Getting more outdoor time is one of the quickest ways to boost your mood, and you don’t have to go far. With a few landscaping and design updates, you can transform your backyard into a relaxing oasis.
There are so many ways to beautify your backyard, ranging from simple DIYs to more dramatic updates.
Even a quick prune job can improve your outdoor space. Peruse this list to inspire your backyard makeover and enjoy more time outdoors.
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Backyard Landscaping Ideas
- Grab a pair of shears and prune your trees and shrubs. Check out the transformation when I pruned a Pieris to look like a tree.
- Plant eye-catching trees. If you don’t have mature landscaping yet, or your backyard has some gaps, plant a few trees now so you can enjoy the shade and beauty later.
- Get rid of evil ivy. Take back your yard by removing this invasive plant. It’s easy to get rid of ivy with solarization and time.
- Plant a privacy hedge. Try adding a row of skip laurels or other evergreens to create a privacy hedge in your backyard. Tall shrubs really make the best neighbors.
- Make an attractive swimming hole for fish. Keep these pond-building tips in mind.
- Lay bark dust. A thick layer of mulch or bark dust is one of the best ways to instantly refresh your backyard and add a finishing touch. Here’s how it looks around my raised bed landscaping.
- Create a rock garden or gravel landscape. You could add multiple sections of gravel in contrasting colors as seen at the bottom of this article. Or stick to one kind of gravel with a few larger rocks scattered around desert plants.
- Plant a hedge maze with tall evergreen shrubs. Like in The Shining, but without the ghosts.
- Make a berm to add height to your landscaping. A berm can soften your backyard with attractive curves and give you privacy if you fill it with shrubs and trees. Follow my easy berm landscaping guide.
- Create a terraced landscape. If you have a sloped backyard, you may want to create several terraced garden beds to improve access. See this terraced garden inspiration.
- Shape a boxwood into a whimsical topiary. Your shrubs don’t have to be round or square. Try getting artsy and carving out a memorable shape, like a kitty topiary.
- Highlight your best backyard features with accent lights. Here are some modern options.
Hardscaping in the Backyard
- Make a DIY patio with paver stones. If you don’t have a patio yet, or you need more usable space, add your own with paver stones. Here’s an easy paver patio tutorial.
- Add pea gravel. An attractive pea gravel area can provide white space to contrast with the greenery in your backyard. See how this looks in my raised garden bed landscaping.
- Install a flagstone path. Add flow to your yard with a functional and attractive path between the main entertaining areas.
- Pour a concrete walkway. For a more prominent path, learn how to pour a concrete walkway with this tutorial.
- Add a decorative privacy screen. We created this focal point by replicating the old mid-century privacy screen that was here originally.
- Build a bridge. What could be more romantic than a little bridge along the path in your backyard? Here are several ideas.
- Create a dry river bed. Instead of a water feature, you could add a dry river bed filled with river rocks and border plants under and around your bridge.
- Go big with boulders. They add a modern look to your landscaping, and once in place they are low maintenance.
- Install an accent wall, Palm Springs style. Choose your favorite motif to create a swanky breeze block wall.
- Build a retaining wall that doubles as art. They can add function as well as beauty. Try these modern retaining wall blocks.
- Make a gabion wall. You can use these caged rocks to create separation between outdoor areas. Gabion walls may also provide extra seating, though maybe not the most comfortable kind.
- Install garden stairs. Create a safe walkway for accessing a sloped garden.
- Build a deck for the best vantage point to enjoy your backyard. Try this floating deck tutorial from Ugly Duckling House.
- Swap out your deck railing for a modern option. We chose mid-century style angled railing with wires to let the light flow through.
- Make a private sun lounging area. Add outdoor screens or hedges to carve out a completely private spot to lounge in the backyard.
- Build a fence. Good for pets, good for hiding from pesky neighbors.
- Rake up any yard debris. The lawn is the heart of the backyard. Rake it up for instant beautification.
- Mow the lawn. A quick trim makes a big difference.
- Level the lawn. It’s hard to have a proper croquet match on an uneven lawn. Fill in the holes with dirt and add fresh lawn seed until you have a safe, even surface.
