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Small backyard in town, need some design help please

Posted by captainobvious 6a (My Page) on
Thu, May 27, 10 at 13:46

My fiance and I are trying to plan out a nice garden section in our small-ish back yard. Living in town usually means very limited space so I guess I cant complain- we actually have more yard than most of our neighbors.
Anyway, I sketched up an appx layout of the backyard and I'll drop some pictures in below as well. What I'd like to do is give a little bit of privacy to the backyard from the street to the left and make the back yard just in general, more inviting. I picked out a few different plants that I'd like to put back there and they are in pots right now in the back yard awaiting me to do some work...
Hydrangea "Endless Summer"
Hydrangea M Glory Blue mophead
Purpleleaf Sand Cherry "Prunus Cistena"
Japanese Spirea Goldflame "spirea japonica"
(2) Golden Vicary Privet Ligustrum

What I was thinking of doing was planting a smaller tree (Japanese Maple is what I'd like) to go towards the left side of the yard, but in front of the garage (not on the slim side portion). After that, some of the shrubs would be planted next to the tree to create a bit of a loose "hedge" or wall.

The other thing I considered was possibly building a raised wooden bed/planter (not sure what the correct term is for them?) about 1-2' high and 6-8 feet long which would then go on the inside of the hedge line or infront of the garage to plant some bulbs and perennials in.

What I'd really like to hear are what suggestions of what you would do with this space and hopefully I can get some direction and build off of that.

A few pics of the yard, and potential layouts...





Plan 1

Plan 2

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Small backyard in town, need some design help please

Is this rented or owned?

For maximum privacy and least loss of yard space, how about a fence?

If a fence is legally or financially impossible right now: Add a trellis to a long, raised planter box along that side and plant beans or gourds. Like your second picture, but a longer box, closer to the street, right where you would like a fence. Use the planter box for annual herbs, flowers, and vegetables, and have the side away from the street wide enough to sit on. Blend of planter and outdoor seating.

Some tall vertical shrubs that thrive in your climate would do the same without the need for a permit. You can test the idea with sunflowers this summer, and cut back on the sunflowers as the shrubs get bigger.

What I don't see is any provision for using that area for anything but walking to the garage. Do you want any BBQ, sitting, hanging out when it's nice weather space?

RE: Small backyard in town, need some design help please


Ive considered a fence as well but its not financially feasible right now. We would like to do one sometime in the future as we'd liek to have a dog. I do like the idea of a long planter as well.

As for useable space...there isnt a whole lot of it out there, but the section you see next to the back door is bricked out on the ground (where the white table is sitting) and thats where the grill will be going. The back sunroom I'll probably use to do veggies as it will get plenty of sunlight and be less susceptible to rodents/insects, etc.

Thanks for your response :)

RE: Small backyard in town, need some design help please

I would find a budget way to do a fence. You can almost certainly do it for what you're planning to spend on plants, and its advantages outweigh plants by a huge margin. A planter box would be no cheaper either. The plan of using plants has so many disadvantages that, until you'd said why you weren't considering a fence, there was just nothing to say about a way to do it well.

A fence takes no space. Works for the purposes you intend. Has immediate effectiveness, and year-round effectiveness. Is no work to maintain. Can still have plants, which are easy to install after a fence is in, while a fence is harder to build once plants are in place.

You can even do the fence in phases. Not that the plants won't be a phased approach too! But your fence can be effective while you phase it in.

Seek out lumber in creative ways: craigslist free listings is a favourite. Cruise industrial alleys for pallets. But here's the thing: the bones of a fence need only be posts, and a few rails, which to start with could be just 1x2s or whatever you can locate. If you get the dog later, then you can invest in 2x4 rails and pickets, or panels.

I think it would be a good investment to put in new posts; I don't think this would much exceed the cost of the plants you've proposed. Maybe a post hole digger would even be a good investment and affordable; I got one for only $70.

If you ultimately want a tall fence, use tall posts (set the correct distance apart) - your fence can be short to start with.


RE: Small backyard in town, need some design help please

Agree with a fence being the most important component here. Until you do that your lot is going to remain looking crowded into the neighborhood- a fence would make your eye see the yard instead of drifting out to everything else. Your space is undefined, and the numbers of sizable plants you would need to define it would cost far more than a fence. And likely if you ever did decide to add a fence later you would have to pull all the plants and rearrange. Been there, done that and it is a gargantuan task.

You could even just get farm fence stakes and a roll of bamboo fencing if there was no money.
Personally in the interests of the long run I'd bite the bullet and pull out my Visa and have a nice wooden privacy fence done right. Been there done that too and never regretted it not for one single solitary second.

With a good privacy fence your usage of that yard will increase a hundred fold- you will have an intimate, cozy, useful area to spend time and enjoy your yard. A small area for a table, some comfy chairs, and a cocktail and life is good.
It's a long term investment that will pay off.

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