17 Small Garden Ideas for Your Tiny Lawn

So your backyard isn’t acre after acre of rolling hills and patio space as far as the eye can see? Phew. We asked experts for their best small garden ideas and learned that so often, less is more. By prioritizing your must-haves, maximizing your space, and picking the right plants and outdoor furniture, you can still create the yard, patio, or balcony of your dreams. Here, the pros—who include landscaping designers, horticulturalists, and garden gurus—lay out how to make it happen. So go for that herb or veggie garden, alfresco kitchen and dining room, reading nook surrounded by blooms, or personal bird-watching retreat.

What plants are best in a small garden?

Teri Valenzuela of Sunday, a lawn and garden care company, encourages gardeners to consider native plants. He says, “For small gardens, native plants are a perfect, often overlooked option. They’re not only adapted to your climate and require less water once established, but they attract beneficial pollinators and insects too.”

How do you structure or organize a small garden?

Justin Hancock, a horticulturist at Costa Farms, says, “I like to start my design process with an anchor or a focal point. It might be a particular plant or structure (such as an arbor), or a piece of garden art. Consider the angles you’ll most frequently look at the focal point from, keeping in mind the view from inside the house if your garden is visible from a spot in your home where you spend a lot of time.” As for deciding your focal point, Kristin Monji of New York’s Birch and Basil Design recommends starting with what makes you happy. “Since you don’t have a ton of room to spare, really think about what aspects of a garden will make you the happiest and start by incorporating these as best you can,” she says.

How do you start a small garden for beginners?

Stephanie Waltz of Star Roses and Plants says, “Gardening is an ongoing learning process, so don’t be afraid to try new things and edit as time goes on. Start with good soil and figure out what kind of plants will be best for your garden area. You may need full-sun plants or plants that can handle some shade. Be sure to read the plant labels and go from there.”

What furniture works best for small outdoor spaces?

“For small outdoor spaces we recommend folding furniture made of ultra-durable materials, like teak, that can be stored and used all year round,” says Chris Putrimas of the outdoor furniture company Teak Warehouse. He also recommends multifunctional furniture (for example, an ottoman that also opens to provide storage). Not only will you maximize the space, but you can devote your budget to a few high-quality pieces.

What are some ideas for balcony gardens?

“In a way, designing a balcony garden is even more fun than an in-ground garden because everything is in containers,” says Hancock. “It’s a lot easier to move things around or switch them out so you have more flexibility.” He also recommends picking a color theme to ensure the space stays cohesive. Use this palette to choose plants, pots, and potentially an outdoor rug. You can even paint a wall of the balcony to carry the theme. Waltz adds, “Use every space! There is so much more to it than just placing a few pots on the ground. Try some hanging baskets or a small trellis against a wall.” Or create a living wall by attaching potholders or hanging multiple levels of shelving.

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