A backyard garden brings joy to every size and shape of yard, including balconies and small yards, decks and patios.
Some of the pleasures of a backyard include the process of nurturing plants and flowers, in designing a special space that brings you peace, or in finding escape in your backyard oasis.
Hearing the term “garden” may conjure an image of a square vegetable garden, with carrots and potatoes and tomatoes growing. But backyard garden ideas aren’t limited to vegetables, and they aren’t limited to your mother’s square plot with traditional vegetables. That’s just one possibility when it comes to backyard garden ideas.
So you ask, what else is there? Let’s look at 37 cool backyard garden ideas, so you can create an oasis for you to relish.
Some of the really cool ideas that can get you going right away are:
- Traditional Vegetable Gardens
- Raised Garden Beds
- Vegetables in Pots
- Container Gardens
- Hanging Vegetable Gardens
- Trellis Vegetable Gardens
- Herb Gardens
- Balcony Gardens
- Zen Gardens
- And more!
Traditional Vegetable Gardens
Speaking of “relish,” backyard vegetable garden ideas need to be on the list, and not just because that’s the first garden idea to come to mind. It’s also because it’s functional. After all, you can literally make relish - and pickles, and sauerkraut and so much more with the harvest from a vegetable garden. Think of those traditional “crops” planted in your mom’s or dad’s square garden plot. Cucumbers can be enjoyed fresh, or made into pickles or relish. And since fermented foods are so healthy, a few heads of cabbage can become Sauerkraut or Kimchi.
Raised Garden Beds
If you want to eat veggies all summer and process some in the fall to enjoy in the winter, you don’t have to dig a square plot. A few raised garden beds can accommodate quite a variety, and you don’t have to bend or kneel to deal with planting, weeding and harvesting. Plant a few tomatoes, which you can eat in the summer and process in the fall for salsa or spaghetti sauce. When they need to be tied to stakes, you won’t get a sore back doing it. Root vegetables like carrots and beets grow well in raised garden beds, and once again, they are easy to dig from the ground when you don’t have to bend to pull them. Backyard raised garden ideas can range from a few small raised beds to several raised containers throughout the yard, and can include vegetables or flowers or both.
Vegetables in Pots
If you’re really limited for space, then some vegetables grow well in pots. Potatoes, for instance, grow in pots, garbage bags, or special potato bags. Peppers are ideal in pots, especially if you live in a climate with a shorter summer. Peppers grow best when they’re hot, and a pot ensures the soil around the pepper is warmer than in a large garden. That’s especially true if you want to grow hot peppers like jalapenos or habaneros. Lettuce is an easy vegetable to grow in pots, ideal for small spaces like a deck or balcony. And if you want the ability to move your vegetables around, then pots are the ideal solution.
If you’re looking for more small backyard garden ideas, then container gardens are the way to go. Anything that doesn’t require a lot of space for its roots will grow well in containers. In the case of vegetables, one long container will hold several cucumber plants, zucchini or other squash. Tomatoes grow in containers, as do radishes, peas and even beans. Lettuce and peppers work in containers too, and you can even mix and match what you plant into one container. Try something unique like a tomatillo in a hot, sunny corner of the balcony, or put bright flowers in the container under a window.
Hanging Vegetable Gardens
There are also vegetables that grow easily in hanging baskets. This is an ideal space saving idea and perfect for those who have a small deck or balcony. Just remember that you need to be sure the vegetables are still getting sunlight, so they can’t hang too far under an overhang. What can you grow in a hanging basket? Small tomato varieties like grape or cherry tomatoes, some peppers, lettuce, and snow peas, or expand into a fruit like strawberries. Many gardening centers will have specific varieties just for hanging baskets, or you can buy them already planted. And there are some upside down hanging planters that are designed to allow plants like tomatoes to grow straight out of the bottom of the planter.
Trellis Vegetable Gardens
If you’ve got a trellis in your yard, then it’s the ideal spot to add a little garden plot. Plant vegetables at the base of the trellis, and “train” them to use the trellis as support while they grow.
You’ll enjoy the greenery and the flowering plant for a while, and then you’ll be able to eat the vegetables as they grow strong on the trellis. Vegetables that “grow up” and actually thrive on a trellis include tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, melons, zucchini and even pumpkins.
One of the best-smelling ideas for your backyard is a herb garden. A variety of herbs can be planted on their own, mixed in with vegetables, or planted in pots or hanging baskets and placed on the deck, where you can enjoy the smell of basil, for instance, each time you pass by. Some herbs, if grown in a pot, will even come inside in the winter, if you’ve got a nice sunny window. Some herbs will return year after year, if they’re perennial like oregano. And some will help keep insects away, like mint, which is also delicious in a mojito.
