As landscapers, we talk a lot about front yards and backyards—but what about side yards? Many people overlook the areas on either side of their house and think of them as nothing more than a pathway from the front yard to the backyard, but we believe they have much more potential.
Whether you have open grass to play with or a narrow space between your house and a privacy fence, there are ways to make your side yard work for you. Read on for some of our favorite suggestions on ways to make your side yard a beautiful space that expands your area to work and play.
No matter how oddly shaped your side yard might be, there’s someone who’ll appreciate that space: your kids. You can easily upgrade your unused side yard into a kid’s paradise with simple additions. There are endless possibilities—think play castles, a sports area, a mess-allowed art space, a hopscotch court…
Tailor your design to what the kids in your life love and your side yard will quickly become the most used outdoor space at your home. Two of our favorite side yard designs for kids have included a climbing wall (an amazing way to build vertical space into a narrow area) and a mural-sized chalkboard!
Make your side yard work for you with a garden plot or two! Whether you’re looking for ornamental flowers to spruce up the view outside your window or vegetable beds to produce something delicious to toss in tonight’s salad, you’ve got options.
Raised beds and container gardening both make easy options to squeeze into spaces of almost any shape, all without needing to dig into the ground. Just be sure to think about the light you get in your side yard before you plant any seedlings—those tomatoes won’t grow if a privacy fence leaves them in constant shade.
What if your space is extremely narrow but you still love the look of greenery? Meet the vertical garden—a type of space-efficient gardening that can utilize any fence or wall that gets sunlight. You can create a flower trellis for vining plants to grow up to add some interest out your window, or even create a mounted herb garden!
There are many types of purchasable or easily DIYed planters that can turn a fence into an area to grow strawberries, salad greens, and fresh herbs. Some mounted planters even come with irrigation built in to make these gardens simple and low maintenance.
If you’ve got a long side yard space to work with, that makes the perfect space for a dog run. Even if the space feels a little awkward for human use, your four-legged family members will appreciate the space to stretch their legs and get the zoomies out before an afternoon nap in the sun.
Think about using a hardy groundcover that can withstand heavy paw-traffic. If you like the look of grass, tall fescue is a sturdy option that will resist lawn burn from pet urine. You can also opt for long-lasting grass alternatives including artificial turf, pea gravel, and wood chips. You might also consider adding fences for free running, shade areas, and access to water after a good play session.
If you’re struggling to find good narrow side yard ideas and you love a day out on the green, a side yard putting green might be the ideal option for you. All it takes is a stretch of natural or artificial turf and a hole to turn an awkwardly long and narrow side yard into a space to enjoy the outdoors and perfect your putt. Level up your putting green with uneven terrain, golf club storage, or a seating area to rest your feet after you get a few good strokes in.
Trash Storage or Compost Area
Look, we all have garbage, and it can be a struggle to make sure your trash (or AC units, etc.) aren’t an eyesore. Use your side yard as a private nook to hide away garbage and recycling bins behind a privacy fence or strategically placed plants. They’ll be close enough to the curb to easily wheel out on garbage day without being a constantly visible part of your landscaping. You can cover or hide your AC units or anything else that’s in your side yard through smart design.
You can also use this as a composting area! Home composting can be surprisingly easy and low impact (and yes, that means it doesn’t have to stink). Whether you prefer an open-air compost pile or closed bins, this is an excellent spot to tuck them away. All the better if this area is close to any garden beds where you’ll want to spread that nutritious compost!
Pool or Hot Tub
Okay, we know what you’re thinking—pools are big how would those fit into a side yard? Well, it depends on the size of the pool and the size of your side yard, but we’ve seen it done. There are plenty of ways you can lounge in the water without needing to install a massive in-ground pool. Compact options include cocktail pools, stock tank pools, and plunge pools. All of these options have a small footprint in your yard but make a huge upgrade to your side patio ideas! Check out our list of Pool Landscaping Ideas for more inspiration.
If soaking in the warmth is more your style, a hot tub is calling your name. Above-ground installation and a relatively small size makes a hot tub an option even if you’re looking for small side yard ideas. This upgrade will also increase the hours of the day you’ll want to use your outdoor living spaces. What’s better than stargazing from the comfort of your hot tub? We have a full guide on How to Integrate a Hot Tub into Your Landscape Seamlessly to help you get the ball rolling.
If none of these ideas strike a chord with you or you’re just looking to keep things simple, there are still plenty of small side yard landscaping ideas that will make your side yard more livable and beautiful. If your side yard is being used mostly as a walkway, make it the best walkway it can be! Start by tidying up your landscaping and making sure there’s a clear path.
Next, consider the light your side yard receives. If you receive low light, a shade-friendly ground cover plant will provide fewer headaches than grass. If this is a high-traffic area, consider installing concrete pavers, stepping stones, or other path options—you can find some of our favorites in our Guide to Hardscape. If you’re lucky enough to get strong light in your side yard, you might want to plant some low-maintenance plants in the area to bring some life to the space.
All these side yard design ideas should serve as a springboard for your side yard design process, whether you’re ready to start on your vertical garden or the putting green has inspired you to build your dream cornhole setup. If you want someone to help you bring your ideas to life, we can help with our easy online landscape design process! Our design experts are pros at turning any side yard into a space that will become your new favorite outdoor feature.