Spending summer at home? Or, looking to revamp the backyard for a better home sale? In both cases, you've come to the right place! Creating the perfect outdoor space doesn't have to cost you tons of money, nor does it have to be a large space. Here are some tips for you on creating your perfect backyard oasis:

An image of a small urban backyard.

Start With A Focal Point

An image of a large, old tree in a suburban backyard. A hanging chair is tied to one of the bottom branches to create a focal point.

Every yard, no matter its size, needs a focal point. A focal point directs attention and interest to one area or one spot. This is used in our indoor spaces all the time. For example, in our kitchens, the focal point is where we prepare our food - the stove, the fridge and the countertops. In our living rooms, the focal point is usually the T.V. All of the design will point, lead or be otherwise neutral to allow the focal point its spotlight. The same premise works outside. What could your focal point be? Perhaps:

  • An existing tree. If you have a large tree on your property, make use of it! A swinging bench, chair or tire-swing instantly adds both use and appeal.
  • A fire pit. There's just something about an evening fire that makes the soul feel good. Seating and tables around your fire pit creates a clear focus in your outdoor space. There's a few inexpensive ways to make a fire pit too, so don't go thinking you can't have one if you can't afford patio blocks or concrete! 
  • Furniture. Your outdoor patio or sitting area can be your main focus. 
  • A water feature. If you're the type who doesn't have much use of an outdoor space, consider a water feature. There's lots of low maintenance options to choose from, and it doesn't even need to be a great big feature. Whether you're outdoors or trying to fall asleep indoors, everyone can appreciate the relaxing sound of gentle, moving water.
  • A shaded area. This shaded area can be from trees, your patio set, or something you've created - like a taut canvas sheet or taut sail suspended above. When the hot Saskatchewan sun beats down, your shaded area is an immediate focal point.
  • A lit area. On the flip side, lighting can make the difference too. At night, the same space or another space in your backyard can be lit up with fence sconces, solar lights, and/or string lights. This adds even more use and appeal to your backyard, since it can be utilized at night.

If you start with a focal point, the rest of your backyard can be designed around it to showcase a cohesive space. Even if you have multiple focal pieces in your backyard, make one of them prominent. This creates hierarchy, and allows the other features to work in harmony with your main focus, rather than compete with it. For example, Let's say you have a deck in your backyard, but you just bought an above ground pool. If your pool is larger than your deck, that would be your main focus. Seating, benches, plants and other installations can be put around the pool to direct attention. Your deck area can have things placed around/near it to draw attention, but keep it muted or place less in this area. This is how hierarchy is achieved. Your completed space will be organized and appealing.

Landscape In Layers

An image of a backyard garden, with plants of varying heights in a visually appealing fashion.

Using plants to layer is an effective and visually stunning way to create depth in your yard. Here's how it works: Tall plants, vines or bamboo near the fence (or on the fence in the case of vines) will create your base layer of privacy. Blocking some of the fence from view is where the illusion of space starts. As you move away from the fence and come closer to the center of your yard, the height of your plants will decrease. This works so well in small backyards! If you have a feature in the center of your yard, you have the option of doing the opposite. For example, if you have flower beds located in the center of your yard, plant taller bushes and plants in the center of that space. Work your way down in height as you step out of that center, with a low-growing ground cover at the bed's borders. 

Forget Grass

An image of an outdoor fire pit. No grass is present outside of the pit area.

Once upon a time, neatly manicured grass was a symbol of status. Wealthy estate owners had kilometers and kilometers of grass lawns tended to by servants. Grass lawns demonstrated wealth, since grass serves no food production purposes - in other words, it was just for looks. Using a comparison from today's world, it would be like a single celebrity owning a mansion with eighteen bedrooms. Today, grass lawns are popular in suburban areas. While they do provide a safe play area for the kids, grass still doesn't really serve a purpose. Furthermore, all of the tools you need to have to actually maintain a grass lawn far outweighs the benefits of having a lawn. Instead, try the other options available:

  • Ornamental grasses. These grasses are low maintenance. They survive in most soil, and are drought-resistant. If you want the green without all of the work, ornamental grasses could be right for you. 
  • Moss. If you've got a particularly shaded backyard, moss is a great option, and hardy. It can withstand occasional foot traffic, and waterings from Fido.
  • Clover. If your soil is poor, plant clover. Its ability to produce nitrogen is incredible, and is why gardeners use clover as a conditioner. It fertilizes and nourishes the soil. Clover is also inexpensive, hardy and quick-spreading. 
  • Dutch clover. This clover's distinct white flowers are seen at full maturation. It's incredibly thick (and comfortable to walk on), quick-spreading, and a nature-friendly option. Deer, rabbits and other small wildlife love grazing on Dutch clover. Bees will appreciate you having this, too! It helps them secure food, and helps the flowers pollinate. This can be a con if you're not a fan of other forms of life near you. This option is also the best if you are going to have normal-to-heavy foot traffic.

All of these lawn alternatives are also friendly to city bylaws. Wild grasses can easily grow out of hand (height-wise), spread to other lawns, and not feel friendly to the feet.

Make a Walking Path

An image of a backyard walking path, leading from the fence to the back deck of a home.

Walking paths are the obvious choice to connect living spaces outside, especially if you gave up a traditional grass lawn. Use mulch, stepping stones, paving stones, gravel, and/or stone slabs to create an easy walking path. There are even plenty of upcycled/recycled walking path options to choose from, too! 

Reap The Benefits Of Raised Planters

An image of lush garden vegetables growing in a raised plant bed.

Raised plant beds are becoming more popular among young homeowners. They still allow you to grow your own produce, but without weeds or back strain. For those in smaller yards, a patio container garden will allow you to do the same thing. You can even avoid common pests like potato bugs and slugs, since your plants aren't at any easy level to reach by these creatures. Older folks are starting to get in on the trend too, realizing how wonderful gardening can be without the traditional hassle of aches and pains! They also look organized and fabulous.

Storage Options

An image of a small outdoor storage structure disguised as a raised flower bed.

Clutter takes away the appeal of any space, and the backyard is no different. When every inch of space counts, such as in the case of a small backyard, clearing clutter is highly important. In addition to common storage options, like sheds, store small items in easy to access ways. For example, dog toys can be put in a weather resistant basket. A children's toy box can double as a bench on the patio, and a raised plant box can double as hideaway storage for garbage cans, recycling bins, bikes and extension cords with the right cuts.

Clean What You Have

A comparison image of patio blocks close up. The row at the top of the photo is dirty, dingy and has weeds growing between the blocks. The bottom row is clean, bright and neat.

If you have existing structures in your yard that are free of problems, don't get rid of them! All you have to do is clean them. This also provides you with a place to start if you're looking at updating your outdoor space. If you have an existing deck, sand it and re-stain it to freshen it up. Already have patio blocks? A pressure washer will clean the grime off with ease, and potentially any weeds growing in between the cracks. Old storage shed? Wash the exterior and paint over it with two tones. The contrast will instantly please the eye and make it look like it belongs in your new yard. Just because it's meant for storage doesn't mean it has to look boring!

So you see, no matter the size or shape of your backyard or outdoor space, you have plenty of options available that will transform your yard into your own backyard oasis! Even if you won't be the one using it when all is said and done, its appeal can make the difference for potential home buyers. Plus, it's an incredible gift you can leave the next owners. 

Posted by Admin Staff on


Email Send a link to post via Email

Leave A Comment

e.g. yourwebsitename.com
Please note that your email address is kept private upon posting.