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Tips for Back Yard Landscaping
By: Megan Hazel

When it comes to the back yard, your designs should center around maximizing the amount of usable living space you have, rather than focusing totally on the appearance of the space as in the front yard.

Define your Needs
The first thing to consider when designing your back yard is what you want out of the space. Do you want a place for your children to play? Or, would you prefer an entertainment area with a barbecue and eating area, or a quiet space with a small pond, for relaxation? Perhaps you would like a flower garden, herb garden, vegetable patch, or an easy-care space that doesn't require you to spend your weekends doing maintenance work?

One of the most important considerations at this stage is deciding how much time you are willing to spend on maintenance. If you don't want to spend large amounts of time on yard maintenance work and gardening, you'll need to focus on creating low-maintenance spaces and choosing plants that don't require special care.

Create Clearly Defined Spaces
Once you know what needs your back yard will be designed to fulfill, you can divide up the space into different areas that can carry out those functions. This is a particularly important aspect of design, not only because you need to ensure that each area has enough space, but also because you want to create clearly-defined spaces that transition into each other, to create a harmonious overall effect.

Mapping your Back Yard

One of the best ways of creating attractive spaces that fulfill your desired functions is to first create a map of the space you're working with. Measure out your back yard, and use graph paper to create a map of the space. Then, mark out any existing structures such as swimming pool, garden shed, patio and other fixtures.

Next, take another walk in your back yard, and map the natural flow of traffic to the different areas. For example, on your map plot out the movement paths you take to reach the pool, shed, and other fixtures. These will be the areas where you place walkways or paths. Adding walkways is a great way of creating 'rooms' in the back yard, which can then be designed with different functions in mind. With these elements mapped out, you can then plan how to add plants, trees and shrubs to complement the different areas, and plan the uses for each area you have created.

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