How to Turn a Small Backyard into an Oasis

Close up of flower with small pool in the background

Having a private green space to retreat to is a dream for many people who have small backyards. Yet, you might feel limited by the size of your space. You know that you can’t fit a massive pool, a big deck, or substantial gardens. However, you can have the features that are most important to you. Even those that are large can be paired down to fit in a small backyard. 

Plus, there are benefits of having a smaller backyard oasis. You’ll have to do much less maintenance to keep it healthy, which means you’ll have more time to enjoy it. And, with the right design, the space can still feel private, cozy, green, and refreshing. You can learn how to turn a small backyard into an oasis with these ideas and tricks.

Planning & Design

How do you design a backyard oasis? When you have a small space, it may feel like most of the inspirational images online can’t apply to your space. So, don’t start there, as you may be discouraged quickly. 

Instead, make a list of the top three things that matter to you most in your space. That way, you won’t be worried about cramming in everything you see, but you’ll focus on the elements that are most important to you. Consider which of these is most in-line with your current vision for your space:

  • Water feature
  • Pond
  • Fountain
  • Flower garden
  • Vegetable garden
  • Raised beds
  • Container garden
  • Pergola
  • Deck or patio
  • Sitting area
  • Small outdoor kitchen
  • BBQ
  • Fire feature
  • Smoker
  • Pizza oven
  • Sandbox
  • Playset

Choosing three top priorities will help your yard begin to take shape right away. Your priorities can change as you get inspired, but it’s important to have a baseline that you can refer to so that you can make space decisions. For example, if you know that you want a seating area, a BBQ, and a small pond, but you get inspired online by other outdoor kitchen amenities, you immediately know that you have the choice between the pond and the kitchen.

However, don’t underestimate how well various features can be scaled back but still give the same benefits. In the amenities section below, we’ll give 

In the meantime, as you move through the list, keep in mind two key elements of designing a small oasis: choose vertical elements and a focal point. First, go vertical. Tall and thin features will make the space feel more private and larger. They take up less floor space so that you have more room, and they draw the eye upwards to exaggerate height. They also provide privacy

Second, design a focal point. Choose one element or object that will carry most of the visual interest and keep the rest of your small yard clear. This will prevent the space from feeling cluttered, which can make it feel even smaller and less functional

Interlocking and Natural Stone

Interlocking and natural stone can be the foundation of any space, even a small one. Use either to create a small patio that can support your major feature and seating space. Or you can use stone decoratively, creating pathways and edging, that helps reduce the lawn and therefore reduce the maintenance needed in the yard.

How can you make interlocking and natural stonework, work in a small space? Try choosing large, smooth stones. These can make the space feel larger and less cluttered. If you do choose this, consider contrasting the smooth material with some gravel, mulch, or other materials with more intricate textures. Gravel and mulch are also excellent tools to reduce the maintenance the yard needs.

Gravel doesn’t have to be small and boring. We have granite, pebble, polished, and other stone mixes that can serve as the perfect complement to your stone.

Interlocking and natural stone are also both ideals for small spaces because they can create patios in unusual shapes. In your yard, you might need to have a curved, wavy, or even triangularly shaped patio in order to make the most of your small space. You can achieve these unusual shapes with interlocking and natural stone.

You can also be grateful that you have a small yard if you want to choose one of the more high-end natural stone options. As you have less space to cover, you may be able to afford a gorgeous, unique stone that can really make your yard feel like a special spot.

Small pool surrounded by two chairs

Amenities

Once you have the foundation of your space laid out, you can start to look at the amenities you can fit in. Don’t think that you have to settle for a boring yard because yours is small. Many of the most impressive yard features can be scaled down to fit in a small space. They still provide much of the function and joy of the larger features, but they are less expensive. Here are some of your options.

Small Fire Pits

Many manufacturers sell small fire pits and tables that can easily fit into even the smallest backyard. Most look like a side table, with a gas-powered fire element in the center. They can sit next to or between two chairs. Some even offer enough of a lip to place beverages and completely remove the need to add another table to the seating area. You can also create your own small fire feature by simply building one out of interlocking.

Small Water Features

  • Shallow wading pool: They don’t have to be very deep or wide to provide what you need.
  • Lap pool: You can add a narrow pool that is only long enough for you to do a few strokes.
  • Plunge pool: These very deep, but small pools are meant to be just enough for you to submerge yourself in.
  • Small pond: A shallow pond, that is only a few feet wide, can still provide a tranquil atmosphere.
  • Water fountains: Some water fountains are small enough to sit on a table.

Small Green Spaces

You can always install a small garden in your space, right in the ground. But there are other ways to get taller, more dynamic gardens with more space, including:

  • Hanging potted plants
  • Standing potted plants
  • Vines on trellises
  • Window boxes
  • Small, stepped gardens

Multi-Purpose Furniture

Many outdoor furniture pieces are intended to be multi-functional so that you can transform them when you need to.

Grass and Synthetic Turf

Of course, what small oasis is complete without a patch of grass? Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to cover your whole space in grass for it to feel green and lush. Container gardens, trellises, and other green features can make up for a lack of grass. Besides, there are some exciting and modern backyard designs for large yards that hardly make any use of grass. There’s plenty of inspiration to be found about how to incorporate small bits of grass into a yard that is otherwise dominated by interlocking, natural stone, and garden beds.

If you’re using grass in your small space (and you live locally in or near Oakville or Mississauga), we suggest you try Kentucky Bluegrass. It has the unique characteristics to survive our specific climate, including drought tolerance and winter hardiness. Further, grass in a small space will typically see more heavy wear than in larger lawns. Kentucky Bluegrass can handle a lot of walking and pet use without dying.

However, natural grass isn’t your only option. For many who have small backyards, choosing synthetic turf is a wise idea. Some yards are so shaded out by the buildings around them, that keeping real grass healthy isn’t possible. Other people don’t want to own a lawnmower, and take up so much valuable space, just for a small patch of grass. Synthetic turf can be just as refreshing and green as the real thing. At Van Beek’s Landscape Supply, we carry three different kinds of artificial grass packages for you to choose from that all feel like natural grass. 

Close up of flower bed with stones

Maintenance

One of the best parts of having your own small oasis is that there is hardly any maintenance necessary, especially compared to massive yards with lots of features. If it is a big priority for you to reduce the maintenance in your yard, consider these tips:

  • Use artificial grass
  • Plant perennials
  • Choose a rock garden
  • Make the patio a large percentage of the space
  • Plant tall, thin evergreen trees
  • Add mulch
  • Add gravel or river rock

Are you ready to turn your small backyard into an oasis that fits your lifestyle, and doesn’t take much effort to maintain? You don’t need a big backyard to make a big impact. You can find all the supplies you’ll need to finish your project at Van Beek’s Landscape Supply. Contact us or order online today.

Sources:

https://www.rockethomes.com/blog/homeowner-tips/small-backyard-ideas

https://www.outdoorrooms.com/company/advice/fire-pits-small-backyard-spaces


https://www.quickenloans.com/blog/low-maintenance-landscaping-ideas-yard

https://www.scotts.com/en-us/library/lawn-care-basics/easy-tips-taking-care-small-lawn

https://markstonelandscaping.com/interlock-patio-design-ideas/


https://www.housebeautiful.com/room-decorating/outdoor-ideas/g26136212/small-backyard-ideas/

https://www.thespruce.com/small-backyard-landscaping-ideas-4691367

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