When it comes to your backyard, everyone has a host of different needs and thoughts on backyard garden ideas. Will you design and maintain your backyard garden ideas yourself or hire someone to come in and do it for you? Do you want a setup that changes from year to year or something that stays the same? You have to consider your available space, regular upkeep like mowing and weeding, watering, budget, and whether you want to grow annuals or perennial plants.
The best backyard garden ideas are ones that fit into your personal home style design and flow with your natural landscape. Any backyard garden idea that you implement should make you want to spend more time in your backyard. They can be elaborate setups that require the help of a professional, or they can be simple DIY projects that you take on during a weeknd. Whatever you want for your backyard garden idea, this guide will showcase several possibilities to inspire you to transform your own space.
1. Stone Paths
Even if you have a relatively small yard, you can pull off this backyard garden idea. Put a stone pathway down in your yard leading from your patio or deck out into your yard. It’s great for helping guide people around your yard while keeping them off the grass, and it’s a perfect setting for taking a stroll in the morning to clear your head and get ready for the day.
If you want to create a more natural feel with this backyard garden idea, use flat rocks instead of landscape pavers. Just make sure you bury them at ground level so you can safely mow over them whenever the grass gets too long. If you put a stone pathway right up against your flower bed border, you won’t have to mow here because the stones will stop grass from growing. It can be as big and grand or small and simple as you like.
2. Firepit Focal Point
Who doesn’t like going out after dusk, lighting up the fire pit, and grilling out or just sitting around enjoying the atmosphere with family and friends? This is exactly why many people decide to add fire pits in their backyard or on their deck or patio. A brick patio makes an excellent backdrop for a fire pit because the embers will sit harmlessly until they burn out. If you put your fire pit out in the yard, make sure you safeguard it by digging a pit and lining it with rocks.
You can use it to create a focal point in your yard, or it also works very well as a backdrop tucked away in a corner with a few nice outdoor chairs. Keep the landscaping minimal around your fire pit, and stick with more neutral colors so they don’t take away from this backyard garden idea.
3. Add a Flowered Arbor
This backyard garden idea allows you to make an entrance into your backyard using an arbor. This simple arched design allows you to station it right over your path. You can train plants and flowering vines to climb up it and over the top to give it a whimsical look and feel. What’s even better, you can easily put it just about anywhere in your yard since it’s a freestanding structure.
These arbors come in several shapes, sizes, styles, and materials ranging from wood to metal. You can paint them or cover them in flowers to make them stand out, or you can easily set it up and leave it bare. If you have a deck or patio, use this backyard garden idea to showcase where you get off this space and step into the yard by framing it with the arbor. Whatever you do, just make sure that it’s sturdy and stable.
4. Set up Solar Lights
Think about how you want to use the space. Are you someone who is going to strictly use it during the day or do you plan to let it bleed into night? If you want to enjoy your area after dusk, consider this backyard garden idea. You can purchase solar lights and have them lining your pathways through the garden. If you have a lot of trees, you can string solar or rope lights up in them too.
Once the sun fades, this backyard garden idea will really shine. The solar lights will start to light up and illuminate your path, flower beds, ponds, or any other other features you put it by. This is a safety feature too because they’ll give you enough light to walk around without stumbling or tripping over anything you have in your yard. It’s a good idea to spend a little more upfront to get quality solar lights. If you can’t, big box stores usually have them available.
5. Rock Border
Installing a rock border is a backyard garden idea that requires very little work on your part, but it can reduce the overall maintenance of the space. All you have to do is get landscape stones and dig a shallow trench to drop the stones in. This works well for lining your pathways or creating a thin border between the yard and the flower beds. What’s even better, weeds and grass won’t grow where you dig your trench and put these stones.
How this backyard garden idea looks when you finish depends on the types of stones you pick out. White or black stones look fairly sleek and modern while brown stones can lend a warm look to the space. Ideally, most of your stones will be roughly the same size for uniformity, but it can add a whimsical element to have different sizes too. Water the area after you get the stones in so they settle.
6. Raised Planter Boxes
A raised planter box isn’t only functional, but it adds a whole new element to your backyard garden design. They’re great for anyone who has a smaller yard that can’t support a full garden. They’re also great for people who have poor soil because you can mix your own soil right in the boxes to get the best results possible for your plants. You can make them almost any size you like, and it’s a nice DIY project.
This backyard garden idea will raise your plants and frame them in so you know exactly where they are. They can keep them protected from anyone who walks by because you won’t be able to step on them without stepping into the boxes. During heavy rains, the water will drain away instead of soaking into the boxes and saturating the plant’s roots. You do want to stain the wood on the boxes to ensure they last without warping or breaking down.
