Side yards are often narrow and more utilitarian in nature (think faucets and pipes, trash cans or recycling containers, and storage). But with a little planning and creativity, you can make your side yard both useful and attractive, whether it’s visible to passers-by or just from your window. Here are 14 creative ways to transform your side yard spaces from awkward to impressive.
1. Install a welcoming front door
flickr.com via Outdoor spaces on the ground
This side yard gate is tall enough to provide privacy, but the warm-colored wood and playful latticework give it a homey touch. Bonus: a rustic rain barrel adds charm and saves on water usage.
2. Add a springboard path
If your side yard feels more like a path to your garden than a space in itself, embrace its function. Install a stepping stone path to make crossing this expanse of lawn easier and to lessen the wear and tear on your lawn.
RELATED: 25 ways to beautify your garden without planting anything
3. Choose low-light plantings
Because it’s sandwiched between your own house and your neighbor’s, your side yard probably doesn’t get much sunlight. Your best bets for lush side yard garden beds are plants that do well in low light or partial shade conditions in your area.
4. Think vertically
Garden space may be limited in most side yards, but you don’t have to limit yourself to filling the garden bed. Instead, set up a trellis and plant vines and other varieties that can be trained to climb.
RELATED: 15 Beautiful and Functional Trellis Ideas for Climbing Plants
5. Cultivate the ground cover between the slabs
flickr.com via Patrick Standish
More memorable than a concrete driveway but less maintenance than a regular patch of lawn, a flagstone path bordered by low ground cover is a classic choice for the side yard. When selecting a ground cover, look for a variety that will stand up to foot traffic and grow dense enough to block out weeds.
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6. Build a compost bin
Steal some land from your side yard for a compost bin, and your whole garden will reap the rewards, as the nutrients in compost can greatly improve your soil. Because an open compost pile can be unsightly, buy a container or build your own to keep the compost enclosed.
7. Set up a potting bench
Create a quiet, shady spot at the side of the house and set up a workstation for potting plants and storing garden tools. You can buy one, like this bench from Yaheetech, which was a favorite in our guide to the best potting benches. Alternatively, you could build your own from old pallets or a repurposed dresser.
8. Build a trash can
Nothing is more unsightly than oversized trash cans and recycling bins, but it’s a necessary evil. Build or purchase an attractive wooden enclosure to keep them neatly out of sight in your side yard.
9. Put a putting green
Here’s a maintenance-free way to keep the side yard green year-round: Add a putting green. Because they are usually long and narrow, side yards provide the ideal location for this outdoor activity. Conveniently accessible, but tucked away from the main outdoor living areas, a side practice green is sure to provide hours of fun for the whole family.
10. Update your fence
The fence along your side yard adds privacy and keeps kids and dogs confined. But if your side yard looks dull, update your fence. You can stain or paint your side of a dull fence without worrying if the neighbors like the color, and have a nice backdrop for plants or landscaping.
Add a natural element with vines or a hedge, choosing plants that tolerate sun exposure. Or, update the hardware or increase the height, only after checking with your neighbors and following both code restrictions and fence replacement etiquette.
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11. Add creative containers
Even if your plant choices are limited in a side yard setup, you can add containers to make the area more visually appealing. Choose several pots (usually in groups of three or five) of varying heights to place together, or line up three bright matching containers for a more synchronous look. The real key is adding color and texture with containers and you can get almost as much color and fun out of containers as you do with the plants in them.
If floor space is limited, mount a few containers like these rustic steel planters on the fence or a shed wall and fill them with succulents or annuals.
RELATED: 6 secrets for a successful container garden
12. Display Court Art
Unleash your personal creativity, interests, or love of the location by displaying artwork on the fence or along your side aisle. It’s always fun to look for colorful artwork when traveling to remind you of your trip. Those less keen on plant care can rejoice in metal flowers or solar sculptures.
Some yard art mimics the textures or shapes of plants and can go in the ground or in a container in those narrow, shady side yard spaces. These metal agave sculptures add interest but require no watering!
13. Add a side seating area
Side yards often have more shade than front or back patios, so why not add a little seating area so you can be outside for your morning coffee or evening drink without the scorching sun in your eyes? As space can be limited, add a simple outdoor sofa, a wooden bench (even with storage, like this waterproof bench) or a bistro table with two chairs. You can even flip a colorful container (matching the others you’ve placed) to serve as a small side table.
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14. Light It Up
Even if your side yard remains more of a functional space than an outdoor living space, installing lights can make it safer and more attractive. If the location gets enough sun for a charge, place solar lights along your path, like these from BEAU JARDIN, the top pick in our guide to the best solar path lights. Or install a low-voltage lighting system along the narrow space. String lights are popular and should be easy to hang on the side of your house. Add a motion sensor if you like to automatically light up on winter nights when you need to take out the trash or to scare away potential intruders.
RELATED: The Best Places to Install Solar Lights in Your Outdoor Space