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Small Side Yard Ideas | State College, PA

A beautifully landscaped side yard can add charm to a house, like in this image

Side yards, those often narrow strips of land running alongside our homes, may seem like mere passageways at first glance. However, these overlooked areas can blossom into invaluable extensions of our outdoor living spaces with a sprinkle of creativity and a dash of functional design!

Don't let limited square footage hold you back! This post is packed with practical and stylish small side yard ideas to help you maximize functionality and create a beautiful outdoor escape in your backyard.

Read on as we explore clever design tricks, space-saving solutions, and plant recommendations to transform your side yard into an extension of your living space.

Key Takeaways

  • Side yards can extend your outdoor living space.

  • Maximize functionality and aesthetics with clever design tricks, space-saving solutions, and plant recommendations.

  • Landscape professionals bring expertise and knowledge and can navigate local regulations for a flawless sideyard transformation.

What Is Side Yard Landscaping?

Side yards often get relegated to afterthoughts, serving merely as passageways between the front and back of the house. But what if we told you these overlooked spaces hold the potential to become vibrant extensions of your outdoor living experience?

Side yard landscaping transforms these narrow strips of land into functional and attractive areas, adding value and enjoyment to your entire property.

Objectives of a landscaped side yard

Proper side yard landscaping achieves two key goals: increased functionality and enhanced aesthetics. Let's explore how:

  • Functionality: A well-designed side yard can extend your living space. Imagine a charming patio perfect for morning coffee or evening drinks, a small fire pit for chilly evenings, or perhaps a hidden reading nook tucked away amidst lush greenery provides a quiet escape.

  • Aesthetics: The possibilities for creating a beautiful side yard are endless! Imagine a vibrant flower garden bursting with color, or a strategically placed water feature for a sense of tranquility and visual interest.

Inspiration is everywhere

The best part? Inspiration for your side yard transformation is all around you. Browse through landscaping magazines, explore online resources, or walk through your neighborhood to see how others have maximized the potential of their side yards.

In the next section, we'll delve into some clever design tricks and space-saving solutions to transform your narrow side yard into a functional and beautiful outdoor oasis!

Inspirational Side Yard Landscaping Ideas

Now that we understand the transformative power of side yard landscaping let's explore some inspiring ideas to spark your creativity:

Garden sanctuary - Create a peaceful retreat with comfortable seating and a calming water feature like a small fountain or birdbath.

Vertical garden - Maximize space with creative solutions like climbing plants on trellises or hanging planters, perfect for narrow side yards.

Water feature - Add tranquility and visual interest with a small pond or a trickling fountain.

A small antique jar fountain

Rock garden - Design a low-maintenance and drought-resistant space using decorative rocks, gravel, and hardy plants.

Gravel pathway - Enhance accessibility and add a unique aesthetic with a textured gravel path.

Garden lighting - Extend your enjoyment into the evenings by illuminating your side yard with strategically placed lights.

Solar garden lights in a flower bed and lighting up a narrow path

Pergola or trellis - Introduce vertical structures for climbing plants or create shady areas for relaxation.

Outdoor art - Personalize your space with sculptures, murals, or creative upcycled pieces.

Raised garden beds - Elevate your gardening game for easier maintenance and a more impactful visual display.

Raised vegetable garden bed in a side yard for a more functional space

Stone pathway - Craft a durable and attractive walkway with natural stone pavers.

Seating area - Create a cozy nook for relaxation with comfortable chairs, a hammock, or a swing.

Privacy screen - Enhance seclusion with strategically planted trees and shrubs or a decorative fence.

A natural privacy screen with wild grapes

Container garden - Embrace flexibility and vibrant color with a variety of potted plants.

Edible garden - Combine beauty with functionality by planting vegetables, herbs, or fruits.

Herb garden - Cultivate a practical and fragrant collection of herbs for easy access while cooking.

Integrating Sustainability into Your Side Yard Oasis

Now that you're brimming with inspiration for your side yard transformation, let's explore how to create a beautiful space that's also kind to the environment.

Embrace native plants

Choosing native plants adapted to your region's climate offers a multitude of benefits. They're naturally more resistant to pests and diseases, requiring fewer pesticides and herbicides. Native plants also tend to have lower water needs, reducing your reliance on irrigation systems.

Furthermore, they provide a vital food source for pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, promoting a healthy ecosystem in your backyard.

Use drought-tolerant plants

Cacti as a drought tolerant plant

Many beautiful plants thrive with minimal watering. Consider incorporating ornamental grasses, succulents, and certain flowering perennials into your design.


Applying a layer of mulch around your plants helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for frequent watering.

Use smart irrigation

If you choose to install an irrigation system, opt for a water-efficient model with features like timers and rain sensors to prevent overwatering.

Key Considerations Before Starting Your Side Yard Oasis

Envisioning your dream side yard is exciting! However, before you grab your shovel and start planting, there are a few key considerations to ensure your transformed space meets your needs and thrives for years to come.

Balancing functionality and aesthetics

Decorative table and chairs in an outdoor nook

A successful side yard design strikes a balance between functionality and aesthetics. Think about how you want to use the space.

