Your backyard is the natural outdoor extension of your home. Coming up with simple landscaping ideas that promise to enhance your backyard space can be a fun (albeit tedious) project for any homeowner.
You can transform your backyard into party central, a quiet sanctuary for you and your family, or something that’s nice to look at from your kitchen window.
Before you dig in, you need to draw a scaled map of your backyard. Your map should include all existing sheds, trees, walkways, fencing and gates, playscapes, patios, decks, and irrigation systems. Then make an overlay to show what you want to add and remove.
Developing the best possible backyard landscaping ideas for your needs often starts with some tough questions, such as:
- Who will use your backyard?
- How do you plan to use your backyard?
- Does where you live impact your landscape design?
- Do you need to consider your regional climate and backyard terrain when redesigning your backyard?
To help you along with your landscaping ideas, we’ve come up with the ultimate design cheat sheet so you can spend less time on the tough questions, and more time bringing your dream backyard to life.
Make Good Planting Choices
From marigolds to Hosta and from shrubs to trees, you may have a lot of ideas about what you’d like to plant in your backyard. Before you begin choosing plants, you need to know what will flourish in your backyard and what you should avoid.
Take these three steps before you head to the garden shop or order plants online:
Find Your Hardiness Zone
A hardiness zone is a geographical area defined to include a range of climate conditions to plant zone survival. Hardiness zone maps from the United States Department of Agriculture
or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
can be used to determine the plants most-likely to thrive in your backyard.
Chart Sun Exposure
The best way to do it is to mark off where you want to plant in your backyard and record what type of sunlight it gets every hour: full sun, partial shade, filtered sun, or full shade. Then you choose plants according to their preferred level of sun exposure. This will let you know which plants will flourish best in all parts of your backyard.
Check Your Soil Type
There’s no such thing as perfect soil, but some plants grow better based on the soil type. Most backyard garden plants prefer loam, which is 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. Some plants grow better in more sandy soils and others in more clay soils. You can test your backyard soil by making a “mudshake”
in a mason jar. When you've determined your soil's texture, your backyard will better sustain healthy plant growth.
Simple or Practical Planting?
Your landscaping ideas should include what type of plants you’d like in your backyard, and an idea of how much time you want to spend maintaining them. Do you want your plants to add beauty to your backyard, or do you want them to have a function: for example, will they provide a source of shade, privacy, or food?
Perennials are flowers or plants which are expected to live longer than two years
. When you cut down a perennial after its flower dies off, its root system will live. Flowers like the black-eyed Susan and the coneflower and low-growing plants like creeping thyme add color to your backyard, and plants like Hosta and pachysandra stand out in the shade and are easy to maintain.
Annuals are typically planted in the spring and summer, bloom for one season
, and then die off. The good news is they are usually less expensive than perennials, and they can be used to provide a trendy and seasonal look to your backyard landscape. The bad news is they require more work: planting annuals can be time-consuming because they need to be replaced every year.
A hedge planted along your borderline can offer exceptional privacy
. When cared for properly, hedges can add color and texture to your backyard landscaping. Plants such as arborvitae, bamboo, ornamental grasses, and boxwood grow quickly as hedges and give you privacy.
The sustainable garden trend
has been rising because people are looking to make better food choices. While tomatoes are a popular choice for at-home gardeners, fruits and vegetables such as peppers, kale, carrots, cucumbers, and can be grown in most climates.
Garden mulch is not just a decorative part of landscape design: it helps plants and trees thrive and flourish. Garden mulch helps soil retain moisture and breaks down over time to contribute to soil health. It also helps control weed growth and keeps plants and trees warm during the winter.
A beautiful landscape can miss the mark if your lawn has bare spots or unsightly crabgrass. However, you can’t just go to the grain and feed store, grab the first bag of grass seed or roll of sod you see, and expect perfect results.
Before you buy grass seed, you need to know which type of grass grows best in your area
. Cool-season grasses like bluegrass, bentgrass, and perennial rye grow heartier in the northern United States and Canada, while warm-season grasses like Bermuda, centipede, and zoysia grow better down south.
When you mulch your grass clippings, you’re returning nutrients to the soil and that will keep your backyard healthy. That’s like naturally fertilizing your lawn for free whenever you mow!
Fencing for a Variety of Functions and Looks
Fencing provides so much more than an attractive looking backdrop for your backyard landscaping. The right low-maintenance fence will provide added privacy, security, and safety, as well as help mark your property lines.
Fences can be made of a variety of materials, from pressure-treated wood to metal to PVC to vinyl. Their posts can be anchored into the ground or be set atop low retaining walls made of brick, stone, or railroad ties. While wrought iron, split rail, and common picket fences are decorative and great for marking borders, a stockade fence will offer more privacy.
