Your backyard can be an important extension of your home, so it’s worth spending time, and perhaps a little money, to make it functional and attractive.
The first step in creating a comfortable and appealing outdoor living space is to clear and tidy the area you have to work with. Stand in your backyard and assess what maintenance needs to be done or what eyesores need to be removed. It’s time to think of all those gardening verbs: Trim, mow, edge, fertilize, rake, weed, cut down, haul away, put away, paint and repair.
Make a list of the jobs, and get started – today! Here are some problem areas for many homeowners, with ideas for ways to make improvements.
Tackle backyard eyesores
Store garbage cans and recycling bins in the side yard or garage. If the hose must be handy, install a hose reel or a pottery hose house to keep it tidy. Remove tired or scraggly potted plants, especially ones still in their plastic pots.
Establish a kiddie play area and train your children to keep their outdoor toys there.
Barbecues and their attending equipment aren’t always beautiful to look at. Why not store them out of sight until they’re needed?
Organize your tools and create a storage system that works. Up-end them in an old metal garbage can. Hammer in a row of nails along a fence or the back of the hose, drill holes in your tool handles, loop through a section of rawhide and hang your tools from the nails.
How to Get Motivated
Your list may seem overwhelming, so here are a few ideas for making the work lighter:
Set up a social gathering a month or two away to work towards. If you’re like me, you’ll want a tidy and attractive yard for your guests.
Commit time to the project. Break your list down into manageable chunks. Schedule 15-minute to 2-hour blocks of time on your calendar over two months. Use the odd few moments of free time to complete one small task.
Team up with a friend or neighbor. Spend an hour at his/her house on Saturday and work at your home on Sunday. Reward yourselves with a picnic in your outdoor dining room.
Design a few outdoor rooms
After taking care of the grunt work, you’ll need to clearly define how you use the space. Think of your yard as a series of areas or “rooms” with specific functions – areas for conversation, food preparation, eating, potting, storage, playing or sunning – surrounded by or intermingled with foliage or flowerbeds.
Create conversation areas in configurations similar to those in your home. For example, place a small table in between a pair of chairs. Position a “coffee table” in front of a bench with two chairs on either end. Cluster pots to either side of the bench. Add accessories such as shells, sculpture pieces, tiles or driftwood.
Make sure your outdoor “dining room” is easily accessible to the door closest to your kitchen. Clean or replace the chair cushions. Place an improvised centerpiece on the table and leave it there even when the table’s not in use. Try a blooming potted plant, a cluster of pottery vases, a mound of river rocks, a bird house or birdbath or a bowl filled with croquet balls, beach glass or fish net floats.
Buy or recycle furnishings
Finally, think of items you might add to your outdoor living space to enhance your enjoyment. Be creative!
Could you purchase sections of reassembled picket fencing and cordon off a small play area on the patio or the lawn for the kids to play in?
How about hanging a bamboo roll-up screen in front of your potting shed to conceal it from view?
Do you have trees that could hold a hammock or hanging chair?
Check any old wood furniture in your garage or attic. An old dresser works well as a barbecue center or as a potting station.
An old kitchen table and chairs with a fresh coat of paint looks charming. An old trunk, a few tree stumps covered with a slate slab or a wooden box can serve as a “coffee table.”
For creative finishing touches, rummage through your kitchen cabinets and check for anything waterproof to use as an accessory.
by Kit Davey