If you’ve got a small balcony and still want to enjoy some vegetables, then many of these backyard vegetable garden ideas will work. Depending on your space, you can have a few pots with vegetables, some hanging baskets with vegetables, or long containers with a variety of vegetables and herbs. Even a container of lettuce will allow you to feel the joy of growing something yourself, and as you trim lettuce, it re-grows, allowing you to eat fresh lettuce all summer long. Mix in some flower pots and you’ve created a beautiful garden oasis even in a small space.
Perennial Flower Gardens
Not everyone wants to grow vegetables, so flower gardens are a beautiful addition to your backyard. If you design a perennial garden, you will do the work once and enjoy the beauty of blooms every year. Perennial flowers return every year, and require only occasional thinning or dividing, depending on the plant. Some are best in the shade and others thrive in full sun, so there’s something for every backyard. With some careful planning, you can have flowers that bloom at different times, and you’ll be able to revel in blooms from different plants all summer long.
Annual Flower Gardens
Annuals are another option for your backyard. You can start seeds over the winter, or purchase seedlings each spring, allowing you to try different plants and different combinations. Some people prefer the flexibility and variety of annuals, in particular if you want to use pots, containers, or hanging flower pots.
In small yards, on balconies, porches and decks, annual flowers in pots are an easy and beautiful addition. Most perennials, with the exception of herbs, don’t do well in pots.
If you’re wondering, How can I landscape my yard? There doesn’t have to be one answer. There are many options to mix and match. While vegetables can be grown in the ground, in raised beds, in containers and in pots, the same is true of flowers. You can combine flowers and vegetables, in beds, raised containers and pots. You can
Unique Planters in Your Garden
You aren’t restricted to store-bought pots when it comes to planting flowers or even vegetables in your garden. Consider these unique ideas when it comes time to add some character to your backyard:
- Kitchen items like pots or teapots
- Bird bath
- Old sandbox
- Canoe or kayak
- Farm trough
- Cinder blocks
- Old BBQ
Heck, I’ve even seen flowers planted in an old toilet, which might be OK if you’re a plumber by trade.
If your yard is sloped or you live on the side of a hill, then build tiered planters to support your garden. Tiers are attractive, increase your planting space, make the garden look bigger, and will keep moisture in the garden instead of running off the hill. You can incorporate stone walls into the tiers, steps, and even a patio in one of the tiers, allowing you to sit and enjoy the flowers or vegetables all around you.
If you don’t have access to water, you live in a very hot climate, you don’t get much rain, or you don’t want to be bothered to water regularly, then a xeriscape garden is among the lowest maintenance of all backyard garden design ideas. Xeriscape is a form of landscape design that uses drought-tolerant plants or those that require little to no water to thrive.
Xeriscape is also used by those who want to minimize environmental impact by conserving water. In many areas, it also allows you to include native plants in your garden.
Somewhat similar to xeriscape is what’s known as a Zen garden. This minimalist design follows seven guiding principles and features natural elements of rock, gravel, sand and wood, and man-made items like statues and bridges. It’s uncluttered with muted colors to promote calm, and there are usually very few plants and no water. This gives it year-round appeal, allowing you to enjoy the backyard in any season. However, you can incorporate your own backyard zen garden ideas, adding a water feature if you want, for instance. Others prefer to add backyard Japanese garden ideas, like bonsai and statues that mimic Japanese architecture. Make your garden zen for you by incorporating the elements that provide you joy and bring peace.
A xeriscape garden usually incorporates hardy plants as well as stones, boulders, mulch and other attractive landscaping components. That won’t always work in a small yard, or balcony. One of the easiest DIY backyard garden ideas is a succulent garden. You can grow succulents in containers, making it easy to add pots to your balcony. You can convert a bird bath into a unique looking succulent garden. You can buy containers already full of succulents. Or, you can plant them in flower beds, along fences, or incorporate them along with your backyard rock garden ideas. Succulents are also drought-resistant and hardy, making them easy to care for, and if you do decide on pots, you can bring them inside in cooler temperatures, where they help clean the air.
If you’re looking to add a little whimsy to your yard, then backyard fairy garden ideas are the place to start. If you have kids, it’s especially fun, but a fairy garden is a magical touch at any age. You can include it with flowers, vegetables, trees, grass, succulents, ponds, and any other type of garden. Add tiny furniture, tiny houses or cottages, tiny cars, and more. It’s an easy do-it-yourself project, and you can add to it over time.
