After extended periods of sheltering in place and working from home, many folks are really appreciating the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. Urban dwellers are heading to parks and open green spaces, and those fortunate enough to have a even a small garden, patio, or deck are spending more time in these outdoor spaces.
This is the perfect time to give your outdoor space a lift and make it a place for quiet solitude or for socially distancing safely with friends and family.
1. Clean It Up
Let’s start at the beginning. Got lots of accumulated leaves, weeds, tree branches and other stuff that that are begging for removal? Even if you didn’t get to it at the end of winter, toss anything you aren’t using or can’t recycle into something useful. Prune, pluck, weed and then stand back and take a good look. Like it as it is, or do you think it could use some sprucing up? If so, consider some of the following ideas.
2. Plant Something New: Maybe a Veggie Patch or Vertical Garden
Ok, you’ve removed all debris from your garden. Now you can create a formal or informal plan to grow plants, either in the ground or in containers. Think about a raised bed vegetable garden to put some healthy food on the table and also lessen your time at the grocery store. Add color to the garden with a variety of plants and flowers and mix things up with pots of different materials, shapes and sizes. If space is limited, free up ground space by creating a vertical garden on a fence or wall, or by hanging pots.
3. Create Different Outdoor Rooms: Build a Deck
Think of your outdoor space much like your indoor space. You can create different “outdoor rooms” for various purposes by designating specific areas for lounging, dining, entertaining and even a play area for the children. If you’ve got room for one, even a small deck will provide added living and gathering space while also adding value to your home. Because decking is raised off the ground, it also helps keep bugs away. Consider composite decking in your garden as it’s made from plastic and wood often sourced from recycled materials, making it an eco-friendly choice. Because garden decking boards are available in a variety of colors, this type of decking can be another component of your garden color palette.
4. Add a Touch of Paint
Painting items in an old garden is another way of bringing it back to life. Think about painting a portion of your garden fence or refurbish old garden furniture with a coat of paint. Recycle items using a touch of paint to transform them into decorative objects.
5. Pergola, Gazebo, or Cabana–What’s the Difference?
Pergolas, gazebos, and cabanas are all types of garden structures, but they differ in their construction, placement and amount of shade they offer.
A pergola is open on all sides, built with vertical posts or pillars that support cross-beams or slatted roof composed of open lattice. Pergolas can offer some shade, depending on the size of the beams and their spacing, but will not totally protect you from the sun’s rays. As a pergola is built on your garden decking boards, you can worry less about insect on the ground below, but it’s wise to use other bug deterrents like citronella candles and plants that naturally repel bugs. As an architectural element, a pergola can define an “outdoor room” and become a design focal point.
While a pergola allows for sunlight to shine through its slatted roof, a gazebo provides full coverage from the sun. Freestanding, open-sided structures with a solid roof and a floor, the classic gazebo is octagonal in shape, though modern structures may square, rectangular, or round and some have partial side walls so they can be screened in.
Offering shade like a pergola, a cabana is a tent-like structure with three lightweight “walls” and one open side, often facing a pool. The sides generally consist of exterior grade fabric curtains, drapes or shades to block sunlight, and some cabanas have thatched roofs.
6. Introduce a Water Feature
More than just aesthetically pleasing, the soothing sound of flowing water is very relaxing. Even a small pool can be great for entertaining and cooling off, but if the footprint is limited, a fountain can serve as a design feature and the light reflecting off a pool of water at night can beautifully illuminate a space.
7. Create an Outdoor Kitchen
Entertaining al fresco with an outdoor kitchen or a garden kitchen adds more than dining convenience. Great for partying, an outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a gas or charcoal grill with some surrounding work surfaces, or it can be a more elaborate set up that resembles an indoor kitchen with sink, fridge and other bells and whistles.
8. Cosy Up the Space
Cozy up the space by tossing a few outdoor pillows on your furniture, maybe draping the back of a chair with a throw. Add an outdoor rug to bring some color and texture to your deck or patio. String some solar lights on trees or from the edge of your house to a fence and place battery-operated flameless candles on tabletops or spread out on the deck to create soft light and a warm ambience after sunset.
Giving your outdoor space a makeover can be as simple as doing some much needed clean up or adding some fresh plants and a coat of paint. To extend your living space outdoors, consider creating designate outdoor rooms by building a garden deck, gazebo, pergola, or cabana. Spending time in the fresh air is good for your health and sprucing up your outdoor space will make this extended period of sheltering in place much more agreeable.
All images by Robin Plaskoff Horton.