As the saying goes, good fences make good neighbors. Before you put up a fence, follow these neighborly rules of etiquette
Talk to your neighbor:
No one likes to make up and find out a fence has been erected on their property line. Let your neighbor know you are planning to put up a fence. Also, make sure you know exactly where your property lines are. Many municipalities now have geographic information system (GIS) databases
Don’t have a border war:
If your neighbor has an existing fence, do not build a fence that rests against it. Hard to reach weeds and trees will grow between them, debris will collect, and mold and fungus will easily form. This will all cause premature aging of both fences.
Put your best face forward:
When there are clearly two sides to a fence, it is common practice to have the more-finished side of your fence face the road or your neighbor’s property.
Decks and patios
If you are lucky, your backyard already has a deck or a patio (or both), and all you need to worry about is making them beautiful and functional. Decks and patios are terrific entertaining spaces for your family and friends but can also be an excellent remote home office on a beautiful day.
The Pros and Cons of Patios
A patio can be cost-effective
in the long run but building it can be labor-intensive. Also, if you want to have a patio, your backyard needs a flat terrain and cannot be prone to flooding. Whether you want a simple concrete slab or an elaborate design with pavers and stone, patios do not require a lot of maintenance. Digging and leveling a base, heavier materials, and making sure the top doesn’t slope means they take longer to build.
What’s Good and Bad About Decks?
A deck enhances the value of your home
, increases your living space, and gives your backyard more functional possibilities. A deck can extend over essentially any landscape, which makes it a good choice for sloping backyards. Despite their beauty, decks do have cons. Wood decks require regular sealing and staining and rails and planks can rot with age. But larger pieces of wood also mean it takes less time to build a deck than a patio.
Making Your Patio or Deck Fun and Functional
Whether your patio or deck will be an entertainment hub or a place for the family to hang out, you’ll want it to be a fun and functional extension of your living space.
There are many things to consider when decorating your backyard patio or deck. You can furnish your deck or patio with an outdoor dining set, Adirondack chairs
, lounges, sofas, patio umbrellas
, and more, depending on your personality and taste.
If you entertain often, you may want to have a grill and a bar on your deck or patio
. A deck box
is a fantastic and attractive storage solution for your patio or deck. Planters make a colorful addition to your deck and also make an attractive patio border.
Throw in Some Shade
Your backyard landscaping needs sunlight. You, however, will need some shade! Working or entertaining in your backyard also brings an increased risk of skin cancer
, and sun protection is your best line of defense. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you stay in the shade, and the best way to do that whilst enjoying your backyard is to set up sun protection and shade structures where you and your family can relax and take reprieve.
and shade sails
can be attached to your house, a tree, or a post to create a unique design and block 90% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. They can be installed during the spring and taken down in the fall for winter storage.
A hard top or soft top gazebo
can add character and style to your backyard, patio, or deck. In addition to sun protection, they can protect your family and guests from the rain and other elements that fall from the sky. A solarium
will also keep you protected from bugs and can turn your patio into a year-round sunroom.
A Simple Backyard Storage Shed
Now that you’re going to have a nice-looking lawn and flourishing plants to maintain, you’re going to need a backyard storage shed
for your lawn equipment and tools.
Finding the best backyard storage shed for your needs and yard size does not need to be challenging. You need to know what purpose your shed will serve, how it will fit in your backyard, and what they are made of.
Pool chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides should only be stored in a metal shed if they are in an airtight container. These chemicals can cause premature corrosion and rust damage to the unit. Flammable liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, and propane should not be stored in fabric shelters.
Durable and attractive metal sheds
come in a many of shapes and sizes to fit a variety of backyard storage needs, and pleasantly blend in with most backyard aesthetics. They are designed to be stationary and should be anchored to prevent wind damage. Tough, rugged fabric sheds
have powder coated steel frames and durable polyethylene or PVC covers. Fabric sheds are portable, too, so you can easily move it when you need to.
Both types of sheds can be used to store lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rakes, and the other equipment you’ll need for neat backyard landscaping. They can even be used to store patio equipment, grills, and other outdoor accessories during the winter months.
Connecting Your Backyard Landscaping Ideas
Now that you have all these simple landscaping ideas for your backyard, how are you going to connect it? Building a walkway or a pathway is a simple DIY project
that can be done in a weekend or less.
Start by using a garden spade or edge to lay out the shape of walkway, then dig out a few inches of dirt, and fill it with crushed rock. Cover the crushed rock with landscaping fabric, and then lay in gravel, cobblestones, pavers, flagstone, or whatever material you would like your walkway to be.
Take Your Time with Backyard Landscaping
While many of these simple landscaping ideas are weekend projects, the thought of executing them may seem overwhelming.
Just remember that landscape design is a marathon, not a sprint. It may take you an entire season to just plant annuals and perennials, or weeks to build a walkway.
If you can patiently implement your backyard landscaping ideas, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful backyard for years to come.