The garden is your own private place for solitude. It’s where you should be able to relax, listen to the birds chirping and the leaves rustling, and just enjoy some peace and quiet after the long work week. Noise contributes to how peaceful a garden feels. Unwanted noise from highway traffic, busy streets or mechanical systems can interfere with outdoor tranquility, especially in urban settings. Despite the hustle and bustle of city life, an urban garden can also become a private retreat. That’s because a few simple design tweaks can change the noise level. In the article we have compiled some tips for planting and materials that ensure good noise protection in the garden. Thus, the outdoor area can be transformed into a real oasis of tranquility!
Tips for effective noise protection in the garden
If you want to effectively protect your garden from noise, the first thing you should do is determine where the noise you want to block is actually coming from. So, is it ambient noise, such as highway traffic, or is the noise coming from a single source, such as your neighbor’s air conditioner? If the source of the noise is identified, then the appropriate action can be taken.
In fact, there are many ways to keep noise out of your outdoor space. The designer of this small urban garden in New York City, for example, combined several sound-reducing means to create a private oasis. Dense vertical planting , seating and sound-absorbing ground materials help block out noise.
We have summarized the different options for noise control in the garden in the following sections.
Vertical planting for sound absorption
To keep the annoying sounds out of your own garden, you can put a partition between you and the noise. An important aspect in the construction of the noise barrier is its height. The higher the wall, the more effectively the sound waves can be deflected.
However, under a noise barrier is not always meant a new structural construction. Even the outer walls of the house, as well as the wall can shield the noise sources. A suitable planting contributes to this. If the plants are planted vertically, then the noise protection is optimal. We recommend vertical planting in three layers: upright growing trees and grasses as the highest layer, shrubs as the middle layer and low perennials and ground covers as the lower layer. Green walls and hanging gardens are the best choice when available space is limited.
In this San Francisco courtyard, for example, the landscape architects focused on vertical gardens, green walls, and plants and trees of varying heights. These absorb sound and provide good noise protection in the garden.
Large planters as an alternative for a small garden
In a small garden or yard, planting is not always possible. If this is also the case for you, then you can easily plant larger plants, as well as trees in pots and tubs. In large planters, you can plant several plants at once, creating a successful vertical planting. A small tree, low grasses and perennials, and some climbing plants go well together in a large container. The more layers this creates, the better the outdoor area will be protected from noise.
Noise protection in the garden with columnar plants.
Hedges not only provide a good privacy screen, they are equally perfect for noise protection in the garden. A green hedge can be planted from upright growing columnar plants and trees, which will shield the noise well.
Some popular tall and thin trees that serve for effective protection from noise and prying eyes are the columnar varieties of American amber tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). These trees grow upright and can form thin hedges with regular pruning.
Pyramidal hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’) is planted in a large container as a noise barrier in this cozy Chicago rooftop garden. Called a columnar hornbeam, it is fast-growing and columnar, but can spread quickly if not pruned. With regular pruning, the tree is perfect as a thin hedge for noise and privacy protection for the garden.
Plant the garden densely
Think about how to create dense planting that surrounds the entire outdoor space and blocks noise. Dense vegetation planted as a noise barrier around your garden filters noise well.
Plant tall trees spaced about 10 feet apart to muffle noise and mimic a forest landscape. When planted densely, trees will grow more upright instead of spreading out as they fight for light. Plant along the borders of your property, but don’t forget to leave a space in the middle to enjoy the sun’s rays. For example, a suitable tree for this type of planting is the birch.
Deflect the source of noise
If even a noise barrier does not help against the noise of the street, you can try another approach, and that is to divert from the source of noise. Wind and water features provide indirect noise protection in the garden, because they do not shield the noise, but cover you with soothing sounds. A DIY garden fountain, for example, is not so complicated to make yourself and creates wonderful sound effects. It makes you feel as if your garden is by the stream in the middle of the forest.
Tip: Music also works. A small radio in the outdoor area can make the atmosphere more pleasant and at the same time distract from the unsightly noises.
Create a quiet place to sit
Sometimes it is not possible or even necessary to surround the whole garden with dense plants and trees. You spend most of your time at the sitting area anyway, especially if you want to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. Therefore, it may be worth choosing a nice place in the garden and enclose only it. This variant is not only easier, but also much cheaper.
You can see an example in this urban garden in the Netherlands. The seating area is covered with a pergola, creating a cozy and peaceful corner in the outdoor space.
Sound absorbing materials for noise control in the garden
Sound absorption plays a major role in the garden area. Basically, any surface in the outdoor space will either absorb sounds or amplify them. Therefore, it is important to rely on those materials that have good sound-absorbing properties. Smooth surfaces such as walls made of concrete, glass or masonry reflect the sound, whereas porous or rough materials absorb the sound. In principle, almost any material is suitable for a noise barrier. A very effective variant are gabion walls, which are filled with earth, sand or other insulating material.
For even better noise protection in the garden, the garden furniture should have soft elements, such as weather-resistant seat cushions and textiles. Paving can be equally sound-amplifying if it is laid with concrete or stone pavers. Lawns, ground covers and multiple beds in the home garden can neutralize this effect.
Get peace and quiet in the garden!