Q: My friends’ and neighbors’ gardens are always so impressive. What am I doing wrong with mine?

Don’t be too hard on yourself — gardening should be fun!

First, we’d advise anyone to not be too hard on themselves when it comes to gardening. It’s all too easy to think that the grass (or maybe the thumb) is greener on the other side, but comparing yourself to others, especially if these are folks who have been gardening for years and years, is only going to be a discouraging experience. Do what is realistic for you.

Perhaps most important to remember is that gardening should be a fun experience! You’re doing this as a hobby, right? Unless you’re a farmer and this is your main source of income, gardening is a worthwhile excuse to spend more time outside, get a little exercise, take pride in growing a few fresh fruits and vegetables, and learn a few new things along the way. Treat it that way! Set small, incremental goals for yourself and trust the process. 

Here’s another important thing to remember about gardening: It requires commitment, commitment to planning and a commitment of your time. We know a lot of gardeners who are always thinking a season ahead of time, which will help them yield better results. Gardening is an activity of patience and maintenance. Before you find yourself in a situation where you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, ask yourself why you want to have a garden, and also ask yourself how much time you really have to devote to this activity. 

Those people who have gardens you envy so much? They spend a lot of time planning them, planting them, and maintaining them, and prepping them for the next season’s fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Is that what you want? If so, then don’t be afraid to ask them for advice. Hit up the library or find some credible online resources. Spend as much time as you can learning what makes sense for your lifestyle. If you’re someone who just wants to grow, say, tomatoes and herbs, then maybe a container garden is a more sensible choice for you. And it’s a perfectly acceptable one! Your yield will taste just as good, we swear.

To recap: 

  • Figure out what makes sense for your lifestyle and the amount of time you can devote to gardening
  • Do as much research as you can on what you want to grow and what supplies you’ll need to accomplish your gardening goal, no matter how big or how small
  • Plan ahead! If you’re growing items from seed, this can take months to yield 
  • Have fun!

Q: I love to entertain, but our backyard is small. What can we do to make it a functional space?

Just because your yard is small, does not mean it can’t be the landscape of your dreams. All you need to do is have the right plan and the right mindset to make it happen!

When it comes to yards, bigger isn’t always better. Depending on how much time you have to maintain your yard, a smaller space can be a better fit for your lifestyle, and can often look and feel more enjoyable than those larger spaces that aren’t adequately taken care of.

Also, considering that many developers these days are typically designing more homes on smaller lots, the reality of a smaller outdoor space has increasingly become a common design challenge that simply requires a little design creativity coupled with a clear understanding of a homeowner’s goals. 

Our first bit of advice is to consider how you want to spend your time in your yard. If entertaining is your goal, then let’s break that down even further: Is your hope to serve drinks? Dinner? Have a space for conversation, or maybe even a game of cards or two?

Consider outdoor furniture that is not only comfortable and capable of seating a small crowd, but also functional. A great deal of newer outdoor furniture also contains storage, so you can keep things inside, like pillows and blankets, your outdoor plates and flatware, or even those games that might come out once everyone is fully relaxed. 

Another crucial step in maximizing your space, no matter how big or small it might be, is creating clear delineations between areas. If a small fire pit is important to you, then you’ll want to make sure you can place seating around it, since it’s a natural gathering place. If you want to grill, then you’ll need to make certain that you have a prep area within arm’s reach. Same goes for seating for dining, conversation, or game play.

One way we help our clients divide up these spaces in a way that feels natural and beautiful to the eye, is through the use of different textures. Imagine seating on a concrete pad that is placed in front of a small fire pit set upon stones. Behind it lies a short wall of raised garden beds featuring tall flowers and plants set in grass. All three sections are connected by a wooden plank walkway. It’s one space with three distinct sections and four unique ground and flooring styles. A beautiful solution. And that’s just one example. There are countless others that we could create together. 

To recap:

  • Bigger isn’t always better. What can you realistically maintain, and what will you realistically use?
  • How do you want to use this space? What are the activities you love that will have you spending just as much time outside the home and you would inside?
  • When decorating a small space, look for pieces that are comfortable, versatile, and functional
  • Create clear divisions in your space through colors, textures, and materials — the way you ultimately use the space will fall in line with this vision

Looking for practical answers that become incredible solutions for your yard? Contact Greenhaven Landscapes today. We have a quarter-century of experience in helping people just like you achieve the landscape of their dreams!