Side Yard Landscaping Ideas You’ll Love

As interest in making the garden an extension of the home increases, more homeowners are incorporating outdoor areas for dining, cooking and relaxing. As urban land shrinks, every square inch is scarce. While front and back yards get most of the attention, side gardens are often neglected and waste space.

A side yard is primarily the connection between the front and back yards. The area tends to be dark and narrow and presents unique design challenges, so the potential to create an attractive and functional space is often missed. Here are some side garden ideas to get you started.

Evaluate the space in the side garden.
Measure the area to get a more accurate sense of size and dimensions. Observe how the light falls at different times of the day and season.

Consider the function.
Do you just want to use the space as a way to transport things from front to back? Is there space for garden beds, a seating area, a fountain, a grill, a storage shed, a flower bench, a children’s play area, a dog run, or other amenities? A deeply shaded side garden can be seen as an opportunity to create a cool summer retreat.

Look for inspiration.
Browse online resources and books and visit local gardens to get design ideas and see what worked and what didn’t.

Create a plan.
For simple upgrades, create a rough sketch or consult a landscape architect for a more elaborate design.

Consider scale.
Use materials that complement both the size of the room and the adjacent house.

Choose a style.
Use materials that complement the home’s exterior and the rest of the yard. A brick path suits a classic colonial home, while clean cement pavers suit modern architecture better.

Side yard with gate, garden gate and arbor
Garden design
Calimesa, California
A rustic rose arbor creates a welcoming entrance to the backyard and separates the two spaces. Insights into the backyard make the side garden appear larger. Designer: Mary DeNoyer. Photo: Janet Loughrey.

A mix of landscaping, structures, plants and accessories help anchor the landscape and create visual interest. Consider some of these elements for your side garden.

Install a dedicated path to provide structure and prevent walking areas from becoming worn or muddy. Materials may include gravel, brick, pavers, or stepping stones.

Gates and arbors.
Use structure to create privacy, add scale, or as a decorative element.

Choose plants based on the amount of light your side yard receives, also considering soil conditions and the size of mature plants.

To beautify a side garden area, add decorative accents such as a water feature, bistro chairs, a bench, statues, artwork or containers.

Since side yards are often dark, installing paths, spotlights or fairy lights increases safety when navigating, especially at night.

Video: Ideas for Skinny Side Yards

By Laura from Garden Answer

When adding plants, consider the following factors:

A side yard is usually a dark and narrow space. Choose plants that tolerate deep shade or focus primarily on hardscapes for less maintenance. However, some side yards can be hot and sunny if they are more open, face south or west, or receive reflected heat from the house. In this case, use hardier drought-tolerant plants that can withstand more light and higher temperatures.

Deeply shaded areas tend to stay wet longer and are more prone to drainage problems. Improve drainage by adding soil amendments such as sand, gravel and compost. Make sure excess rainwater is directed away from the home’s foundation.

Loosen the soil in the planting area and amend it with compost or other organic matter, taking into account cultural requirements. Some plants prefer nutrient-rich, well-drained soil, while others tolerate a wider range of conditions. Test the soil pH to ensure plants can absorb nutrients properly.