- Reshape your lawn. It doesn’t have to be rectangle, and it definitely doesn’t have to spread from fence to fence. Try giving your lawn a curved shape and adding plants and bark dust around the border.
- Edge the lawn with a plastic border. I used a no-dig edging kit to create a clean edge around my lawn and keep that grass from spreading into the rest of the garden.
- Paint the lawn. Yes, you can paint your lawn when it turns yellow in the summer. It’s nontoxic, safe for the grass and so easy for an instant transformation.
- Opt for artificial grass. If your climate makes lawn care too challenging, try replacing the grass with an attractive artificial option.
- Plant a lawn alternative. You could skip all the work of lawn upkeep with a low-maintenance lawn alternative like sedum tiles or Scotch moss. Look for something that is drought tolerant in your region and doesn’t have to be mowed.
Gardening Tips for the Backyard
- Plant a good mix of annual and perennial flowers. The annuals will grow fast and give you long, colorful blooms, but they won’t come back next year. The perennials will take longer to grow, but they’ll keep coming back every year. Try these spring-blooming beauties.
- Decorate the yard with container plants. For a modern look, place a symmetrical row of concrete planters like I used here.
- Give your flower pots a makeover. Add backyard beauty with fun planters, like these DIY mosaic flower pots.
- Plant evergreens. Having lots of evergreen plants will ensure your backyard has attractive greenery year-round. Plus you’ll get pops of color when your evergreens bloom (e.g. this pretty pink rhododendron).
- Plant deciduous shrubs and trees. Even though they’ll lose their leaves in the winter, deciduous trees offer stunning seasonal beauty, especially when they get their spring blooms and fall colors.
- Add a vertical garden. Whether you’re short on space or you just want to add height and interest, a vertical garden is a fun, modern way to extend your garden. Try this DIY vertical garden made from a handrail.
- Plant a climbing vine on a lovely trellis. Always a romantic look.
- Hang flower baskets. Get a quick win with colorful trailing flower baskets. Here’s an easy flower basket formula to plant a showstopper.
- Get Mediterranean vibes with an herb garden. Delicious and beautiful.
- Keep the pests away from your plants. Slugs and mites are the enemy of beautiful backyards. Try these pest prevention tips that I use in my strawberry garden to avoid damage.
- Install drip irrigation to keep your plants fresh. Watering the garden is a snap with drip irrigation.
- Build raised garden beds. This can add an attractive area to your backyard and make it easier to amend the soil for your plants and veggies to thrive. Here’s a simple way to build raised beds.
- Make pretty plant markers. Don’t forget what you planted and where. Print and laminate these mid-century modern DIY plant markers, then pop them in the garden to label your veggies.
- Install window boxes. Then fill them with stunning annual flowers each season.
- Give your potting shed a makeover. Clean it up, stock it with all the gardening supplies you need (here are my favorites) and give it some decor updates like curtains and fresh paint.
- Build a greenhouse. This outdoor structure will provide the perfect spot to nurture your plants, and the greenhouse itself can add to the beauty of your backyard.
- Add an arbor. Create a whimsical doorway to your garden with an arbor around your garden beds or along a path.
- Make a garden tunnel. Go beyond the arbor by adding multiple arches to create an oversized garden tunnel. Then fill it in with climbing vines like grapes or wisteria.
- Install a pool for the ultimate backyard leisure spot. It doesn’t have to be in-ground to beautify your backyard. See the retro stock tank pool on Suburban Pop.
- Relax and enjoy your backyard in a new hot tub. Check out my tips for creating hot tub privacy here.
- Build a dreamy outdoor shower. If you’re feeling fancy.
- Get that beachy feeling right in the backyard with a sandbox. It’s the perfect place to kick off your shoes. (And FYI, I have a sandy area in my yard and haven’t had any problems with neighbor cats doing their business.)
- Warm up in a sauna. Yes, you can actually buy these on Amazon.
- Upgrade the playhouse. Karen at Decor Hint shares some gorgeous playhouse makeover inspiration here.
