How to Maximize Your Backyard in a Small Space

BackyardingBackyarding is the practice of taking everyday activities — think entertaining, eating, working and working out, to name a few — into the green space around us. Even those living in an urban setting with a smaller yard or no yard at all can enjoy the benefits of backyarding, according to the TurfMutt Foundation, which advocates for the care and use of yards, parks and community green spaces.

A recent survey conducted for the TurfMutt Foundation by The Harris Poll indicates that backyarding is increasingly important to Americans. More than three-quarters of Americans who have a yard (76%) say the family yard space is one of the most important parts of their home, according to the poll. Additionally, nearly a quarter of Americans who have a yard (24%) say they spend more time in their yards now than before 2020.

“Thanks to smaller yards, community parks and neighborhood green space, backyarding big even in small spaces is possible,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation. “It takes a little planning and adopting what we like to call a ‘master backyarder’ mindset.”

The TurfMutt Foundation offers this advice for getting outside and enjoying green space when you have a small yard — or no yard at all.

Plant with Purpose

Plan carefully and creatively to utilize every square inch of living landscape real estate in support of your lifestyle. Need a place for your pet to do her business? Plant a small patch of grass. Long to take work outside? Set up a table in an underused side yard (complete with a living landscape backdrop, of course) that can double as an outdoor dining area. Love nature? Plant a butterfly bush.

Use Plants to Create Privacy

Rather than putting up a fence in a small yard, consider a “living wall” of trees or shrubs. It will make your outdoor space feel bigger and offer support to backyard wildlife and insects. Win, win!

Go Vertical

Don’t forget to incorporate vertical space into your planting plans. You can hang flower baskets on your fence or railing. A trellis laced with living vines is a gorgeous focal point. Green walls are all the rage and use blank wall space to create a living landscape feature.

Utilize Balconies and Patios

Even if you don’t have grass or any soil to plant in, you can use containers to plant flowers, herbs and even fruit and vegetables. There are also many planters available that attach to balcony railings.

Remember Right Plant, Right Place

Selecting the right plants for your lifestyle and climate is key to mastering a small backyard space. Consult the U.S. Plant Hardiness Zone Map  to select the best plants for your microclimate. This will not only ensure you end up with plants that will thrive with minimal upkeep, they will also be best for supporting local pollinators.

Enjoy Community Green Space

Take your kids to the park for a study session. Walk the dog through the community green space at the end of your road. Plan a doggie playdate at the local dog park. These are all wonderful places to get a dose of Vitamin N(ature).

For more information, sign up for Mutt Mail, a monthly e-newsletter with backyarding tips and all the news from the TurfMutt Foundation.

About TurfMutt

TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) TurfMutt Foundation and has reached more than 70 million children, educators and families since 2009. TurfMutt has been an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More information at