Narrow Lot Landscapes: Tricks to Maximize Your Outdoor Space

Many homeowners, particularly in urban areas, have to deal with the challenges of owning a narrow lot. They might want to add shrubs, flowering plants and trees to create beauty, but these elements can gobble up much needed space and can make narrow lots feel even more crowded.

The good news is that no homeowner has to give up the idea of beauty when faced with a narrow lot. There are many resources for narrow house plans (click here to learn more) and clever tools for making narrow landscapes look larger. Try these tips to get the most from a narrow outdoor space.

Narrow Lot Landscapes Tricks to Maximize Your Outdoor Space-1

Bring the Landscape all the Way to the Curb

Many neighborhoods have sidewalks that cross the homeowners’ yards, leaving a rectangle of lawn between the sidewalk and the street. With a narrow lot, get the most from the space by including that rectangle in the landscape.

For example, start a groundcover like phlox or juniper on the side of the sidewalk that’s nearest the house, and plant more of the groundcover in the space between the sidewalk and the street. If you are using a short retention wall or decorative border around the landscaping, extend the retaining wall all the way to the sidewalk, and then continue the wall all the way to the street.

Maximize the Hardscape

Although they may feel tempted to shave down pathways as a space-saving strategy, homeowners should make sure that all paths are at least four feet wide. Narrow pathways look out of scale with the house even if the house isn’t large, and they appear even smaller when they’re surrounded by plants.

Use attractive materials such as brick, flagstones or pavers for the paths. Use hardscape elements like stone walls to add visual interest to the yard, but avoid using more than two materials of different textures when designing the hardscape. In addition to planning for pathways, keep stairways nice and roomy.

Think Vertically

Vertical elements like trees and tall shrubs help to tie the house to the landscape and anchor a tall house to the ground. Plant trees or shrubs near the house, leaving plenty of room for airflow and drainage. Also, plant trees near the sidewalk or the fence, using straight instead of curved lines, to create a vertical canopy.

Divide the Yard Into Separate Spaces

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Think of the narrow lot landscape as a set of rooms, each with its own purpose. Areas designed for a specific purpose are more likely to be used. In most cases, locating seating areas away from the house to make the lot look longer. Surround the seating area with planter boxes to separate it from the rest of the yard.

Leave another part of the lawn for the kids, and obscure the view slightly with some dwarf trees or tall perennials. The yard will look larger if no one can see easily into every room.

Don’t Neglect the Side Yard

With narrow lots, the side yard between the house proper and the neighbor’s house (or fence) becomes a landing pad for trash cans, garden tools and bags of potting soil. Instead, transform the side yard into a purposeful pathway. Use stone, bricks, pavers or even just gravel to create a path between the front and back yards. Along the path, plant climbing vines, hedges or beds of hostas. Add uplighting for a more dramatic look, and tuck in a small fountain or birdbath.

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Accent With Large Containers

Although a homeowner’s instinct may be to choose small containers, a larger container is the best choice even in a small space. Choose one primary color for container plants; if desired, enhance them with one or two complementary colors. Make sure to avoid choosing too many different colors because the effect can be visually distracting. In addition, remember that containers require more care because water evaporates from them more quickly. Homeowners not committed to diligently watering the garden should choose xeriscape plants that can go for longer periods without needing a drink.

Narrow Landscape, Big Presence

Narrow homes and narrow landscapes can still have a big, beautiful presence. Just use visual tricks and smart planning to make the most of every inch of space, and make sure that the landscape design supports the way that you want to use your outdoor space.

Haskell House image by Jeffrey Beale from Flickr Creative Commons.

Hidcote Manor Garden image by Dave Catchpole from Flickr Creative Commons.

Hidden Gardens of Bury St. Edmunds image by Karen Roe from Flickr Creative Commons.