Maximising space in a small garden

how to make a big garden in a small space

Maximising space in a small garden is all about minimising ‘dead space’

Garden sizes have been shrinking for decades – which is a crying shame. As land for development becomes ever more expensive, more houses are squeezed into the same sized area with the casualty being the garden.

Although your garden is getting smaller, the stuff we need to use in the garden is not. Humans still take up the same amount of space as we have always done.

It is ironic though, as humans are getting bigger, the space we have to actually live in is getting smaller.

The garden therefore needs to work much more efficiently if you are to fit in what you need and still have space to breathe.

what is dead space in small garden design
avoid dead space in small garden design

How do you maximise space in a small garden then?

Well, it’s all about minimising dead space.

In a small garden the area is 3 dimensional, everytime you put something in the garden, it uses space, but it also creates an area around it, that can’t easily be used.

This is dead space and it will quickly take over a small garden, unless you think about it!

pg b link to paltry patio

Tips for maximising space and minimising dead space.


Choose square over round, it can be tucked away into a corner more easily than a round table.

Bistro tables may look chic, but they can’t hold more than a couple of cups of coffee and a sideplate. If you want to be able to eat out, have a bistro by all means but fit a drop down table for extra space.

It’s a neat but  cost effective way of creating a table – without losing valuable space.

Also think about putting a mirror or some outdoor artwork on the underside of the table.

Once the table is closed, there will still have something interesting to look at.

space saving bistro set
Argos balcony bistro set
image ericmiller83 pinterest

All gardens have ugly areas, normally where the bins go.

If you create an attractive screen you can hide bins, rotary washing lines & all sorts of unsightly objects behind it.

If the screen is a feature itself, the benefit is doubled. Not only is it a place to hide stuff behind, but it is attractive to look as well.

Screens are much better space savers than a small shed or those grey plastic shed units many garden centres sell.


Light levels are often low at ground level, so raising the plants up off the ground will help them grow better.

Avoid using climbers, they will most likely not grow how you want them too, all the growth will be at head height and just get in the way!

Another good way to display plants is on corner shelving units. Pots can be placed on shelves, so you can create a vertical display.

Use soft, light, willowy vertical plants in the garden – so they grow upwards but not outwards. Avoid thorny or prickly plants, no matter how fashionable they may be!

tiered corner plant stand

Pots can use up a lot of space, so think carefully about the shape. The best space saving shape is tall and thin. This also has the advantage of raising plants off the floor so they get more light and grow better.

It you are having larger pots, put them on wheels, having moveable outdoor ‘furniture’ makes life a lot easier!

The Design:

Before you start changing or creating the garden outside, you need to think about the following.

  • Where is the best place for sitting outside.
  • Are you going to be eating meals outside, in which case is a larger eating area required.
  • Can you create an extra view by adding some wall art for example
outdoor wall art
  • Where is the most convenient place for the bins – ease of access etc.
  • Are you intending to dry laundry outside. Rotary lines can be put away after use (however they still need storage space) or a wall mounted retractable line, which takes up less space but there are less options for siting it than a rotary line.
  • How much space is really needed for storing garden equipment – is a shed really necessary?
  • Lastly, grass – if you have grass, you need a lawn mower (or a robot mower at least). You need to have somewhere to dispose of the mown grass. A small grass lawn will take a lot of ‘foot traffic’ so will wear out easliy. Decide then, must you have a lawn?

The answers provide you with a blueprint for how you will set out your garden.

The process goes something like this.

Once you know where to sit, decide on the furniture that will fit that space the best. Then you know how much space it will taken up and how much space is left.

Then sort out the essentials, where will the bins and any storage requirements go so you can get to then as easily as possible.

If these are in view too much, then you need to look at screening the area off. Be inventive, make the screen a really attractive feature of the garden.

Washing lines, can these be easily fitted in or is it  better to  use a clothes horse that can be used inside and outside?

Storage, do you need a place for bikes, pushchairs or BBQ’s for example. Work out the best way to store these, when not in use. Make sure the storage unit itself is attractive, it will be a large visible feature in the garden.  Mirrors, paint and screens can all be used to disguise anything ugly.

The space that left is for ‘decorating’. This is the point at which you tap into your creative/artisitc side and choose colours and styles. Whatever style chosen remember the space is in 3 dimensions.

Create little views by adding mirrors to reflect light for example. Use wall art, it’s better than staring at a blank wall. Keep to a theme and most importantly a colour theme. It will be more eyecatching.

Think of the plants you use as the room decoration, they are your scatter cushions, table lamps and ornaments. Finally in a small garden the one sense that should not be overlooked is scent. Make sure as many of the plants used are scented – it will make a world of difference.

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Get inspired

Now clearly we could write a book on garden design that will help you plan even the smallest of gardens better – which is brilliant because there IS a book to help you

I Want to Like my Garden by Rachel McCartain available at Amazon and other online bookstores in eBook and Paperback

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