Gardening: Solutions for narrow side yard

Published 1:00pm 12 February 2024

Gardening: Solutions for narrow side yard
Words by Sondra Grainger

The narrow side yard can be an access area, wheelie bin residence, dog run, dump zone or quite often, a laundry laneway and a headache for many homeowners.

Here are some simple ideas to add green life to these often-neglected spaces and turn the useless into useful!

Firstly, it's important to determine the following ...

  • what you want to use this space for?
  • how much sun/shade is there?
  • what soil type do you have?
  • how wide/long is the space?
  • is privacy a concern?
  • what underground utilities run through the area?
  • what style of garden do you have (tropical, native, cottage etc)?

Use your fences

No width, no worries. Plant a climber, espalier a vine or fruit tree, install a vertical garden or wall planters on your fence. If the kitchen is nearby and there's ample sunshine, plant a selection of herbs for quick and easy access. An outdoor mirror, wall art or screen will add a point of interest and break up a long monotonous fence. Always position for indoor viewing.

Step it out

Pathways of concrete, stepping stones, gravel or mulch are ideal for low-sun areas where grass struggles or it’s simply too challenging to mow. Low or fragrant ground covers such as zoysia, mini mondo, thyme, native violets or even oregano will work in between steppers if foot traffic isn't too heavy.

Hide and seek

If you seek a little privacy, opt for quick-growing or mature plants but always check their potential width. If hedging isn't a chore, a Lillypilly has dense foliage when maintained and offers year-round greenery. Radermachera Summerscent will tolerate full sun/part shade and rewards you with a softly fragranced white flower in the warmer months.

Varieties of Heliconias can boom to 4m+ in height and suit a tropical style and warmer climates.

Pretty please

If it's year-round colour you're after, think Cordylines and Crotons, both tough once established and happy with some shade although keep brighter colour with more sun. Shade-loving hydrangea, mona lavender, impatiens and begonias will require a little more TLC but burst into bloom throughout the year.

Kid zone

Do the kids need an outdoor area just for them? A chalkboard on the fence, hopscotch paths, a designated fairy garden or their own little patch to plant gives them a chance to get creative in a zone they can call their own.

Hot and harsh

Blistering summer heat + well drained soil = succulents. Keep away from cacti if it's a thoroughfare and look for a variety of hanging and potted plants interspersed with tough sansevieria for height options.

If your washing line is in an area like this, why not plant a row of lavender underneath? Not only will it withstand the heat, it will fragrance your washing as it brushes across the blooms and foliage.

Inspired but not sure? Take some photos in to your local garden centre and ask for recommendations to suit your requirements.

Happy gardening!

Need some inspiration? See the photos below

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