15 backyard landscaping ideas for enjoying the summer at home

Warning: these clever backyard landscaping ideas will make you want to spend the whole summer at home!

Backyard landscaping ideas
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Thinking about upgrading your backyard for the warmer months? With summer not too far on the horizon, we’ve all been dreaming up ways to make the most of the longer, warmer days ahead—and the best place to start is in the backyard.

Although this summer is shaping up to be much more flexible in terms of socializing outside of your own household, having a killer backyard set up will make hosting friends or out of town guests fun, easy, and safe.

Whether you’re working with a sprawling outdoor space or it’s imperative to make every square inch of your small backyard work in your favor, we’ve rounded up a handful of smart and easily achievable landscaping ideas that will make your backyard somewhere you’ll want to hang out all summer long.

Consider a retaining wall

retaining wall

(Image credit: Roger's Landscaping)

Not only does a retaining wall look aesthetically pleasing and elegant, it actually comes with a handful of practical benefits as well—including flood control, slowing down soil erosion, and even creating an attractive property boundary marker should that be an issue.

Put in a putting green

backyard putting green

(Image credit: Amazon)

Think you have to live on a golf course to practice your swing at home? Think again! While a putting green might not be as grand as a driving range it’s a great way to practice your putt—even if you’re not big into golf. You can take on the task of building your own putting green, or hire a landscape professional to help, but there are also large variety of pre-made greens available online.

Add a water feature of some sort

outdoor water feature

(Image credit: Wayfair)

The easiest way to add a dose of serene sophistication to your backyard? A water feature! Whether your space is sprawling or you have a postage stamp-sized outdoor space, a water feature is quick to install and instantly makes your space feel more relaxing.

Create a shade garden under a tree

shade garden

(Image credit: Future)

Dealing with a shady backyard? While most of us tend to seek out as much sunlight as possible, a shade garden is a particularly underrated backyard attraction. All you’ll need is a couple of shade-loving plants (like dead nettle or foamflower) and a few pieces of wrought iron patio furniture and you’re all set.

Consider building raised garden beds

raised garden beds

(Image credit: Earth Easy)

Raised garden beds are an attractive and practical solution to gardening—whether you’re dealing with a small space or a large garden. Try making them yourself with a couple of 2x4s, or, if you’re not particularly handy, they’re readily available at hardware stores.

Add a network of walking paths

outdoor walking paths

(Image credit: Wayfair)

A network of walking paths can add some serious sophistication to your backyard—particularly if you have a lot of trees or bushes on your property. Consider adding decorative beach pebbles or a small bridge over any streams or water sources you might have.

Consider planting privacy hedges

outdoor privacy hedges

(Image credit: Fast Growing Trees)

If your neighbors’ house is particularly close in proximity to yours, you might benefit from planting privacy hedges. A lot of people assume these hedges take years to mature enough to be useful but you can actually buy near-mature plants that have been pre-grown to suit your needs.

Create your own butterfly garden

butterfly garden

(Image credit: Gardeners)

Nature watching is a wonderful way to be mindful and grounded—and adding your own pollinator or butterfly garden is a great way to ensure your backyard is a regular stopping point for all types of beautiful little creatures. All you need is a couple of diverse butterfly-friendly flowers and some host plants for caterpillars and you’re set.

Curate a private zen garden

zen garden

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Trying to make your backyard into a relaxation retreat? Look to the Japanese art of the zen garden. The concept of the “dry landscape” garden uses artfully arranged rocks, sand, moss, bushes, and water features in order to imitate the essence of nature and aid in meditation practices.

Create layers with low plants

layered plants

(Image credit: Tode Landscaping)

Your garden can be full and bursting with life but if you’re not intentional with your layering, it can look more like a jungle than a curated backyard garden. Consider adding layers by planting a row of lower plants to give a more structured look to the overall garden.

Spruce things up with ornamental grasses

ornamental grass

(Image credit: Home Depot)

Dried ornamental grasses like pampas and fountain grass have been having a moment on Instagram over the past couple of months—but the trendy ornamental grasses look great when planted outside as well. Consider planting your own and drying them for interior use when the weather starts to turn later in the summer.

Consider building a roofed pergola

roofed pergola

(Image credit: Home Depot)

“Shade in the summer is essential, and sometimes a traditional rear porch is not enough,” says Home Design Expert, Tim Bakke. “A growing trend is a roofed pergola, whether wood or metal, with a fabric or metal roof.”

These affordable structures create outdoor living space wherever it is needed or desired. Perhaps as an extension of the house, near a pool, or a focal point elsewhere in the backyard.

Incorporate Indoor/outdoor technology

indoor/outdoor technology

(Image credit: TV Shield)

According to Joe Raboine, Director of Residential Hardscapes with Belgard, integrating technology into outdoor spaces is becoming necessary to carry out daily functions. “Incorporate heating or lighting into an outdoor area, as well as WiFi and easily accessible electrical outlets for a fully functional space that can support more activities,” he says.

Integrate outdoor office space

outdoor office

(Image credit: Studio Shed)

Looking for a way to take your day-to-day from the inside to the backyard? Consider building fully functional microspaces! Creating dual usage flex spaces in the backyard provides viable outdoor living space makes living and working at home so much more interesting.

Create different backyard rooms

outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Wayfair)

“Large scale outdoor living spaces are the new norm as people shift their intentions to creating an outdoor area with multiple rooms for family and friends to enjoy,” explains Raboine. Whether you’re looking to entertain over the weekend, workout from your backyard, or create a romantic little spot for backyard dates, creating multi-use rooms is a great way to bring the indoors outside.

Kaitlyn McInnis
Kaitlyn McInnis

Kaitlyn is an experienced travel and lifestyle writer with a keen interest in interior decorating and home optimization. An avid traveler, she's currently splitting her time between her apartment in a century-old châteauesque building in Montreal and her cozy chalet in the woods (that she built with her own two hands... and many YouTube tutorials!). Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure, Tatler Asia, Forbes, Robb Report Singapore, and various other international publications.