7. Path-Hugging Flower Beds
When you have pathways through your yard or garden, most people want to space their flower beds out. However, this creates a lot of work to weed and mow up against the paths and around the flower beds. Instead, this backyard garden idea tries to cut down on your overall yard maintenance by putting the flower beds right tight to the path’s sides. Not only will this help cut down on the maintenance and make it easier for you, but it’ll highlight your path.
You can use whatever types of flowers you’d like for this backyard garden idea. It works well for perennials and annuals, and you could even add in some ornamental grasses to give yourself a little bit of height. Now you’ll only have to mow and trim around the flower beds and small parts of the paths that are open. You can use mulch in the flower beds to suppress weeds too.
8. Koi Pond
Having a koi pond in your yard may take a lot of work upfront, but this backyard garden idea allows you to have a living pond that is the perfect environment for koi and water plants. Plants that like wet or soggy ground will also love being right around the pond, and you can even add a small waterfall to encourage running water, filtration, and a calming sound. This pond can be as small or large as you like.
For another bonus with this backyard garden idea, you can create a small landscape right around the pond. Add larger rocks on the outside and have them spill into the pond, or add colorful stones around the edge of the pond to make it stand out more. You can have a pathway running right up to and away from the pond too. Pick out a shape that goes well with your yard so it flows into your landscape.
9. Bright Bench
It’s easy to create a contrast of colors with this backyard garden idea. It’s easy for everything to seem to blend together in some landscape designs, especially if all of the colors are similar. For this idea, you’ll need an old bench. It can be wood, metal, or one you made yourself using wood and cinder blocks. Whatever it is, just make sure that it’s stable and sturdy. You can set it alongside your pathway to give people a nice place to sit and relax.
Pick out a bold color like red and make it pop. You may have to apply one or more coats to cover it evenly. You can use a roller, brush, or spray paint. You can paint the whole bench this bright red color or make the main body red with the armrests being a white so they pop. Allow it to dry and apply a sealant if you like.
10. Hedges Create Living Fences
Many people set up fences around their yard for a variety of reasons. Maybe you want privacy from your neighbors to sit and relax or you want to have your property lines highlighted. If you have kids and pets, this is a good reason to have a fence in your yard too. This backyard garden idea allows you to use hedges like boxwood to create a living fence that you can prune and shape to your desired height and width.
Boxwood is a very good choice for this backyard garden idea because it’s relatively low maintenance once it establishes itself. You’ll water it routinely during the first year, fertilize it once at the start of spring, and lightly prune it to get it to and keep it in your desired shape and height. There are different varieties to choose from, and they have different colors and heights. Boxwood is toxic to pets and humans if ingested, so keep this in mind.
11. Rooftop Container Gardening
If you’re someone who just doesn’t have a backyard or has a very small and cramped space, this backyard garden idea is for you. It’s great for people who live in apartments or condos and have balcony or rooftop space at their disposal. You can get a few containers and quickly and easily set up a container garden with fruit, vegetables, herbs, or plants and flowers. There are even some shrubs that do very well in containers.
Whatever you can fit comfortably in your space, you can grow with this backyard garden idea. Make sure to ask your building’s landlord or management company if it’s allowed. If you live in an area with a HOA, you may have restrictions you have to abide by for your backyard garden idea. Remember to get containers with drainage holes in the bottom so water doesn’t sit and saturate the soil. Also, pay attention to whether or not yoru plants need full sun, full shade, or partial sun.
12. Flower Draped Pergola
A pergola is an excellent way to add structure to your backyard garden idea. You can buy full kits or build them from scratch. They usually do have a much more open design to them, but they create a nice sitting area for you to put your patio furniture, portable fire pit, or swing. They should have a solid base, so you may have to pour a concrete slab to put it on if you don’t have level ground.
To fill in this backyard garden idea, get flowering vines and climbing plants like grapevines and train them to climb up the sides of your pergola. Eventually, they’ll get to the top and start taking over up there. This can help block out some of the sun to create a partially-shaded environment. You can easily set trellises around the sides of the pergola and transition them to the pergola’s sides to encourage the plants to climb.
13. Upcycle Statues and Birdbaths
Yes, birdbaths and statues are pretty by themselves, but upcycling them with this backyard garden idea allows you to create eye-catching showpieces for your yard. All you’ll need to pull it off is an old birdbath or garden statue with an area that’ll hold soil and plants. Place your item wherever you want to put it. It could be off to the side of a path or right in the middle of your yard.
Once you have it in place, fill the birdbath with your chosen potting soil. It’s also a good idea to drill drainage holes in the bottom of your statue or birdbath. But, if you can’t, just water them less so you don’t saturate the soil and kill the roots. Put your plants into the soil, lightly water them, and wait for them to flower. If you add vines, they could cascade down the side to reach the ground.
