10 Tips & Tricks to Make the Most of Your Small Garden

Published by Armstone, 8 November, 2018

A big backyard has always been ‘the great Australian dream’ but as the population grows it becomes increasingly unattainable. Land is in high demand, we love our large houses and as a result our backyards are shrinking. For many homes there’s little room for a barbecue, let alone a game of backyard cricket.

For renowned population growth sceptic Dick Smith, the disappearing backyard is a very sad thing. You might agree with the iconic entrepreneur, or you might be with the millions of other Australians who suggest that smaller yards might not actually be something to mourn.

The burden of the big garden

According to a survey carried out by Swinburne University in 2016, the number of people dreaming of a big backyard has significantly dropped. In fact, when given an alternative option of medium density housing with less space but in a good location with easy access to public transport, jobs and services, 48% said they would forego a big garden.

People are busy these days and don’t have two hours to mow the lawn, weed or plant up beds. Children have less time for free garden play because they have so much structured after school activities. When gardens are used less, their size plays less of an important role.

Small garden tips and tricks

Space saving solutions, such as vertical gardens, statement pot plants and climbing vines are all great examples of how you can push the boundaries of even the smallest yard. All you need is a bit of imagination and these ten tips and tricks…

1. Screening plants

With inner-city living and tightly packed in housing estates comes very close and often overlooking neighbours. If privacy is an issue, screening plants are a bold way to claim your privacy back. Bamboo is a favourite screening plant, with the Bambusa Textilis Gracilis (slender weavers bamboo) a popular choice. It has a rapid growth rate and will stay green all year round. For best screening results plant your bamboo 0.6m to 1m apart depending on how thick you want your foliage.

2. Walled gardening

Vertical gardening or walled gardening is becoming increasingly widespread and there’s a ton of inspiration and DIY tips to be found online. Take your garden in a unique direction and showcase texture, colour and vibrancy in new ways. Vertical gardens optimise space artfully and efficiently and designs can be as simple or as complex as you like. Create an edible garden wall using planter boxes, keep the view behind by hanging pots from a wall of chicken wire, create a living wall of leaves or bring artwork alive using succulents. You could also train star jasmine to go up a grid of stainless steel wires which will soften the harsh architectural features of a closed in courtyard. Paint the wall behind a shade like Dulux Monument to make the wall visually recede and the green foliage stand out.

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3. Bright colours

A garden doesn’t have to be big to be bold and dramatic especially when you incorporate colour. Choose a recurring colour to draw the eye through the entire space or add excitement to your yard by adjusting the colour scheme to suit the season. Plant in layers so that colour runs horizontally and play around with outdoor rugs which help to give a space warmth and texture. You can give your backyard a bohemian style with bold colours and a tangle of potted plants or you can turn a plain concrete patio into an inviting oasis with blues, greens and cobalt. Outdoor rugs are an easy way to set the tone for whatever you want your outdoor space to be.

4. Compact furniture

When your garden is on the small side you need to think carefully about the main purpose of your outdoor space and how you plan to use it. Is it for eating, entertaining and parties or for relaxing by yourself? Is it for kids or pets to play? Answering a few questions will help you choose compact furniture to match.

There can be gardens that relatively small footprint but manage to fit in pools as well as outdoor furniture options to suit different activities. You can have a dining table for eating, a sofa and chairs for entertaining, a chaise for lounging and even bar stools for chatting or eating at an outdoor kitchen bench.

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5. Bring the outside in and the inside out

By incorporating seamless indoor/outdoor transition you take the emphasis off what is ultimately a small backyard. Large glass windows and doors that slide all the way open blur the boundary between the two spaces and at times discard the separation completely. This is particularly true when using the same flooring (for example running travertine tiles from your kitchen out to your patio) and sharing similar styling with cushions.

6. Plant smartly

It’s easy to get it wrong when planting up small gardens. Certain species can overwhelm a space or crowd other plants. But don’t let that put you off planting. Flowers and shrubs are essential for making your small garden feel like it packs a punch.

One good trick is to layer and group low, medium and taller species together. Try planting michelia to soften an urban garden with flowers ranging from white to soft pink. Team with cycads for a medium plant and then finish with Miss Muffet. Miss Muffet is a hardy shrub with a naturally tufted shape, glossy green leaves and fragrant cream flowers in spring. A fantastic bedding plant for small gardens it withstands sun or shade and looks great all year round.

7. Attract wildlife

To truly be a garden your outdoor space needs wildlife. The good news is you don’t have to have a large space to make your garden a wildlife paradise. Try incorporating a DIY bird feeder and suspend a bird bath. Make a rock garden or an insect hotel and keep fresh water out at all times. Plant colourful flowers and shrubs to attract ladybugs, butterflies and bees and choose plants in all sizes, scents and colours.

8. Keep it tidy

Clutter in your outdoor space will make it look even smaller so make sure you keep it neat and tidy. Include storage in your design plan and trim hedges and shrubs when needed. Clean out your garden after autumn for any loose leaves and refresh plants with fertiliser. Prune damaged limbs on trees and always put your gardening tools away when finished. Don’t overcrowd your plants either, be sure to leave a bit of open space in between.

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9. Raise planting areas

You can give your small backyard the feeling of height by raising up planting with natural stone retaining walls. Integrated your stone walls with a stone staircase and help move the eye up. This creates a visual distraction from the lack of square footage.

10. Cultivate a kitchen garden

Cultivating crops isn’t something that requires a giant veggie patch or orchard. You can still pack a heap of edibles into your small garden as long as your garden gets some sun. Most edibles require six to seven hours of sunlight during the day. Even better, 20 small pots will be far easier to maintain than a large plot on acreage. Place runner beans and peas on upright frames with sweet peas for an abundant display, grow tomatoes and herbs and as we mentioned earlier you can build a vertical wall of edibles using planter boxes.

With a little design and planning you can make the most out of your small garden space! Colour, plants, furniture and landscaping all make a difference to how you use the area. If you want more information on how you can use pavers in your small garden, contact the team at Armstone today.

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Arman Minas

Arman Minas

Director at Armstone
A committed and enthusiastic expert, Arman has more than 10 years experience in the stone industry and 20 years in the design space. Arman’s strong, customer focused passion has seen countless projects come to life. At the head of the Armstone team, Arman oversees all aspects of the business.

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