10 Tips For Turning Your Backyard Into A Family Retreat
By Jay Chua
Once spring has arrived and summer is on the way, the whole family will be eager to get outdoors and enjoy the fine weather. If you're looking for a way to spend quality time with your loved ones, look no further than your own backyard. Here are 10 simple tips you can use to expand indoor comfort to the outdoors:
1. Accentuate the positive
It's wise to begin by taking stock of the permanent features in your yard. You may have a porch, patio or deck already in place. Note the position of large trees and shrubs and also notice which areas are predominantly sunny or shady.
Next, brainstorm ways to build on what you have. Perhaps the back porch could be revived with a simple coat of paint. The hard lines of a chain link fence might be softened with vines such as morning glory or ivy. Overgrown shrubs and trees are a wonderful resource - a little trimming will shape them into mature beauties.
If the neighbors are too close for comfort, consider a screen of fast-growing, densely planted hedges that will shield views and absorb sound. Be sure to use evergreens for year-round privacy.
2. Provide something for everyone
To ensure that the entire family enjoys the backyard retreat, its important to take each person's hobbies and preferences into consideration during the design process.
Create an enticing spot for enjoying morning coffee and perusing the newspaper. Arrange a small table and chairs for games of chess or cards. Design a cozy nook for the family member who loves to read. Kids love a hideaway so if your yard has a sturdy tree, consider a tree house.
If there's a railroading enthusiast in the family, a miniature garden train will add a fun dimension to the backyard. Garden trains and their tracks are weatherproof and can endure the elements. Landscaping the track layout around the perimeter of the backyard is an activity that every family member can enjoy and is a wonderful outlet for creativity.
3. Design for low maintenance
Choose shrubs that will top out at the desired height to avoid constant pruning. Pick plants that match the amount of sunlight they will naturally receive, and you will make Mother Nature your ally instead of having to fight against her.
To keep yard work to a minimum, use mulch to suppress weeds. When creating pathways, consider installing a roll of weed blocker before laying paving stones or dispersing wood chips. By planning ahead, you'll enjoy your retreat without creating new chores.
4. Light a fire
Escape the heat of the kitchen by preparing family meals on an outdoor grill. There are many options available, from deluxe gas models to low-tech charcoal cookers.
An outdoor fireplace instantly becomes a natural gathering place and allows you to extend your retreat's usable hours. A portable fire pit allows for flexibility of placement and it's a wonderful place to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
5. Grow food for the body, flowers for the soul
Decide whether you want your garden beds to be functional or purely visual. A simple vegetable garden will provide valuable nutrition for your family's meals. Children enjoy plants that grow quickly such as pumpkins, squash and cherry tomatoes. Or perhaps you prefer a cutting garden full of cheerful flowers. Easy-to-grow favorites are cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias.
6. Furnish thoughtfully
A one-time investment in quality furniture will pay off with years of enjoyment. A well-placed bench transforms an unused part of the yard into a quiet retreat. A double rope hammock can be attached to shady trees or perched on a stand for napping in the sun. A quality porch swing becomes an ideal spot for relaxing during the hottest part of the day or for staying dry during a rainstorm.
Color is an important aspect of your furniture and offers plenty of design possibilities. This can be achieved through wood finishes, paint or by cushion patterns and hues, which complement the surrounding greenery.
7. Set the stage for conversation
It's important to keep the lines of communication open, so be sure to design a conversation area with plenty of seating. A cast iron glider bench comfortably seats several people. With the addition of a few matching chairs, there is room for the whole family to interact. Add a portable fire pit as the centerpiece and you¡¯ve created a magical outdoor space.
8. Make beautiful music
Attach discreet speakers in the trees or along a winding path to guide the mood during garden parties and family reunions. Some manufacturers offer outdoor speakers that are designed to look like rocks so that the natural illusion is not broken.
9. Turn on the waterworks
A fountain or birdbath will create a relaxing focal point in your backyard retreat. If your yard is subjected to the hum and rumble of nearby traffic, a water feature may be used to create a constant soothing sound.10. The family that plays together stays together
Be sure to leave a patch of open lawn for group activities, such as bocce ball or croquet. Badminton is a fun game that doesn't require much room. A patch of sand can be installed at one end of the yard for a game of horseshoes. A large hot tub can be a wonderful place to relax together after a day of yard work or exercise.
With so many ways to use your backyard retreat, you will soon find that it has become the family's favorite destination location - and best of all, it's right outside your own backdoor.
About the Author
Jay Chua, Publisher of PorchSwingSets.com, is an outdoorsman and nature enthusiast. He lives with his wife Deisy in Vancouver, Canada. When he is not gardening, designing backyard retreats and traveling, Jay likes to spend time on his wooden porch swing enjoying a quiet moment with his wife, sipping afternoon coffee and reading a good book. If you would like to collect happy memories while relaxing on your favorite porch swing glider, Click here for selection of patio swings and discover an array of outdoor furniture suited for your own backyard retreat.