14. Stone Walls
Stone walls can serve both an aesthetic and functional purpose in your backyard garden idea. If you have a problem with soil erosion, adding a stone retaining wall allows you to add visual interest and texture to your yard. As a bonus, there are dozens of types to choose from. You may have to call a professional in to help you, but they can create a tiered design where you can add flowers and grass between the top and bottom tier.
Depending on how wide the area is between the two walls, you can create quite a statement with this backyard garden idea. Consider adding ornamental grasses, perennials, or shrubs. If you want to change up your landscape, opt for annuals so you can switch them out each year. Just make sure whatever you plant has a root system that won’t cause damage to the wall as it grows.
15. Gazebo in the Garden
A gazebo is a beautiful touch to add to your yard with this backyard garden idea. Not only do they look nice, but they give you a lovely shaded seating area to relax when you’re out in your yard. You can build your own gazebo from scratch or get a kit. Another option is to have a professional company come in, design a gazebo to fit your space, and build it right where you want it.
You can have a more traditional gazebo with a solid top and open sides, or you can choose to have glassed-in sides that you can open and close as you like. To make it more whimsical, you can train vines and flowering plants to climb up the sides of the gazebo or put them in containers and space the containers around the outside of your gazebo. Add patio furniture and you’re all set to sit and relax.
16. Thick Rock Border
Landscaping rocks are versatile, beautiful, and they come in a range of shapes and sizes. You can use them in a huge range of projects, but this backyard garden idea is more practical. It can be difficult to mow and trim around your flower beds, especially if they don’t have a defined border. This also allows for weeds to grow and tangle with your flowers or plants. You can use landscaping rocks to prevent this.
To start, decide how thick you want your border to be. You can either dig this area up or lay down a thick layer of mulch to kill the grass and deter any weeds. Scatter your landscaping rocks over this trench or mulch to create your border. It should flow right along the bed design. Ideally, you’ll have it at least five or six inches thick to stay well away from your flowers when you perform maintenance.
17. Patterned Flower Designs
Your backyard garden ideas don’t have to be large and grand. This one is rather simple but it will require a little planning on your part to pull off. First, you’ll want to plan out your flower beds around your yard. Pick out plants that correspond with these planting areas. They may be full sun, partial sun, partial shade, or full shade. Decide which colors you want too.
Set out your various flowers in patterns. The goal of this backyard garden idea is to create a fun pattern with the flowers. This could be something as simple as planting pink flowers in the back of the bed and yellow in front, or you could create swirling patterns throughout the flower bed. Make sure your plants bloom for most of the summer so you have plenty of time to appreciate the patterns.
18. Rock Garden
When many people plan how they want their yard to look, rock gardens fall to the wayside a lot of the time. This is a shame because they can easily add height, texture, and visual interest to a space. This backyard garden idea involves putting in a rock garden with shrubs or plants that will thrive in this environment. Piles of rocks allow you to showcase various parts of your yard with minimal effort on your part.
Also, rock gardens are a great way to fight weed growth around your plants. Succulents, shrubs, annuals, and perennials can all survive in your rock garden, and this allows you to mix and match with this backyard garden idea to get new looks. You could create one large mound or several smaller ones dotted throughout your yard to draw the eye around your landscape.
19. Zen Garden
Zen gardens are incredibly popular in Japan and other Asian countries. However, they also gained massive popularity in the United States. They’re easy to make, easy to maintain, and you don’t have to have many pieces to create something beautiful. You can get large, flat patio stones in a light coloring to make your pathway through your zen garden. Once you have them in place, you can line the rest of the area with smaller darker stones. This will create a nice contrast.
Adding a large Buddha statue along one side can make it feel like a meditative space. Small water features and taller potted plants can pull the space together while adding natural elements to your backyard garden idea. This works very well around ponds where the sound of running water can soothe you and allow you to sit back, relax, and unwind.
20. Water Features
The final backyard garden idea on the list involves adding a water feature or two to your space. You don’t need a full pond to have a freestanding water feature or garden fountain. In fact, you can make a small one that will fit perfectly on your patio using two planters, a five gallon bucket, smaller stones, saucer, water, and a pump. This will be heavy once you get it set up, so pick out a space and level it.
Set the bigger pot into your leveled area. Put the five-gallon bucket into the larger planter and set the pump inside it. Get a saucer and put it on top of the bigger pot, leaving an inch or two open around the edges. You’ll drill a hole through the saucer and run the pump tubing up through the saucer and into the second pot. Fill in the saucer with small stones and water. Switch it on and allow it to run to create a garden water feature.
These 20 innovative backyard garden ideas give you more than a starting point to transform your own yard. They can inspire you to try a few on your own. So, we invite you to take a look, see which ones sound like they would be a good fit for your space, and take a weekend to create them in time to enjoy them all summer long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.