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Small backyards can pack a big punch

By: Kayla Dimick | C&G Newspapers | Published June 5, 2019

METRO DETROIT — If you have a small backyard, your big ideas can be right at home.

According to local experts, homeowners with small backyards don’t have to scale down their big ideas, and a few simple yard hacks can make your space seem bigger than it really is.

When it comes to plants, Karl Eckert, president of Eckert’s Greenhouse in Sterling Heights, said there are plenty of options to fill out small spaces, such as begonias and alyssum.

The key is choosing a plant that won’t take over your space, he said.

“There’s an array of plants that do not take over, even in smaller areas. We have small perennials — there are even tiny hostas called ‘mouse ears,’” Eckert said. “There’s an array of plants that will do. Limitations aren’t due to the fact that you don’t have the space.”

Whatever plants you choose, it’s important to give them ample space to grow.

“With perennials especially, think about how big that’s going to be one to two years down the road. Give it ample room,” Eckert said. “That’s a common mistake folks make. Space things out and think about how the plant will mature.”

Or, if you have your heart set on a vegetable garden but lack the space, there are plenty of workarounds.

The same rules apply for food gardens, Eckert said. Peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and green beans are all great options for a small space.

Be sure to choose tomatoes that are of the determinate vine variety, which means they will only grow up to 2 feet tall, Eckert said. Tomatoes are also an easy thing to grow up instead of out, like on fences and trellises.

“Fresh herbs require very little space, and you get a large amount to eat for a long time. You can put strawberries in a hanging basket. That way, they’re not taking up any space. You can get several strawberries per day, and by the end of October you’re going to be eating a lot of strawberries that didn’t take up that much space,” Eckert said.

There are also ways to make your patio and yard appear to be much larger than they really are.

Vanessa Moase, operations manager at Dale’s Landscaping Supply in Roseville, said it’s all about tricking your mind.

“One of the biggest things, I think, would be to incorporate your indoor space into your outdoor space,” she said. “So if you have a doorwall going out to the backyard, you can incorporate that into your backyard. A simple way you can do that is by running your patio and decking lines in the same direction.”

Moase said that laying the pattern of your patio in the same direction as your indoor flooring will make for a seamless transition — and make both spaces feel bigger.

To maximize patio space, reach for the sky.

“For plants, the one thing I would suggest is planting up. So any plants that are going to grow tall and not wide are going to give you more floor space,” Moase said.

Corie Conroy, president of First Impression Home Staging, suggests utilizing space that would normally get overlooked, such as a side yard.

“Plan out every part of your yard, including the side yard. It often gets ignored and people store their garbage cans there, but maybe having an herb garden in that area or making a designated area for a morning retreat would make your yard more usable and create more space,” Conroy said.

To up your patio game, Conroy suggests bringing it to life through plants.

“Using arbors or pergolas is a good idea. You can put climbing plants on it, or live walls are a really big thing right now. It creates a little oasis in your backyard and gives you the illusion of more warmth and privacy, and it creates a lot more interest and character in the yard,” she said.