8 Ways to Start a Garden in a Small Backyard

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This post was last updated on January 30th, 2022 at 04:45 pm

8 Ways to start a garden in a small backyard

You might think that with only a small space in your yard for gardening that your choices would be limited. But you'd be wrong. We'll show you eight ways to start a garden in a small backyard. You can use these ideas singly or combine them to create the overall garden space you want.

We'll run through what you need to consider before creating a garden, the factors that may influence your choices, and how best to implement the various gardening types you decide to pursue in your yard.

How to Start a Garden in a Small Backyard

Firstly though.

Are you New to Gardening?

It can be mind-boggling working out how to start a garden and what to grow, but gardening is natural. It doesn't take much to get started and can be as detailed or as simple as you want it to be.

However, your choice of a garden may depend on some of these factors:

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • Will your garden design be the central aspect of your yard, or will it have to work around other yard features you may want to prioritize? Like a patio area for entertaining, a kids' play area, a storage shed, and pet enclosures. All of these will have their criteria for where best to locate them.

  • How much space do you have in your yard that's suitable for growing plants? We'll show you the different areas you can use, but bear in mind that some plants need sunshine; others prefer shaded locations.

  • What would be the primary purpose of your garden? Would it be for decoration, to grow food, to create focal points? Or a combination of all of them?

  • What to grow? As a starting point, consider the kind of plants you ideally want to grow. You can mix different plant types, of course. It's not a case of either-or. But what would your main emphasis be? Decorative plants or edible plants? Flowers, small trees and shrubs, or fruits, veggies, and herbs? Or do you want a mix?

  • How much time will you have available to create and tend to your garden? Having enough time is essential. Even low maintenance gardens need time spent on keeping everything shipshape, such as planting, watering, feeding, dead-heading, harvesting, etc.

  • Do you have a budget to create the garden you want? You will need to spend some money.

  • And finally, are you physically capable of laying out and tending to a garden. If you have back problems, arthritis, or other health issues, could they impact your ability to garden?

So here are eight different approaches to gardening. You can pick and mix to create a garden of choice in your own yard.

In-Ground Gardening

In-ground gardening

The traditional method of gardening is to plant straight in the ground. Your success will depend on the quality of the soil, the amount of sunshine the garden receives, and the types of plants you wish to grow.

In a small yard, if you have other planned yard activities that may encroach on the ideal space for a garden, you might not be able to locate flower and vegetable beds in the best place.

Therefore you may need to consider some of the alternatives we show here to start your garden.

Raised Beds

Raised bed Gardening

Raised beds are just that! You create a box frame that you put on the ground and fill with soil and grow above average ground level.

Wooden raised beds are usually 4 feet square or in a rectangular run with a width of 4 feet. This width enables the gardener to access plants from either side without having to tread on the soil.

With minimal DIY skills, you could build your own raised bed with wood, but there are also attractive beds made commercially with metal or composite materials.

Being able to locate your raised bed in the right growing spot is essential, of course. They are not easy to move once filled with soil, so do your homework and choose the best place.

Container Gardening

Start your small backyard garden with Container Gardening

Start your small backyard garden with the simplicity of container gardening

Growing plants in pots, large and small, is a fun gardening option. Container gardening is effortless to get into, and you can get started almost anywhere, and with every type of pot or container.

A great benefit of growing plants in containers is that it makes gardening accessible to almost anyone and virtually any space.

You can use large and small pots; all kinds of containers - commercial and recycled - and grow a wide range of plants.

For more information, read our  Container Gardening Guide for Beginners.

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening with pink clematis

A wall of green - covering an old unattractive fence, and creating some privacy from neighbors

An alternative to growing along the ground is to grow vertically. Any upright structure could potentially provide vertical gardening — walls, fences, pergola, archways, and trellises, for example.

Climbing plants like vines, which you plant at the base of the structure - either in the ground or a container - can be trained with vertical supports to cover a wall or fence.

Alternatively, you can fix several layers of shelves to a wall or fence, with plant pots arranged along the entire length. You could also fix containers direct to the wall or fence surface.

Rock Gardens

Rock garden

Rock garden on a slope

Rockeries or rock gardens are an attractive and low maintenance form of gardening. At it’s most simple, you create a focus area of rocks in which you will grow a variety of plants.

You use rocks, stones, pebbles, and gravel to create a multi-textured hard-scape feature. You will be able to grow sun-preferring plants on the sun-facing side of the rock garden and shade-loving plants in the shadow of the rockery.

A wide range of plants is suitable for rock gardens - alpines, ferns, perennials, cacti, and miniature roses, to name a few.

Greenhouse Gardening

greenhouse gardening

Greenhouse gardening might seem a little old hat these days, but what a greenhouse will provide you with is a controlled environment in which to grow things, and a longer growing season, both of which are important if you live in a colder area.

A greenhouse also provides a sheltered spot to work when the weather is against you. Anyone with limited mobility will find working at waist height in a greenhouse to be a more comfortable way to enjoy gardening.

Buying a greenhouse can represent a significant investment for some gardeners, both in money and time. 

Window Boxes

Window Boxes

Perhaps the most basic form of gardening is the window box—a type of container gardening which is limited to growing mainly in containers on window sills.

You can create a marvelous splash of color growing flowers in window boxes with many types of upright and trailing plants. You can grow herbs and some small vegetables as well. You’re not limited to flowers.

Water Gardens

Water garden

You can create a water garden around a pond that may or may not contain fish, or use shallow water containers in which to grow aquatic plants. If your yard collects surface water in a particular area, you may be able to incorporate that into a bog garden feature.

Water gardens are as much about specific plants that grow in pools and ponds, as they are about keeping fish, but can also become a focal point when creating a wildlife garden.

How to Decide Which Garden Types to Develop

Gardening in small backyard spaces may at first, seem to have some limitations. When you get down to it though, they are not enough to prevent you from enjoying the pleasure of growing your plants, enhancing the appearance of your yard, and being able to experience some outdoor activity.

You do not need an enormous space to grow a lot of decorative plants or produce. But before you get overwhelmed with the choices before you:

  • Assess the spaces you do have.
  • Know your growing zone. Check it out HERE.
  • Decide the types of plants you want to grow, bearing in mind that many plants need six to eight hours of daily sunshine.
  • Try not to fill every last area with plants. Achieve a sense of balance with all the other activities you plan in your yard.
  • Be realistic about the time you have to tend to it all.
  • Plan it all carefully before you start.


Well, there you have eight ways in which you can start a garden in a small backyard. Even the smallest of yards will find at least one way to introduce a garden presence.

You do not need a large space to grow a lot of decorative plants or produce. Just a good imagination and a willingness to give it a go!

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