Outdoor spaces are a wonderful reprieve at any time of the year, but it can be challenging to know which parts of the yard are the best investment when crafting a relaxing space. Whether you’re looking at creating a gathering spot for hosting friends and family for a cookout, wanting to add upgraded features to your outdoor area or even creating something special just for you, check out our list of tips and tricks to make your backyard a paradise:
Add a DIY fire pit
Backyard fire pits are the heart and soul of fall and summer gardens. The warm crackle of the flames coupled with good friends, s’mores and drinks are a surefire hit for any host. Not only is this statement piece an easy weekend installation, requiring only gravel and bricks, but it’s something you can enjoy for years to come.
“Indoor life should flow naturally out and spill into outdoor living,” said Allison Vaccaro, co-founder of brick&batten, a virtual exterior design company. “At brick&batten, we love creating conversation spaces — for example, a soft sectional and a firepit — that beckon you over. Even when not in use, these vignettes are lovely at creating a vibe of relaxation.”
Check your local regulations and with your homeowners association—if you’re in one—before installing a DIY fire pit.
Add garden beds featuring native plants
Garden beds make backyards shine. When adding a new garden bed, perennial native plants are foolproof winners. Not only are they less water-intensive, so you can enjoy sweet savings on your water bill, but they’re hardier and promote biodiversity all while reducing air pollution.
If you’d like to add a new garden bed featuring these climate-hardy species, save a cardboard box and drop it where you’d like to put your garden bed. After a few weeks, the grass will die off, and the ground will be ready for planting.
Splurge on furniture you’ll use for years to come
While you may prefer to keep to a strict budget for your DIY projects, consider splurging on pieces you anticipate using for years to come—such as a nice table with an umbrella stand, rocking chairs or a bench. After that, all you need to do is pick up a few accessories to make the space pop, such as pillows, cushions, hanging lights, planters and more.
If your budget is tight and new furniture for the great outdoors isn’t in the cards right now, you may be able to save in other ways. Consider cutting costs by refinishing pieces you already own or that you pick up from resale and thrift shops, too.
Whether you're choosing hardscape accents, such as stepping stones, or decorative accents like sun catchers, birdhouses and bug hotels are a fun way to spruce up the backyard without paying an arm and a leg. These can also encourage native species to visit your yard and serenade you with their many varieties of birdsong. You can often find inexpensive accents if you’re willing to shop the sales, particularly in the off-season. You can even create an afternoon activity for the family out of a DIY idea and quick-dry concrete, which is a wonderful way to accomplish a family goal to spend more time together.
Plant fast-growing trees
Try ditching the backyard umbrella for fast-growing trees if you're looking for shade or more privacy. There are plenty of great options to block a neighbor's view, but both the Leyland Cyprus and the Thuja Green Giant are popular ones to consider. The best species to choose reach maturity in 20-30 years and grow to more than 50 feet tall to provide cool summer shade. Be mindful, however, that fast-growing varieties often begin to diminish after they’ve fully matured.
Be careful to plant them away from important structures and lines so that, if the trees do begin to lose large branches or fail, you’re not out of power in a pinch. Also, if you’re located in the Midwest, which is prone to severe storms and the occasional tornado, consider hardier varieties that can withstand strong wind storms.
If you're looking for more privacy and don't have the room or the space for large trees, consider a privacy fence for your backyard instead.
Rejuvenate your lawn
Brown patches happen; that is a fact of life for many homeowners. The good news is you don’t have to live with these patches forever. Whether they’re prone to occurring thanks to wear and tear from pets, excessive seasonal rains, particularly dry summers or another event, you can fix it. All you need is a little elbow grease, new seeds or sod and some determination.
Take matters into your own hands in the spring or fall when the weather is damp and cool. This weather is best at helping facilitate new growth for the coming season.
Add a water feature
If you have extra cash in the budget and space in your yard, you could also try adding a water feature. It’s a great way to add value to your home and enhance your backyard paradise with a calm, relaxing fixture you can enjoy for years to come. Spruce it up with fish, plants and landscaping, depending on your preferences.
While water features may seem intimidating to install, many components are simple (such as a hardy tarp to prevent leaks, a pump and an electrical source). This baseline in components is a great guide for getting started. After that, all you need is your own creativity when designing your fountain, pond or waterfall.
Pull up weeds
Removing weeds is a must, especially in the spring before they take root to grow hardy and strong. Some people prefer to treat them with a herbicide while others prefer to leave their lawns chemical free and pull weeds up at the root using tools. Either way, removal in the cool, wet spring weather is ideal. Tackle your garden beds and lawn during this time to make your yard look great throughout the season.
Hanging lights are a fun, inexpensive way to add dynamic liveliness to your backyard. They’re also handy if you enjoy hosting well past sunset. All you need is a few wall mounts, some string lights and a few hours of work.
Hanging lights not quite your thing? You can also pick up lights that will affix to your umbrella, or border your pool's perimeter, for a more focused lighting experience.
Light up paths and walkways
Adding lights to paths is a wonderful way to create a welcoming (and safe) atmosphere with a path that leads straight to your backyard. You can also add these lights around core hangout zones to help carve out individual spaces in your backyard. Install solar pathway lights as a budget-friendly DIY project. Simply stick each unit in the ground and voilà, the work is complete!
Feeling ambitious? Plenty of DIY kits and excellent YouTube tutorials can teach you how to install pathway lights on a wired connection. That way, you’ll never be at the whims of the weather to light your way again.
Add an accent rug
Accent rugs are an excellent way to create a fun, inviting space without spending an arm and a leg. They come in various shapes and sizes, and outdoor rugs are usually weather-resistant. You’re guaranteed to find one that fits your personal preferences with ease.
If you’re unsure about the right accents or accent colors for your space, try extending your interior paint colors into the outdoor space for a cohesive, well-rounded appearance.
Purchase self-watering planters
Is your green thumb not quite there but you love to enjoy seasonal blooms where you can? Self-watering planters may be the way to go. While they may be a little pricier than their traditional counterparts, self-watering planters can help you avoid overwatering plants and root rot. They help keep your patio as lush and green as your lawn, regardless of if you’re growing flowers, herbs or decorative grass.
Add a swing or hammock
What better way to relax the day away than by reading a good book (or taking a quick catnap) in a hammock? Hang one between your trees or on your porch, or pick up a free-standing hammock for your backyard.