It’s time to get out into the garden, take a look at your garden and decide ir there are any improvements you want to make. These can be as simple as adding new touches to existing spaces or as involved as building a new outdoor kitchen.
Here are some ideas for refreshing your yard and garden for outdoor living.
Update Your Furnishings
Evaluate the outdoor furniture you have. It sets the tone for your outdoor space, so it may be time to replace furnishings that are worn or perhaps upgrade to a new look. Conversely, if you have no outdoor furniture yet, it’s a good time to start planning for the upcoming spring, summer and fall months.
Spring is a great time for discovering fresh looks. You’ll also have a larger selection to choose from during the start of the outdoor season.
If you like your current furniture, it might be time to add some finishing touches. New cushions and pillows will revive older chairs, sofas and benches. A new umbrella or shade cloth can turn a too-hot patio or deck into an all-day retreat. Small side tables placed by outdoor chairs and sofas provide a good spot for drinks and snacks.
Other possibilities? A chaise lounge or two provides a spot for napping or relaxing. An outdoor rug will ground a seating area. A setup for serving and a bar cart make outdoor entertaining easier.
Start a Plant Nursery
Give seedlings a head start before setting them out in the garden. A small area where you can group plants and provide protection if nighttime temperatures turn frosty can help smaller plants establish themselves before transplanting. You may want to add cloches that will cover several plants, especially taller ones, or look for covers that will fit over pots without actually touching the plants themselves.
Having a hose nearby will make watering them easier — plants in pots dry out far faster than those in the ground, and you want to encourage growth. A potting bench or similar setup is handy for transplanting to larger containers.
Create a Vegetable Garden
Jump-start healthier eating by adding a dedicated vegetable garden. Summer is the height of edible gardening season. Be sure to start your seeds or seedlings soon to enjoy delicious fresh produce from your own yard next season.
Add Built-In Seating
Built-in seating adds a finishing touch to a patio or deck. It anchors the space and provides more seating for when family and friends gather.
Permanent seating allows you to customize it to an exact fit. You can also add features such as a planter or lighting above or below to highlight the space.
A bench can also do double duty as storage for everything from extra pillows and cushions to yard toys, gardening tools and grilling supplies.
Spruce Up Your Storage
Whether your garden is your retreat, your hobby or your play space, you’re bound to have tools, supplies or equipment you want to tuck away from time to time. Adding an off-the-shelf shed is one solution, but why not turn your storage spot into an attractive garden feature?
Turn a basic shed into something more interesting with plants. Adding small garden beds on either side of the entrance or installing a window box will add color and greenery. Pair either choice with a garden path, steppingstones or a small landing, and the utilitarian shed becomes a destination. You can even add color to the shed itself, whether via a new paint job or some colorful decorations.
For a shed that’s even more integrated with your space, consider a custom-built design that plays off the design style of the rest of the landscape.
Just Add Water
A water feature is a welcome addition to even the smallest yard. Water instantly creates a sense of peace and tranquility. A fountain, garden pool or pond attracts birds and other wildlife, and can cool the air around it on a hot day.
Water features are available in an array of styles. Choose one that goes with the rest of your outdoor style.
If you’re looking for a peaceful reflecting pool, all you need to do is add water. If you want a fountain, you’ll also have to install a pump and an energy source, which is generally electric or solar. You might also want to add lights for a nighttime reflections.
Beautiful as they are, water features require some considerations. Even a shallow pool can pose a danger to small children and pets. You might also need to look into ways to mitigate the presence of bugs, such as mosquitoes.
Play With Fire
If your family likes to gather around an open fire, make a fire feature a permanent part of your landscape. A fire pit is more low-profile and also can be used as a grill. A fireplace makes a statement in the landscape. Both also can be adapted with grills and ovens.
Like water features, fire features run a gamut of styles to fit beautifully into most outdoor spaces. Traditional finishes include stone, brick and stucco, while metal and concrete add a more modern vibe.
Your choices for fuel are wood, gas or ethanol. Wood is a classic and easy option that doesn’t require additional gas lines or a special installation. It also gives you the classic campfire or fireplace flames. It can be a drawback, though, when our “no fire” regulations kick in during summer.
For gas, you can use propane tanks, although for a permanent installation, having a plumber connect the fire feature into your gas line will be less obtrusive and less costly to use in the long run. In the short term, though, the installation will affect the surrounding hardscape and landscape as trenches are dug for the line.
Ethanol, which produces true flames, is gaining in popularity as a fire source. It does not burn as hot as other heat sources, so it’s a good choice for hotter days. It’s also a clean-burning source for true flames. You’ll want a professional to install the firebox and set it up.
Take the Plunge
Looking for a refreshing place where you can take a dip on a hot summer’s day, but don’t have the room? Want a spot for relaxing in the water without a pool’s upkeep? Add a spa, hot tub or plunge pool.
A classic wood hottub — which also can be left unheated and used as a cool spot for chilling out — or a spa tub can be set in its own private zone or incorporated into a deck or patio. You can even lower it to ground or deck level for easy access. Add heat, some lights and a nearby hangout area for maximum enjoyment.
Plunge pools are the babies of in-ground pools. They’re smaller, ranging from slightly larger than a decorative pool or pond to large enough for someone to swim a few strokes in. They’re generally not as deep as standard pools.
As with any water feature, safety is paramount, especially for children. You’ll also need to check local regulations for requirements and restrictions.
If outdoor entertaining is a favorite activity, it may be time to expand your gathering spot. Building a new patio or deck, or increasing the size and functionality of existing features, will give you even more reasons to go outside to enjoy — and show off — your yard.
In either case, evaluate your setup and how you want to use it. You might want more room for relaxing, a dining table that can seat your extended family, a fire or water feature, or an outdoor kitchen. Calculate the amount of room you’ll need to accommodate the items on your wish list.
The next step is assessing location. Is your entertaining zone in the right spot? Do you want easy access from the house? Or do you want an area that’s farther away, possibly taking advantage of a view, serving as a buffer from neighbors or a street, or creating a destination within your yard?
Patio flooring options can range from gravel and pavers to stone, tile and brick. Wood is the classic deck material, but don’t overlook some of the lower-maintenance possibilities that can give you the look you want.
Install an Outdoor Kitchen
If cooking or barbecuing is a favorite pastime, then it may be time to splurge on an outdoor kitchen. Your ideal space might be as simple as a long serving counter that houses a grill and maybe some shelves and a dining table nearby. Add outdoor-friendly countertops and finishes, and you’ll be set for the summer.
You needn’t stop there. The options for an outdoor kitchen equal, or surpass, those for an indoor one. A smoker or pizza oven provides more ways to cook, a refrigerator keeps cold drinks handy, and a sink is an added convenience. Lights, an overhead roof for rainy days and amenities such as a bar setup can keep you cooking outside for a good portion of the year.