- Create the treehouse of your childhood dreams. Swiss Family Robinson style.
- Spruce up the tool shed. Check out the impossibly adorable pink tool shed on Young House Love for inspiration.
- Make a Scandi style lean-to wood shed. It’s the perfect place to store firewood for the winter and add an attractive feature to your backyard.
- Build a pergola. This structure provides light filtering for your patio and offers another spot for plants to climb.
- Welcome guests to your backyard tiny house. The classic mother-in-law’s quarters could also be a pretty space to work from home or keep up with hobbies.
- Build a gazebo. The queen of all outdoor structures, a gazebo gives full shade and creates a magnetic gathering space everyone loves.
- Paint a mural on a fence or wall. You could get the whole family involved, or keep it modern with a geometric mural like this.
- Express yourself by hanging outdoor art.
- Make a wind chime that looks as beautiful as it sounds. This modern DIY wind chime from Sugar and Cloth is perfect.
- Hide away less attractive features like the air conditioning unit. Check out this tutorial.
- Tidy up your garden with a hose reel. I use this sturdy hose reel and love it.
- Curate a tasteful collection of yard ornaments. Like a handsome gnome or set of pink flamingoes.
- Pressure wash your outdoor structures, deck and patio. We took years off our patio by pressure washing.
- Re-stain your deck and fence. A fresh coat of stain made our old gray fence look new.
- Install a rain chain. The rain is even prettier when you send it cascading down a gutter rain chain.
- Get instant serenity with a water fountain. They’re also great for overpowering other less pleasant sounds, like the neighbor’s band practice.
- Paint the house. Your house is part of the backyard view, so make sure the paint is fresh. Follow these steps before painting your house.
- Repair your house siding. If your cedar siding is damaged, here’s how to replace tongue and groove siding.
- Create a fairy garden. The possibilities are endless with this adorable trend.
- Get more privacy with outdoor curtains.
- Hang string lights, always. If you don’t have an obvious spot to hang them, make these light pole planters.
Outdoor Living & Lounging
- Create an outdoor kitchen. Cooking is so much more fun when done alfresco. Try these ideas.
- Make a backyard fire pit. This is my number one must-have for the backyard. Year-round s’mores! (Just check for any fire restrictions first.)
- Make an outdoor garden bench. You could stack pavers as a weather-proof base, or make a modern wood bench like this.
- Extend your backyard time into the night with stylish porch lights.
- Dine under the stars at your picnic table. Here’s a modern DIY option for an outdoor dining table.
- Up the style with an outdoor area rug. It will make your backyard seating area feel extra cozy.
- Lounge on your outdoor sofa. Here are some favorite modern patio furniture ideas.
- Stay young at heart with a backyard swing. If you don’t have a sturdy tree branch, try a free-standing porch swing.
- Take it easy in a shady hammock. Try one of these hammocks.
- Refinish your outdoor chairs. Decor Hint has the perfect tutorial for restoring Adirondack chairs.
- Cool down under a shade canopy or umbrella. Get more outdoor time without the sun exposure.
- Get sporty. Try adding a mini golf putting green or badminton net to your landscape.
Backyard Ideas for the Animals
- Make a catio to give your kitties safe outdoor time. Check out my top catio must-haves.
- Install a dog run. Give the pups a spot to stretch their legs.
- Hang a butterfly house. Try one of these stylish insect hotels.
- Start your urban farm with a backyard chicken coop. Farm fresh eggs from a chicken coop as cool as these? Yes, please.
- Support your local birds with a modern bird feeder.
- Create a birdhouse village in the trees. Paint and hang multiple chalet birdhouses for backyard whimsy. See my easy birdhouse village tutorial.
- Give the birds a spot to cool down. You could pick up a ready-made birdbath or make one with a serving platter or plant saucer. Plus get more modern birdbath ideas and cleaning tips.
- And don’t forget a cute little bee bath. These should be shallow with small stones or marbles, like this.
Let’s Spruce Up Your Yard
I know that was a lot of ideas for your backyard makeover!
Not sure where to start? Download the 7 quick landscaping wins in my resource library to make your yard look like a million bucks.