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Add a Fountain

Budget-Friendly Backyard Landscaping: The Secret Lawn
Photo: Van Chaplin

Close your eyes and a fountain can transform your backyard into a spa. The sound of trickling water is relaxing and the decorative look of the fountain is just as pleasing. A small fountain can elevate your yard with sophistication and amp up its serenity so that your backyard truly feels like a retreat.

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