Do you crave a peaceful retreat for morning coffee or an extension of your entertaining space?

Once you determine your functional needs, consider how to achieve them aesthetically. Perhaps a charming bistro set creates a cozy coffee nook, while strategically placed stepping stones lead to a hidden play area.

Sun, soil, and existing features

Before choosing plants and designing your layout, take note of the existing conditions in your side yard.

How much sunlight does the space receive throughout the day? Is the soil quality sandy, clay-like, or something in between? Are there existing features like fences, sheds, or mature trees that you need to work around or incorporate into your design?

Understanding these factors will help you select plants that thrive in your specific environment and ensure a cohesive look.

Maintenance matters

Consider your lifestyle and how much time you realistically have for upkeep when planning your side yard. Let's face it: nobody wants a beautiful yard that becomes a huge maintenance burden.

If you have a busy schedule, you can opt for low-maintenance plants, hardscaping elements such as patios or gravel pathways, and efficient irrigation systems. This way, you can enjoy your transformed space without feeling overwhelmed.

Budgeting for Your Side Yard Makeover

Now that you're brimming with inspiration and practical considerations for your side yard transformation, let's discuss the financial side. Budgeting effectively will ensure your dream space becomes a reality without breaking the bank.

Understanding the cost spectrum

The cost of your side yard makeover can vary greatly depending on the scale and complexity of your project. Here's a general breakdown to give you an idea:

  • Small-scale refresh (under $1,000): This might involve adding a few key elements, like strategically placed potted plants, a gravel pathway, and comfortable seating.

  • Medium-scale transformation ($1,000 - $5,000): In this range, you could incorporate features like a small patio, a water feature, or built-in planters.

  • Large-scale renovation (over $5,000): This level of investment could encompass extensive hardscaping elements like retaining walls, outdoor fireplaces, or pergolas.

Budgeting and prioritization tips

  • Create a realistic budget: Consider how much you're comfortable spending on your project and stick to it.

  • Prioritize your wishlist: List your desired features and rank them by importance. Tackle the high-priority items first and add others as your budget allows.

  • Get creative with materials: Explore cost-effective alternatives like recycled materials for planters or decorative elements.

  • Shop around: Compare prices for plants, materials, and furniture before purchasing.

By following these tips, you can create a beautiful and functional side yard that fits comfortably within your budget.

Don't worry if you can't implement everything in your plan in one go. A successful plan doesn't have to happen all at once. Start with a few key elements and gradually add more features to create your dream outdoor oasis.

DIY or Professional Landscape Design?

With plenty of ideas and a plan and budget in place, you're ready to tackle your side yard transformation! But a question lingers: should you DIY the project or hire a professional landscape designer? The answer depends on the complexity of your vision and your comfort level.

DIY projects

For some side yard projects, the DIY route can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to bring your vision to life.

If your dream side yard involves features like planting flowerbeds, laying a simple garden path, or installing a small patio, you might be able to handle these tasks yourself with some research and elbow grease.

Seeking professional help

While the DIY approach holds merit for smaller projects, there are times when seeking professional help from a landscape designer is the smarter option. Consider these factors when making your decision:

  • Complex designs: If your dream side yard involves intricate elements like multi-level patios, an outdoor fireplace, retaining walls, or water features, the expertise of a professional landscaper can ensure structural integrity, functionality, and aesthetics.

  • Unfamiliar with local regulations: Professional landscapers are well-versed in local zoning codes and permitting requirements, saving you time and hassle navigating the approval process.

  • Knowledge of plant selection and placement: A landscape designer can assess your specific site conditions, like sun exposure and soil quality, to recommend plants that will thrive in your environment, saving you money on replacing plants that might not survive.

  • Time constraints: A professional landscaper can handle all aspects of the project, from design and material selection to installation, freeing up your valuable time.

Consulting with a professional landscape designer can be invaluable even for those who enjoy DIY projects. They can offer valuable insights and suggestions to refine your vision, identify potential challenges, and ensure your design is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Think of them as a partner in transforming your side yard into a dream space you'll love for years!

From Neglected Passage to Functional Retreat

Ready to breathe life into your side yard vision?

Landscape II, a trusted name in State College, PA's landscaping industry, offers a complete solution for your side yard transformation. You can come to us for any of your landscaping needs, from consultation and planning to expert installation and ongoing maintenance.

We have the expertise and knowledge to bring your vision to life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you design a side yard?

Think about functionality (seating areas, walkways) and aesthetics (plants, water features) that suit your needs and style. Consider sun exposure, soil conditions, and existing features when creating your layout.

How do you decorate a small corner yard?

Vertical gardens, hanging planters, and strategically placed stepping stones maximize space. Seating nooks, pergolas, and strategically placed lighting add personality.

How can I make my small yard look nice?

Declutter and define spaces with walkways and patios. Use a cohesive color scheme with plants and furniture. Choose low-maintenance plants and hardscaping for a polished look.

How do you decorate a small backyard space?

Similar to a corner yard, utilize vertical space and strategically placed furniture. Container gardens offer flexibility, and a water feature adds tranquility. Opt for low-maintenance plants and hardscaping for a manageable space.


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