Planning Your Backyard

Before you start laying out your backyard, think about the individual members of your family and the features they might enjoy.
From: DK Books - Family Garden

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Mick Telkamp

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Family Space

This design includes dedicated play and eating areas as well as low-maintenance planting. Clever design and vibrant color make it feel modern and lively—a place to relax and play.

For a Young Family

Play is likely to be at the top of any young family’s list, and you may want to consider a number of different features that will keep children occupied. Play equipment can include swings, slides, a playhouse fort, and dedicated areas for a pool or sandbox.

For Older Children

Backyard needs change as children get older. Some will become more physical and need larger, sturdier play equipment. Adding a treehouse or a trampoline will encourage children to spend time in the yard with friends.

For Adults

It is easy to overlook your own needs in the yard in favor of those of children. Make sure the yard has plenty of features for you too. Many people find that an interest in gardening develops as their children grow older and they have more time on their hands. A greenhouse allows you to extend the season for growing vegetables and ornamentals. Don't overlook the potential for great design when choosing yours: beautifully designed greenhouses really stand out in the garden.

Entertaining Areas

Create a comfortable seating area in the yard with plenty of atmospheric night lighting where you can enjoy time with friends and family. An awning provides some shelter from the elements and the hot sun, and makes this an even more inviting space.

Add Low-Maintenance Pathways

Older people have different needs in their yard, and may wish to make it low-maintenance to extend their enjoyment of the space. Large lawns should be the first thing to go if you are struggling to keep up your yard. Wide, level paths surrounded by plantings are far easier to look after. Choose evergreen plants with interesting foliage, rather than relying on maintenance-heavy flowering perennials, and get plenty of mulch in between to keep the weeds at bay.

Add More Access

Access to the yard can be a frustrating problem for some disabled people, but there are ways of bringing the yard to you, through landscaping and carefully thought out plantings. For those with reduced mobility, raised beds are a great feature, allowing easier access to plants and flowers. Sturdy ramps will allow for better movement around any changes of level in the yard.

Bring Wildlife to Your Yard

Encouraging a variety of wildlife can make spending time in the yard even more enjoyable for family members of all ages. A nesting box provides a secure home for birds and their young.

Backyard Shed Makes Excellent Storage

A backyard shed can provide a large amount of storage space for children's toys as well as yard tools. Imaginative storage is the key to keeping the yard tidy.

Strong Fences for Your Dog

Provide strong boundaries for dogs so they will not run the neighborhood. Dogs need the space to roam and exercise a backyard provides. But they should be kept fenced in for their own safety and for the safety of your neighbors.

Give the Chickens a Place of Their Own

Chickens can be a great backyard addition. They can entertain the family and help to keep pests at bay. But, they can wreak havoc with borders, scratching up all of the young growth as it emerges. Protect your plants or keep the chickens in a run. Even consider building a creative coop like the one above that fits right in with the rest of your yard décor. 

Well-Positioned Seating

Provide places throughout the garden and along paths for rest and to enjoy the views. Make sure benches are on level ground, and that steep sections of the garden are graded to make these areas more accessible for visitors. Benches like these also help define your garden's style.

Build a Tree Swing

A sturdy tree in the backyard could be a great spot to hang a swing.

Handrails Prevent Falling Hazards in the Yard

Consider installing handrails wherever any members of the family might struggle or trip. A handrail for children will need to be set lower, but you can buy versions with rails at two levels, as shown above.

Add Sensory Elements

Yards rich in sensory qualities can appeal to those struggling with their sight or hearing. The Clematis tangutica provides a tactile display of soft, silky seedheads after the blooms have died. This textural display adds interest to the garden after the summer season of blooming is over.