You know that often neglected, alley-like area that runs along the side of the house? The one where the wash line and dustbin usually reside? Turns out that there’s actually quite a bit you can do with it…

Add a path or walkway – Most side yards aren’t very big, but you can easily lay a path down the length of the space using gravel, pebbles or ornamental grasses, with an arrangement of pavers in between. Play with different textures, shapes and sizes for an interesting walkway.

Plant a garden – The side yard can become quite the ‘green’ area, be it a container garden along the wall or a sculpture garden with a few unique pieces dotted here and there; a line of trees planted along both sides of the space (or just a single line on one side if that’s all your space will allow); a shade garden to compensate for a lack of sunlight on that side of the house, or a more useful set-up of herbs and veggies growing close to the kitchen door.

Close it off – Not only does a gate add a sense of security and privacy, but it can also hide what lies behind it, like the bin or your compost heap. It can even turn your side yard into a comfortable spot to put the dogs while you’re entertaining. Make it a pretty gate though; not one that merely screams ‘utility’.

Draw the eye up – The side of a house can be boring and lack architecture. So add something overhead to define the space better. String up some lights, plant a climber on a pergola or create a completely covered area with a louvered awning or shade sail. Trellises offer another way to stretch the space upward if they’re attached to a wall, for example. Or you can try your hand at some vertical gardening. There are plenty of ways to do it, starting with wall-mounted pots and flowerboxes.

Just add water – The sound of water trickling, bubbling or cascading down is always so soothing. So think about adding a pond, fountain or other type of water feature to your side yard. You’ll probably be able to enjoy the sound it from all sides of the yard, including inside the house. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and your side yard is quite secluded, why not install an outdoor shower?

Light the way – Aside from overhead lights, you can also ‘plant’ some solar lamps down the length of the side yard if it enjoys a good dose of sunshine, to illuminate it if you have to venture down there after dark.

Put it to work – Need a craft corner or other work/hobby space? Use the side yard. You can easily set up an easel here or put up a workbench for your DIY projects. Or somewhere to put a garden shed? Your garden tools, pots, seeds, pool equipment, etc can be kept within easy reach if you’re out in the main yard then. You can even turn the side yard into a fun (and safely contained) area for the kids to play in – complete with a sandpit and playhouse if space permits.

Turn it into an intimate little hideaway – One of the advantages of a side yard’s limited space is that it can be quite intimate. It’s also usually well-protected from the elements. Pave the area so you can easily set a small table and chairs there for quiet outdoor dining. Or set a comfortable bench amongst plantings of lavender or roses for a fragrant reading nook.

Tip: Don’t let your side yard be an afterthought if you are about to build. Rather see how the current plans can be altered or modified to make the most of its proportions and tucked-away location.

Image: iStock

Image: iStock