How to make the most of a small outdoor space

How to make the most of a small outdoor space

Last updated:20/07/2022

Even the tiniest outside space or garden can make for a great spot to enjoy life outdoors. 

Don’t let your options be limited by size: you could create an oasis of calm to enjoy a drink at the end of the day, a lively spot for some outdoor dining, or a small yet productive garden for growing your own food. 

You don’t need a big budget or well-honed gardening skills either - just some imagination, time and willingness to give it a try if you’re not green fingered. 

Here are some ways to make the most of your small outdoor space. 

First, make a plan

Think over how much space you have and how you could use it. Make sketches if it helps, to scale if possible. Then make a list of priorities, and see what might potentially fit.

In this planning stage, bear in mind that you don’t need to do it all in one go. This is especially true if you’ve just moved in and have lots of other competing priorities and expenses in your new home. Perhaps you could focus on one garden project this year, another the next and so on.

Make the most of what you’ve got

DIY bar

If you have a patio or decking, then this is a good place to start. Begin with getting it into shape, particularly if it has been neglected. Get rid of any broken old plant pots and junk, and prune back overgrown plants. 

Then consider what you want to add. You don’t need huge amounts of space to add a small DIY garden bar, fire pit or simple pizza oven. Some well placed, warm lighting can liven up the space too, and even add depth to small garden spaces.

Image from Garden Patch

Go up, up, up

Vertical Herb Garden

The classic solution to a lack of space is to think vertically as well as horizontally. This approach can work for an outdoor space too. 

So take what you can off the ground, especially if you have a wall or strong fence available. You can fix some slim shelves onto it, for plants, storing tools - or as a makeshift bar on a warm summer’s day. 

An alternative to shelves is to turn that wall or fence into your own vertical growing space. You can buy some wall hanging planter bags fairly cheaply. The internet also provides lots of ideas to create your own similar effect - for example, with some hose clamps and screws, you can secure your terracotta or plastic pots onto a pallet.

Image from Seed Pantry

Create zones and use screens

Runner Bean Wheelie Bin

Another classic way to create the impression of more space - and bring more appeal and personality to your garden - is to compartmentalise it into separate zones. They can each have their own character and purpose. 

This can be easier and cheaper than you might think. You can use bamboo, willow or reed screening, which is easily found at garden centres or online. Or, if you’re patient enough, you could add a trellis to grow plants up. Such screens are also great for hiding ugly things like wheelie bins when space is short.

Another way of creating the illusion of zones is to add a path, especially if you can curve one off to an angle, rather than going straight down the middle of your lawn.

Also, perhaps you could bring in some of that vertical mentality into your zoning, by creating different levels. This needn’t involve anything drastic, but if you’re able to add a step or two, it could add new perspectives to your garden.

Image from Urban Dwellers Scrimping

Create a kitchen garden

Kitchen Garden

Why not make one of your garden zones a small-scale kitchen garden? Easy to grow veg (like tomatoes or runner beans) and herbs don’t need acres of space and will be happy in pots. 

Going back to your vertical theme, some veggies and fruit can also grow well in hanging baskets.

Image from Pinimg

Make space for kids

Childrens Outdoor Kitchen

If you have young children, then they might well have very different ideas about how to use that precious outside space.

A good way to keep everyone happy is to dedicate one of your garden zones to the needs of your little ones. For example, a small mud kitchen can provide entertainment at low cost and using little space. Or, if you choose to grow some of our own, you could ensure you provide a ‘plot’ (or at least a pot or two) for the kids to tend to.

Image from Etsystatic

Create your own personal retreat

Garden Retreat - Lattice Wall

Don’t forget to include your own personal space too. Look for a small corner that could become a cosy seating area. There are plenty of ways to define this as a ‘living area’ in your garden. For example, outdoor rugs are affordable and will help to create a focal point, matched with some small furniture. Or you could add a patio canopy or gazebo, for some shade and privacy if you’re overlooked.

Image from Amazon

Get the right furniture

Garden Furniture

Clearly, with a small space, you don’t want to fill it with too much furniture. 

A compact bistro set can be perfect - this usually comprises two chairs and a small table, which are foldable or stackable, and easy to store away. It’s a simple tip but using fold up furniture can make a big difference when you’re trying to save space. An alternative is a bench that doubles as storage space. 

Or if you’re a keen gardener, you may want a mini greenhouse too. These can be bought quite cheaply, or again, you can have a go at making your own - think a basic box frame complete with clear polycarbonate sheets. Sites like Pinterest or YouTube are a gold mine for these DIY projects, so you will probably find something that’s right for your garden space. 

Soon enough, your tiny outside space will punch well above its weight. Enjoy.

Image from The Independent

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