Gardens aren’t just flowers and plants. Rocks can be incorporated into gardens, or be the dominant feature. Natural rocks evoke nature in the same way as greenery, and a variety of rocks can provide texture and color in the same way as a variety of flowers. Rocks can be used in a pathway, around the edges of flowers, incorporated into a pond, or form the basis of the entire yard. Rock gardens are also ideal if you have a small yard, your soil is not conducive to growing, or you don’t have time to tend to plants. And if you want, you can also add pots with succulents, flowers, or a fairy house to your rock garden.
Wet Climate Gardens
If you live in a particularly damp climate, it may be difficult to grow vegetables or flowers, without carefully choosing them and ensuring they have proper drainage, among other considerations. How about a moss garden? Providing greenspace without much effort, a backyard sanctuary with a few shade plants, rocks and moss will be just as enjoyable without the work. Or, consider growing mushrooms. Depending on your location, mushrooms love damp, dark locales, grow in a variety of substances, and provide the healthy bonus of adding them to your meal at the end of the day.
If you have a really small space, like an apartment balcony, and you still want greenery and possibly small vegetables, then a garden tower is for you. There are different sizes available, and you can add growing lights to some of them, allowing you to bring it inside in the winter months.
In most cases, plants grow in the edges of the tower, which has levels of growing space that differ depending on the size. Some of them can handle a lot of plants, making them perfect to sit in the corner of a balcony, small deck and eventually your kitchen.
If this all sounds great, but you operate on a tight budget, you’re probably wondering: How do I make my garden look nice for cheap? Here are a few ideas. Arrange for a neighborhood plant swap in the spring, in which you exchange perennial cuttings with your neighbors. Everyone benefits as you will all get a variety of plants for free.
Another idea is to pick up some used wooden pallets, which are usually free, and use them to make a small privacy fence or backdrop for a small container garden.
Their construction makes them easy to hang planters, which you can look for at thrift stores, garage sales, or by repurposing tin cans or even paint cans.
This is a unique idea that can help bring privacy to your space as well, particularly if you’re wondering: How can I make my garden private?, or How do I block out my neighbor’s view of my backyard? You can erect a privacy screen like a lattice fence on a deck, and then hang potted plants, bringing greenery to the space. You can add a trellis to a fence, such as a chain-link fence that doesn’t really block the view, and plant a vine at the base.
You can plant a hedge that serves as a fence. These will all provide some privacy without conveying that you really don’t like your neighbors. Of course, you can also build a big fence.
If you have a small space, or you have children, pets - or pests - in your backyard, then a small garden contained in a fence is the solution. Whatever you plant inside will be organized, a fence is a nice addition to the yard, and you can put in a small gate to get in and out of the plot. Just remember to build a fence that allows light through to the plants.
If you have space between houses, between your house and fence, or fence and garage, or an easement or alleyway behind your fence, take advantage by putting in garden beds.
Whether you plant vegetables, herbs, perennials, or annuals, take advantage of the extra space by adding greenery to your yard - even if you’re the only one who ever sees it.
Gardens Dedicated to A Flower You Love
If you’re fond of a particular flower, then that species can dominate your backyard. For instance, rose garden ideas for backyard design include planting a variety of species and colors, having them in dedicated flower beds or throughout the yard, or even dedicating an entire space.
The same can be done with lilies, geraniums, and other special flower species.
Greenhouse In The Garden
If you love to spend time planting and growing, whether that’s flowers, vegetables or both, then a greenhouse is a beautiful and functional addition to your backyard. Use your greenhouse to start plants early in the spring, to divide plants or re-pot plants, and to store your gardening supplies.
You can add a few chairs and enjoy sitting in the protection of the greenhouse on cool or windy days, or go all out and turn it into a three-season room with the added functionality of serving as your planting go-to spot.
Seating In the Garden
If you love your garden, you’ll want to spend time enjoying it. So add a seating area, where you can be close to or even contained within the garden. Smell the flowers. Watch the progress of your tomato plants. Listen to the water feature. Keep an eye out for visitors to the fairy garden. Whether it’s a wrought-iron bench, a bistro set, full patio furniture, or a hidden stone seat, it’s worth adding seating to the garden.
Lighting in the Garden
Similar to seating, if you put lighting in the garden, you can be out there at any time of day or night. Some simple string lights across the fence provide enough light for you to sit out after sunset. Border lighting lets you walk out to the seating area to watch the sun come up. Lights with bug-resistant bulbs allow you to sit out all summer long, without worrying about pests.
Pathways Through the Garden
A path through your garden area is functional, allowing you to walk among the plants to seed, weed, harvest and clean out the garden. But a pathway can be a focal point of the garden too. Make it a winding path instead of straight. Use different colors of stones to make it visually appealing.
