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In cold-weather regions, it is economical in low land value regions to use open land surrounding a house for vegetable gardening during summers and allowing strongly demanded sunlight to enter house windows from a low horizon angle during winters. As land value increases, houses are built nearer to each other. In order to preserve some of the open land, house owners may choose to allow construction on the side land of their houses, but not build in front of or behind their house in order to preserve some remnants of open surrounding land. The back area is known as the backyard, or more commonly in the UK and some other parts of Europe as the back garden.
Depending on the size of the back yard, it may have any number of items (or none), such as:
- Buildings such as: barn, chicken coop, garage, gazebo, guest house, outhouse, playhouse, sauna, shed, smokehouse, workshop, etc.
- Compost bin
- Garden furniture (bench, patio table and chairs, umbrella, etc.)
- Landscaping with or without a lawn or just dirt
- Renewable energy generator (solar panels, windmills, etc)
- Playground equipment (sandbox, slide, swingset, etc)
- Storage tank
- Swimming pool and/or hot tub
- Waste container
In Australia, until the mid-20th century, the back yard of a property would traditionally contain a fowl run, outhouse ("dunny"), vegetable patch, and woodheap. More recently, these have been replaced by outdoor entertainments such as a barbecue and swimming pool. But, since the 1990s, the trend in Australian suburban development has been for back yards to disappear as the dwellings now occupy almost all of the building plot.
- Tony Hall (2010). The Life and Death of the Australian Backyard. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 9780643098169.
- Paul Levine; Tom Begnal; Dan Thornton (1997). Building Backyard Structures: Sheds, Barns, Bins, Gazebos & Other Outdoor Construction. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Limited. ISBN 0806942169.
- Patrick Nicol Troy (2000). "The big backyard". A history of European housing in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 127–128. ISBN 9780521777339.