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The great Aussie quarter-acre block is fast becoming a thing of the past. With house prices and rent prices sky high all across our wide, brown land, more and more people are finding themselves living in smaller and smaller spaces. The first thing sacrificed on a small block size is the rambling back yard.

Luckily for us though, gardening in small spaces is not as restrictive as it may at first seem. The internet is full of ideas for how to optimise your garden in the urban outdoors. You’re not doomed to a sparse plot of boring pavers.

The first thing to think about, however, when planning how to garden a small space, is what you’re aiming to achieve with your gardening. Was the low maintenance of the small outdoor area one of the reasons this abode appealed to you? Are you looking to squeeze in as many plants as you can? How functional do you want this space to be?

Girl(3-5) with mud hands

Whether you’re a no-fuss person who lacks a green thumb, or an outdoor-lover who wants to make the most of their backyard no matter how small it is, lawn is always a smart option for landscaping in small spaces.

Instead of paving your outdoor area, turf is a colourful alternative that brings some life and colour to your backyard whilst still being low maintenance. Families living in the inner city needn’t have to take their kids to the park for outdoor play – a lawn in the backyard, no matter how small, is always a great mat to play on.

Most ideas for gardening in small spaces involve growing plants vertically – vertical planters, succulent walls, hanging pots… Incorporating a petite lawn with these elements allows a sense of space whilst still including all of the vertical plants. A patch of lawn on the ground will make the floor space feel larger, whereas putting more plants or pots there would create a sense of being cluttered and cramped.

A small lawn isn’t boring – there’s plenty of ways you can liven up your turf. Mowing in patterns is very on-trend and adds an extra dimension to your small backyard lawn. You can also border the lawn with interesting pavers, garden beds, or shrubs. Bulbs are also a great way to break up a lawn. Plant intermittent tulip or daffodil bulbs through your patch of turf for a burst of interesting colour.

Lawn grasses needn’t always be trimmed into a turf. Longer grasses such as Rhodes grasses or taller fescues look lovely when kept long. These make for great living pavers or grass borders to paths, ponds, or garden beds. Border stone pavers with grasses to get the best of both worlds – you get a green garden without having to upkeep a lawn.

When choosing a lawn for your compact yard it’s important to choose a variety that will grow well in the small space. It’s not the size of the area that may pose the problem, but other circumstances such as shade and competing root systems.

If fences, trees, or your house cast shade over the lawn area you will need to select a grass variety that doesn’t demand full sunlight. Ryegrasses and other cool season grasses tend to fare better in shady areas. Of the warm season grasses, buffalo copes better with less sunlight, needing only four to six hours per day. Stay away from couch which is sunlight-hungry, needing more than six hours of sunlight a day to thrive.

Gardening in small spaces can lead to plants competing for nutrients and space. Keep this in mind when selecting a grass variety for your lawn. If your lawn is only one element of your garden and you want to keep it from creeping into other garden beds or between pavers, it’s best not to opt for something invasive. Kikuyu is notorious for creeping anywhere and everywhere. Unless you stay right on its case you’ll soon find your entire yard covered with kikuyu.

Moving into an apartment or house with a limited amount of outdoor space need not mean having no garden. Instead of covering it with boring paving and forgetting about it, try planting a lawn. The kids, the pets, and even the adults in your family will appreciate the splash of colour and the increased functionality.