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Outdoor Living in Philly: Sprucing Up a Small Yard

Philadelphia row homes don’t exactly offer you a sprawling backyard with room for a pool or extensive lawns. But outdoor living activities, such as grilling and gardening, are possible, even in the smallest yards.

Philadelphia row homes don’t exactly offer you a sprawling backyard with room for a pool or extensive lawns. But outdoor living activities, such as grilling and gardening, are possible, even in the smallest yards. Enjoying your outdoor area is all about making the most of what you have and planning your furniture and activities carefully.

Don’t Overwhelm the Space

Most outdoor living furniture isn’t designed for a postage stamp-sized Philly yard. Furniture that’s too big for your yard will make it difficult for you to get much use out of it. For example, if you put a large picnic table with a wide umbrella in your outdoor area, you won’t have much room to do anything other than sit at the table.

Think small when picking out furniture. A small cafe table and a set of folding chairs are ideal for everyday use. Invest in some additional outdoor folding chairs for when you have guests. You can tuck the chairs away in the basement or closet the rest of the time. Outdoor furniture that does double duty can also work wonders in a small yard. Look for a bench that has storage underneath or a petite outdoor bar that can hold your gardening supplies.

Choose Your Plants

You don’t have to plant or garden in your small yard, but doing so will definitely add some life to the space. Pick plants that can serve a few roles to get the most out of them. Lavender has a lovely scent, produces pretty flowers, and helps keep away insects. It also grows easily in a container and can tolerate drought well.

If you have a slightly larger living space outdoors, try growing a fig tree. Although fig trees are native to the Mediterranean area, they grow well in urban areas of Philadelphia, since it’s a heat island. You can grow a fig tree in a large pot, such as a half whiskey barrel. If you’re worried about the plant getting too cold in the winter, place the pot next to a wall in your yard. Other plants that are well suited to life in a small Philly yard include herbs such as basil and chives, flowers such as echinacia and foamflower, and grapevines.

Use the Walls

Many yards are enclosed by a low wall. The wall adds privacy as well as extra space you can use. Try attaching shelves to walls for outdoor storage or decoration. You can then display a few potted plants or garden decor, such as garden gnomes, on the shelves. The privacy walls also give you a growing area. Attach a trellis to one wall and train a vining plant, such as grapes, English ivy, or clematis, up the trellis. To use the wall as a growing space, attach felted wool wall planters to it. The planters let you grow small herbs or flowers vertically, saving room on the ground.

Choose Your Favorite Activity

Pick one outdoor living activity to enjoy and focus on at home, to keep your space from being too cluttered. If you love gardening and can’t get a community garden plot, turn your yard into a container garden oasis. Just keep in mind that you won’t have much room for a grill or entertaining. If you want to grill, dedicate space in your yard for a grill as well as plenty of room for sitting and eating.

No matter how you set up your yard or how small it is, with a little forethought and careful planning you can make your yard into a space where you can–and want to–spend plenty of time.

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