Use a combination of pavers and gravel. Use natural flat stones instead of man-made pavers. Build a geometric design into it, where you can place the seating area. There’s so much you can do beyond a simple asphalt sidewalk.
A Water Feature in the Garden
There’s nothing more relaxing than being in nature and listening to a stream, brook or waterfall. You can recreate that in your garden with a water feature. A small space can handle even a small fountain or bird bath. Larger yards can accommodate a larger fountain, a pond, and even a pond with a waterfall. Birds will love it, and you can add fish if you like. If you have a really large pond, you can even incorporate a unique structure like a bridge over the pond.
Statues in the Garden
It’s easy to add a personal touch and interesting visual identity to your garden with a statue or several statues. It’s all up to your personality and taste. There are little garden animals, like rabbit statues. There are mythical creatures like gnomes and gargoyles. There are storybook characters, like Alice in Wonderland. Some people prefer a buddha or other zen feature, like a temple.
There are garden angels, and there are statues that are part of a fountain or pond edge. There are even statues of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals and environment due to his deep love of nature. His presence may bring good luck to your green thumb.
A Flower Filled Structure in the Garden
Consider adding a structure in your garden on which you can grow flowers, vines, or for climbing vegetables to use to grow. A pergola is one idea, which can provide shade as well as allow you to add even more plants, since they will grow up instead of out. A trellis on a fence is another option. An arched entrance way can separate the lawn part of the yard from the garden, and provide space for flowers, vines or vegetables.
Let’s not forget the old standby of planting grass in a backyard. If you like the feel of grass under your feet, or you have kids or pets and want them to enjoy playing in the backyard, then grass is still a go-to choice for many. And you can dress up a regular grassy yard, too. Ornamental grasses can be planted around the edges or in flower beds, adding texture, movement, and often color. Fountain grass, feather grass, and switchgrass are just a few ornamental grasses that will add a decorative touch. An environmentally friendly alternative to traditional grass is clover, which is drought resistant, and rarely needs to be mowed.
Having children doesn’t mean your garden gets removed for a play structure, sandbox or baseball field. It is possible to design gardens that are child-friendly, so the whole family can enjoy the space. You can add a play structure, but make it in one section of the yard so the garden can be safe in another corner. Put in an area with turf, so the kids can play ball without damaging the grass. Put in a playhouse, treehouse, or unique structure like a “hidden” playhouse that’s simply fencing covered with vines. And don’t forget to involve the kids in the garden, getting them to plant flowers, vegetables, and design the fairy garden.
If you have pets, then make it easy for them to enjoy your garden space as well. That could mean having a fence around your garden space, so they aren’t constantly getting yelled at for digging in the garden. It could mean a small fenced run so your cat can be free outside without running away.
It could mean planting clover instead of traditional grass - clover is resistant to pet urine, unlike grass which can turn brown everywhere Fido pees. Or, for a fun conversation piece, add a replica of a fire hydrant to the garden. You can even train Fido to use it.
Lawns and Gardens and Fences and More
Once again, you can incorporate a number of backyard garden ideas into your yard, depending on your situation. If you have children, you can leave the lawn intact for them to play, add a fence to keep them in, and plant bordered gardens around the lawn, against the fence. You can plant vegetables or flowers or both. You can use pots, or containers, or hang planters from the fence.
As we understand more about the important role of bees as pollinators, it’s worth providing an environment that attracts and sustains them. So when you’re considering different backyard flower garden ideas, remember to include flowers to attract and help bees. That includes spring bloomers like fruit trees, flowers they love such as borage, and autumn bloomers like stonecrop. Native plants are important too. If you’re wondering - What plants can I grow in my backyard? - look for a local resource like a college or gardening club for advice on local plants. Bees also support a bountiful harvest for your vegetable garden, so consider adding bees to your backyard with a nesting block of non-invasive leafcutter bees that will stay busy in your yard and help production in your vegetable garden.
Sum and Substance
Nothing finishes off a backyard space like a garden. But a garden that I love may not be the same as your ideal garden, or the one your neighbor prefers.
Some of us want to eat fresh vegetables every day, some of us want roses blooming all summer and still others want the low maintenance of xeriscape, Zen or succulent gardens.
About The Author
Ardith Stephanson has a journalism degree and spent years having fun as a sports writer for a national newspaper. She has also worked in communications and marketing, ran a successful communications business, and is a national award-winner. These days, she prefers to focus solely on writing, and to spend a lot of time in her backyard, where her garden, the firepit, local birds and her bee barn keep her busy and entertained. She writes about her adventures at theardizan.com