Our best ideas for getting more out of your side yard

Ah, the side yard — the skinny, pass-through space along the side of your house where you store your trash cans and not much else. Where others see unusable space we see unlimited potential. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for how to make it work overtime for you and your family.

1. If you have enough sunlight, install some raised beds

 Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

For lots of small properties it turns out the side yard is the perfect place to grow your herbs and veggies without sacrificing coveted space elsewhere. Of course, sunlight is the key.

2. Create a new space for outdoor dining

 Photo: HeardHome

Photo: HeardHome

In one recent Yardzen outdoor design, the kitchen had a door that opened into the side yard. So the designer proposed putting the homeowners' much-desired outdoor dining table there. And guess what? It's her family's new favorite place to enjoy a meal.

3. ... Or for entertaining

 Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Stop using your side yard as a passthrough and create an irresistible space to stop and relax. A bench with a shallow-depth seat might be your best bet to accommodate guests if your side yard is narrow.

4. ... Or create a space that's just for you

 Photo: Domino

Photo: Domino

The elements required to create a zen-like side yard sanctuary are few. Some simple seating and lighting can be all you need.

5. Simply hide the cans and beautify

 Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

One of the main reasons people bemoan their side yards is they're simply an eye sore. Consider a structure that moves your trash cans out of sight and invest some time and effort in beautifying the space. You'll naturally get more use and joy out of the space.

Yardzen's the brand-new way to reinvent your outdoor spaces all online. Start a design today that includes ideas for how to maximize your side yard space.

How to add an outdoor shower and turn your yard into an oasis

Nothing says serenity and makes you feel like you're at a spa (while still in your own yard) like an outdoor shower. Here Yardzen Pros share the things to consider when adding one to your design plan.

If budget is a big concern, consider free-standing

The absolute quickest and easiest way to add an outdoor shower is a freestanding one like this beauty from Cambridge Casual ($250). Just hook it up to a garden hose and you're good to go. A downside is that it doesn't have a hot and cold water setting, but at that price maybe it won't matter?

 Photo: Cambridge Casual/Wayfair

Photo: Cambridge Casual/Wayfair

If budget is a concern but you don't want to use a hose, stay close to existing plumbing

If you're set on an installed shower but want to keep costs down and avoid running new plumbing lines (which can get expensive fast), add an outdoor shower where you already have water outside. The most logical place is near an existing external spigot (it's ok if it only has cold water). You'll need a plumber to add hot water.

 Photo: Top Notch Plumbing

Photo: Top Notch Plumbing

If you just want your dream outdoor shower, here's what to do

Hire a plumber you trust (or work with your Yardzen concierge to find one) and hook up to the permanent water lines in your house. If possible try to stay as close to an existing hot water source like an interior shower to cut down on the distance your new pipes have to run. If you go this route the world's your oyster.

 Photo: Architectural Art Designs

Photo: Architectural Art Designs

Here's a before and after from a Yardzen customer in Marin County

A young family had an underutilized side yard -- a perfect place to add an outdoor shower. Here's the dramatic -- and gorgeous -- transformation.

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3 reasons you should consider native plants in your landscape design

Sure native plants look great in your yard but the benefits of these indigenous inhabitants go far beyond aesthetics. Here are three great reasons you should give them a long look when working with your Yardzen designer on your plan.

1. They're the glue

According to the Audubon Society, "[native plants] are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people. In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well."

Translation: Plant them and they will come. Native plants produce nectar loved by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

 Photo: Natural Learning Initiative

Photo: Natural Learning Initiative

 

2. They're low maintenance 

Aside from there being little question if native plants will thrive in your yard -- given they have centuries of proof they can and will -- they require very little water and maintenance once established. 

 Photo: Ovsla.com

Photo: Ovsla.com

 

3. They help the climate

Again, from the Audubon Society: "Landscaping with native plants can combat climate change. In addition to the reduced noise and carbon pollution from lawn mower exhaust, many native plants, especially long-living trees like oaks and maples, are effective at storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide."

 Photo: Blazing Star Gardens

Photo: Blazing Star Gardens

Conclusion: Think not just about how your plant choices will look, but the impact they'll have. Because the impact can be big. 

How to get your yard ready to sell in 4 steps

 Photo: DIYNetwork

Photo: DIYNetwork

Are you considering selling your home this year? Maybe you've considered staging your interior, but what about the outside? Our designers share a few tips on how to prepare your exteriors before putting your house on the market.

Clear the path

Buyers need to be able to see the entry to your home in order to find it inviting. Spend some time — or hire a pro for the job — trimming back plants that might block both the view and passage. 

Plant mature

Even a clean row of grasses in a small planting space fronting your home goes a long way in cleaning up your yard. But don't make the penny-pinching mistake of buying 1-gallon plants. Spring for at least 5-gallon plants to make the yard look full and lush immediately, sparing your buyers from having to use their imagination about what it'll look like when grown in.

Do a deep clean

The most obvious — clean up the clutter. If you're like lots of Yardzen clients you have pieces and elements around your yard that no longer serve you. Flower pots, a wood pile that needs to be moved, maybe some of your kids' old sports equipment. 

When in doubt, mulch

There's no bigger indicator to your neighbors that you're selling your home that a layer of fresh mulch spread across your front yard. And for good reason. This quick, easy and effective step makes your yard look fresh and cared for. 

If you need a little help, we’re always ready to provide some advice on whatever design dilemma you’re facing.

 

Gas vs. wood-burning: How to choose a firepit

Who doesn't love a firepit? Particularly after the sun goes down people are drawn to a glowing fire like bees to honey. Once you decide you want one, decisions remain. Wood burning or gas? Installed gas line or not?

 

Wood Burning Firepits

 Photo: HGTV

Photo: HGTV

Pros: It's real fire. If you like to camp and get all the feels sitting around a burning fire, this might be the way to go. 

Cons: The smell. And the smoke. And you, of course, need to have wood on hand.

 

Firepits with installed gas line

 Photo: Fixr

Photo: Fixr

Pros: Fire at the push of a button? Sign us up. Also, no smoke or smells.

Cons: More costly to run a gas line. Yardzen customers on average pay $1,000 to run the line, depending on how close the fire pit is to gas.

 

Firepits with gas tank

outdoor-natural-gas-fire-pit-propane-tank-fire-pit-diy-hidden-lp-tank-fire-pits-gas-fire-pit-tables-costco.jpg

Pros: Less expensive than running a gas line. Lets you try out a gas fire pit for less upfront investment. And if you decide you want to run the line later, there's always the option to hire a plumber to convert your set up.

Cons: Depending on just how much you enjoy sitting by the fire pit, you may be running to the hardware store often to refill your tank.