Outdoor summer living is amazing - worth waiting for all year, some folks say. But when you’re the impatient type (like yours truly), you crave a way to enjoy your patio, garden, and/or outdoor kitchen for eight ... nine ... or even 10 months of the year. If you’re planning to upgrade your outdoor space, check out these year round landscaping ideas.
Choose materials carefully. Make sure your deck surface and other hardscaping components are rated for cooler climates - some clay pavers, for example, don’t hold up well. Dark colors will help surfaces melt off snow faster.
Light up. The right lighting makes evenings al fresco much more enjoyable, especially in spring or fall, when Daylight Saving Time is not in effect. A naked bulb on the side of your house won’t quite cut it; soft lighting throughout your outdoor space adds ambiance.
Install a firepit or outdoor fireplace. Even on a chilly evening, an outdoor fire feature will provide a visual anchor that encourages friends and family to gather round. Consult local code to find what’s allowed in your area. Many homeowners are moving to gas firepits, rather than wood-burning, for both safety and convenience.
Invest in a high-quality heater. An outdoor-rated infrared heater will add a considerable comfort factor to your patio, deck, or porch when temperatures drop. Choose a portable model, or mount a heater on the wall of your house or in a pavilion.
Build a pavilion. Speaking of pavilions, these are fast outpacing pergolas in popularity. Why? They protect better from sun and rain. They also offer more opportunities to install music, ceiling fans, or hanging swings.
Setting up an outdoor kitchen is a fun landscaping project, due to the vast variety of materials to choose from, like natural stone, stucco, tile, or concrete. Add your choice of outdoor-rated appliances:
- side burner
- wood-fired oven
- warming drawer
- even a dishwasher
Why not round out the picture with a kitchen island and/or a bar area, complete with icemaker and kegerator?
TIP: Select the right countertop. Quartz, granite, or other natural stone will help protect your outdoor kitchen’s structure and keep water out.
Whether hosting a party, entertaining drop-in guests, or hanging out with your significant other, ensure your outdoor living space is in top shape. For easy care, the best patio furniture is either naturally rot-resistant (say, natural cedar Adirondack chairs), or made of materials like aluminum, which can be left outside indefinitely. TIP: Anything with a deep cushion should be covered or placed in a sheltered area.
If you do get a little mildew or algae on exterior furnishings, scrub or pressure-wash ASAP to take care of the problem.
Plan flower garden layout to stagger blooming times, from early spring right through the end of autumn. Make your motto "More color, more of the time."
Plant shrubs and hedges that will provide welcome shade in summer, yet continue to thrive even when the cooler weather comes along.
Sow winter-hardy vegetables like kale or kohlrabi, for a delicious source of vitamins and fresh, fresh flavor even when the frost is on the pumpkin.
Use a collapsible greenhouse. Ideal for small yards, this structure will shelter plantings in spring and fall, but neatly fold up out of sight in the heat of the summer.
Try raised beds or containers. Set up a raised bed, to trap heat and extend the growing season, or a container garden, which is simple to protect from frost and can be moved into the shed or garage as necessary. PS: this is another fantastic small-yard solution.
Year round landscaping planning tips
- Understand why you want this outdoor living space and how you intend to use it. That will determine the best design.
- Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, educate yourself on what’s out there - what products are available and what features you want.
- Find out HOA rules and local ordinances to see whether you can do what you’d like. If you want to install a fireplace for example, where can you put it? Is it too near your house? Too close to a neighbor? Check around and make sure your year round landscaping dream is feasible.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.