One of my favorite things to do is cook for my friends and family. Happy gatherings are always a good idea, whether there’s a special occasion or not. When it’s warm out, what better place to gather and entertain than outside? But, a yard full of dry patchy grass and a few canvas camping chairs aren’t inviting at all. Don’t wait until warm weather hits to start working on your outdoor space, use these tips to start preparing now so you’re ready when the time comes.
If you don’t live in a mild climate, or if you’re in the high desert like me, you know that it can get really cold once the sun goes down. After a good barbeque and a few beers, there’s no need to move you gathering indoors. There are a few options that can keep you warm and cozy even on cold spring and fall evenings.
Tiki torches look cool, and can repel mosquitos if you use special fuel, but they don’t provide much as far as warmth goes. There are a lot of attractive looking propane-powered outdoor heaters, but they can be expensive, so shop around and see if it’s an investment you want to make.
One of the best ways to cool down in the summer is to hop into the pool, and the best and most cost-effective way to warm up outdoors is a backyard fire pit. The heat is fairly easy to control, and who doesn’t love to gather around a fire and chat about all of the greatest things in life? You can purchase one ready-made or just dig a hole in the yard and line it with river rocks. You can also DIY one fairly easy out of bricks, stone, or even an old truck wheel. Adding lava rocks in the bottom helps ruminate warmth and looks snazzy too.
If your grass is in good shape, you don’t have much to worry about. But, if it’s not where you want it to be, you have two options: you can wait until it gets warm enough and pay a lot of money to have sod laid, or you can save a ton of money and start planning to seed your lawn. If you opt for the money saving option, you definitely want to lay the seeds before hot weather hits. Hot summer temperatures keep your budding lawn from holding the moisture it needs, and weed seeds are most active early spring through summer, so you want to avoid them.
If you’re seeding an entire lawn, you’ll want to till and then rake the soil, and then sprinkle an even layer of seed over the whole yard, one small area at a time. Rake the grass seed into the soil a bit and then gently tap it down with the back end of your rake or a shovel, and water, water, water. If you only need to apply seed to bare patches in your lawn, this video will show you how:
A garden, even a small one, is a great way to update your backyard. If you want to use bulbs, they all require a dormant period. Spring-blooming bulbs need to be planted in winter, summer-blooming bulbs need to be buried in spring, and fall-blooming varieties can be placed in summer.
If you don’t have a green thumb at all, there are a few options that even you can’t kill. Sprinkling wildflower seeds in any area is a simple and inexpensive way to bring a burst of color to your yard. Hanging potted plants are a little more expensive, but fairly easy to take care of. Succulents are inexpensive and extremely hearty, if you’d just like an accent or flowers aren’t your thing.
One of the most frustrating aspects of gardening is dealing with pests. Pesticides are filled with chemicals and even poisons and should be avoided, especially if you have pets or small children. There are several inexpensive home remedies that can keep pests under control with minimum effort and little impact on the environment.
A deck or patio isn’t necessary for outdoor entertaining as long as you have a decent lawn. But if you’re going to entertain outdoors, you’ll definitely need some comfortable seating. Best news is, it’s the time of year when outdoor furniture starts going on sale like crazy! A few tips: Avoid metal framed chairs with woven lining unless you have a covered or enclosed patio. Only a couple of years of sun and rain/snow damage will wear down the fibers and they will start to disintegrate when you sit on them. They are inexpensive but still not worth the investment.
If you purchase cushioned chairs, try to keep them in an area that at least gets partial shade throughout the day to minimize sun bleaching, and store the cushions indoors during the winter. If you’re looking for a hearty, inexpensive option, plastic stackable chairs will last a long time, and can be stored outdoors during winter and then returned to commission in the spring with nothing more than a quick spray-down with the hose.
Sometimes, the porch light just won’t cut it. Custom outdoor lighting isn’t as expensive as you’d think, but unless you’re an electrician, installation will cost a bundle. If you don’t want to go this route, tiki torches always look good. There are also a ton of outdoor string light options available ranging in style from modern to classy to outrageous.
Lately, the solar stake lights have gone way down in price while also being offered in many different colors and styles. These are generally not very bright, so they won’t do much for lighting a gathering, but if you have a path or garden, they look great lining it. You’d be amazed how a little bit of custom outdoor lighting, from any of these options, can make your yard go from “Meh” to “Wow!”
The last thing you’ll need to prepare for your outdoor entertaining is a few accessories. I would say you can get by with a minimum of a cooler, a citronella candle, and something to cook outdoors with. You don’t need a fancy, expensive BBQ grill, though. There are several extremely inexpensive charcoal grill models, and I got by for years with my camp stove placed atop a TV tray.
If you’re looking for a little more, there are so many options to snazz up your backyard. From a humble blow-up pool to a lavish in-ground oasis, from a battery operated boombox to outdoor speakers and outdoor theatre projectors, from a canvas canopy to a brilliant gazebo, there are plenty of options for your budget and style. If you’re looking for inspiration, there are a ton of before and after stories online, and your favorite home shows will start airing their outdoor specials any time.
AJ Earley is a personal chef, freelance writer, DIY junkie, and root beer float enthusiast from Boise, Idaho. Folow him at https://twitter.com/ajvworld