Whether you installed an outdoor kitchen, built a new deck, or went all in on shrubbery, once the improvements are made, it's time to enjoy them. Here are five tips on how to get your money's worth from your new outdoor living spaces.
- Get s'mores. Fire pits have become very popular additions to backyards in recent years. In cooler climates, they can extend your patio's usability to nearly year-round. As improvement projects go, this one is affordable, from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand if it is part of a larger installation. Whether you use it at the height of summer to roast marshmallows or into the fall to take advantage of clear, starry nights, bring family members together for some electronics-free downtime.
- Stay on the grass. With all the effort you put into maintaining your lawn, get more from it. Consider bypassing the outdoor dining table and opt for a picnic on the grass instead. Pull out a blanket and pillows, pack a basket, and enjoy the greenery. Perhaps even project a movie from a mobile device for your family and friends to enjoy. A garage wall, privacy fence, or sheet stretched between the columns of your porch pergola can be used as a screen.
- Do a garden "hack". Perhaps you've recently moved into your home or couldn't plant gardens this year due to the weather or your schedule. You can still get your yard into shape for a party. Decorate your green space with containers and vases of colorful flowers. These mobile gardens create instant color and add charm to any yard. Potting plants has the added benefit of keeping them out of the reach of nibbling rabbits and curious pets.
- Be bug free. Keep mosquitos, flies, and stinging insects in their place - and away from yours - by spreading insect-repelling plants throughout your gathering spaces. Lavender and basil are both known to protect against mosquitos. Chrysanthemums help keep ants, spider mites, and other pests away. The citronella oil of lemongrass plants is also effective. To "activate" your plants, it helps to "rough" up the leaves before sitting down to release the fragrance into the air.
- Plan for spontaneity. Solar-powered pathway stakes, spotlights, and string lights not only extend your gathering well beyond twilight - they mean your uard will alwasy look like it's in party mode. Having games ready will also keep things festive. Embedding a checker board into your patio, painting one over your pavers, or cutting one into your lawn will have you game-ready at all times. You can even encourage your children to create their own game pieces - from plastic plates or Frisbees to each other - to use as checkers or chess markers.
While plans for outdoor improvements are often driven by a desire for added curb appeal, they tend to pay for themselves in fond memories. With the weather still seasonable, there is plenty of time to get out and start creating your own.