Designing Backyard Splendor
In this article from American Lifestyle, Rebecca Poole explains how to create the perfect backyard oasis...
The dog days of summer are often the perfect time to lounge lazily on the beach or in a hammock by the lake for hours on end. However, with a little effort and upkeep, you can create a personal oasis right in your backyard.
Go for green
Step one to achieving a healthy backyard is assessing your needs. Is your yard in need of a large landscaping project? Do you want to add a garden, potted plants on the patio, or both? Once you figure out the spots in your yard that require extra attention and those that require only cosmetic touch-ups, you’ll feel a lot more organized.
One of the first steps to creating a backyard that’s the envy of the neighborhood is fertilizing your grass. Think of fertilizing as feeding grass the nutrients it needs; a healthy-looking yard is ensured for months to come. When choosing a fertilizer, it may be a good idea to go the organic route. Synthetic fertilizers are full of compounds that could damage your soil over time, whereas organic options retain water better and, while they may work slower, they do more for the long-term benefit of your yard. You only need to apply fertilizer once between June
and August (and it should be six to eight weeks after you did so in the spring).
Mowing your lawn properly will also help keep your grass in tip-top shape. Some tips to keep in mind include not mowing it too short—it should be around two to four inches high, depending on your grass type. Mow in the early hours of the day so both you and the grass don’t suffer from too much heat. And don’t forget to sharpen the blades of your mower. Dull blades aren’t just ineffective—they could also damage your lawn. In addition, water your grass a couple times a week in the morning, or set your sprinkler timer accordingly, so the sun doesn’t soak up all the moisture before it has time to sink in.
However, for those who don’t have a lush, green lawn, or for those who don’t live in an area conducive to this kind of yard, have no fear—there are alternatives. Ornamental grass is a great low-maintenance choice and is best paired with other types of landscaping: flowers, shrubs, and the like. Make sure to spread mulch around it to ensure its longevity.
If you live in an area that gets extremely hot weather, warm-season grasses are the easiest to care for in your climate. These could include Bermuda grass (what you see on golf courses), or midiron grass, a turf option that does well with significant foot traffic. To forgo greenery altogether, consider gravel or slate, which requires very little maintenance; a wood or composite deck, which boosts your home’s return on investment and is ideal for an entertaining space; or consulting with a landscaper about installing a rock garden, which is eye-catching and can withstand hot and cold temperatures.
The primary culprit to an unsightly backyard is weeds. You want to act fast and pull weeds as soon as you spot them. Pulling them by hand is the best way to go if you’re able, but, if not, you may need to use herbicides. Just be sure to use systemic options that kill the roots as well and protect your face and wear gloves and long sleeves.
Creating an oasis
Once your lawn is green and thriving, it’s time to spruce it up in other slightly more fun ways. If building a new deck or patio is outside your budget, there are still a plethora of small upgrades to make in order to fully benefit from summer’s sunny days and warm nights. It’s all about getting creative with the space you already have.
If you do have a deck or patio, consider adding an outdoor rug. It will immediately bring an element of warmth and character, transforming this space into a retreat-like atmosphere. Add floor pillows as well (or keep them stored nearby) for a unique entertaining experience guests are sure to appreciate.
For those without a deck or patio, the tips below can ensure you make the most of your space:
- Add citronella candles around the yard to ward off bugs and provide a comforting feel.
- Arrange furniture—even just lawn chairs—in a circle for easy entertaining. Other accessories to consider buying include side tables, glassware, trays, and larger seating to accommodate guests, such as a daybed or bench.
- Maximize the space by adding various lighting options. String lights have been popular for years and do wonders for creating an idyllic setting. Outdoor sconces and other fixtures that hang from tree branches will create a cozy ambience.
- While your backyard should be functional, it can also be whimsical. A hammock, game area, firepit, tree swing, and a splash pad for children are all great options.
- Take it a step further by setting up an outdoor movie theater complete with a screen or sheet, projector, speakers, and plenty of extra seating options. This can provide the feeling of being on vacation without ever leaving home.
Bloom in style
A key factor of adding appeal to any outdoor area is through greenery. Planting the right annuals and perennials this time of year will breathe life into your yard (and may also result in a newfound hobby: gardening!).
- For the sun-deprived yard: plant begonias, which do well in shade. This is a colorful pick that’s as stylish as it is low maintenance.
- For attracting butterflies: plant black-eyed Susans, yellow wildflowers in the sunflower family that have the potential to grow to over three feet tall.
- For adding a touch of personality to a fence: plant clematis, a perennial that loves to climb. (Cut the vine for reflowering later in the season.)
- For variety: plant dahlias. They range in size and color, and they make for a grand centerpiece arrangement.
- For a classic summertime look: plant daisies, which will look wonderful in any yard this time of year.
By giving your backyard some tender love and care, it will result in a lively and welcoming space to be enjoyed throughout the summer season.
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