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How to Backyard Big, even in small spaces

Backyarding is the practice of taking everyday activities – think entertaining, eating, working, and working out, to name a few – into the green space around us. Even those living in an urban setting with a smaller yard, or no yard at all, can enjoy the benefits of backyarding, according to the TurfMutt Foundation, which advocates for the care and use of yards, parks, and community green spaces.

“Thanks to smaller yards, community parks, and neighbourhood green space, backyarding big, even in small spaces, is possible,” says Kris Kiser, president & CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation. “It takes a little planning and adopting what we like to call a ‘master backyarder’ mindset.”

This is terrific news since a recent survey conducted for the TurfMutt Foundation by The Harris Poll indicates that backyarding is increasingly important to Canadians. According to the survey, a majority of Canadians (62 percent) say they spend time in their managed landscapes, including parks, community gardens, and yards, at least once a week when the weather allows.

The survey also reveals an overwhelming majority of Canadians (91 percent) correctly believe spending time in managed landscapes is good for their health and well-being. Spending time in green spaces, including our own backyards and community parks, elevates mood, improves memory, and reduces stress, among many other benefits.

The TurfMutt Foundation offers this advice for getting outside and enjoying green space when you have a small yard or no yard at all.

Plant with purpose. Plan carefully and creatively to utilize every square inch of living landscape real estate in support of your lifestyle. Need a place for your pet to do her business? Plant a small patch of grass. Do you long to take work outside? Set up a table in an under-utilized side yard (complete with a living landscape backdrop, of course) that can double as an outdoor dining area. Love nature? Plant a butterfly bush.

Use plants to create privacy. Rather than putting up a fence in a small yard, consider a “living wall” of trees or shrubs. It will make your outdoor space feel bigger and offer support to backyard wildlife and insects. Win, win!

Go vertical. Don’t forget to incorporate vertical space into your planting plans. You can hang flower baskets on your fence or railing. A trellis laced with living vines is a gorgeous focal point. Green walls are all the rage and utilize blank wall space to create a living landscape feature.

Utilize balconies & patios. Even if you don’t have grass or any soil to plant in, you can utilize containers to plant flowers, herbs, and even fruit and vegetables. There are also many planters available that attach to balcony railings.

Remember right plant, right place. Selecting the right plants for your lifestyle and climate is key to mastering a small backyard space. Consult the Canada Plant Hardiness Zone Map for help selecting the best plants for your microclimate. This will not only ensure you end up with plants that will thrive with minimal upkeep, they will also be best for supporting local pollinators.

Enjoy community green space. Take your kids to the park for a study session. Walk the dog through the community green space at the end of your road. Plan a doggie playdate at the local dog park. These are all wonderful places to get a dose of Vitamin N(ature).

To learn more about creating the yard of your dreams, visit

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