A lush, well-trimmed lawn is all some homeowners require of their outdoor living space; but for others, a house just isn’t complete without pergolas, gazebos, and other landscaping structures that make their home a unique reflection of personality. Some armchair landscape architects borrow from classic ideas that have been embellishing lawns and gardens for centuries. Others choose a streamlined design that makes the garden area an extension of the home, with the same colors, style, and building materials as the house. Then, there’s the whimsical gardener, who goes for an eclectic mix of whatever strikes the fancy. Either way, the backyard is a private sanctuary most often enjoyed by close friends and family members, so fun, function, and comfort are the most important features of an outdoor space.
Backyard Construction: Sheds, Gazebos, and Pergolas
Sheds, gazebos, and pergolas are usually the largest features in the yard and are good elements to build when getting started with a fresh landscape design, or when an old, tired yard needs a makeover. These features seem to anchor everything else in place. For the DIY master who’s confident of backyard construction on this scale, there are designs galore that can help get the ideas flowing. For the less handy, kits are a big help but so are professionals, especially when technical elements such as plumbing or electricity are part of the plan.
Before making a final design decision or having building materials cut to order, check with local property code laws and ordnances to make sure your backyard construction project is allowed. Some design elements of particular concern are height and width due to neighbors’ views that might get blocked.
Patio Design and Masonry
No need for a diet when the weekend calls for the heavy lifting usually associated with patio design and masonry installations. Wood, brick, concrete, and rock are some of the most commonly used patio materials but even if moving one brick at a time, the weight adds up. Avoid any unnecessary heave-ho with a well-planned design and allow plenty of time for settling and curing before putting your hard work to the test and do be sure to check local building ordnances before breaking ground.
Vegetable gardening is taking America by storm. It seems that everyone is growing something edible somewhere. For small-scale veggie gardening, an herb garden is a perfect way to test the green thumb. More ambitious gardeners may want to grow all the fruits and veggies the family likes best. Other economically minded veggie gardeners turn to the garden to grow favorite delicacies that are too pricey at the supermarket. Many vegetables are annuals, meaning fresh seeds or seedlings will need to be replanted each year, but fruit trees are a longer-term investment. Plant them now to harvest in a few years, just leave plenty of room for a growing tree to spread its branches and let the sun shine through to all the goodies that will soon begin to bud. Check with local property laws to make sure your vegetable garden is allowed; most backyard edible gardens are OK but many communities frown on growing edibles in the front yard.
Flower gardening seems suited for a broader range of personalities than veggie gardening so enjoy planting the blooming garden of your dreams but do be patient. Many blooming plants are perennials, meaning it may take a few years to mature enough to set buds; but, once they do, they should bloom every year after that. Plant a flower garden for cutting bouquets to grace the indoors or to attract hummingbirds and butterflies for delightful outdoor entertainment. Some avid flower gardeners consider their garden a success if there’s at least one flower in bloom every day.
It doesn’t matter if it’s flowers, edibles, or green lawns, if you’ve got something going on outside, you have bugs. Some bugs are desirable and will help your garden grow to its fullest. Bees, for example, are perfect pollinators for the flowers that bloom before a vegetable or fruit forms. Then there are the undesirable bugs that will destroy your plants and eat your crops before you get a chance to. With an integrated approach to pest management, you can strike a healthy balance between the good bugs and the bad without the need for excessive applications of expensive, toxic chemicals.
Gardens can be just as enjoyable during the evening and the cooler seasons of the year when there’s a warm, toasty fire to gather around. Fire pits add a dramatic touch to any garden but they’re not all about looks. Use them to warm the chill night air, light the way through the garden, or to cook up a warm meal. There are three main styles of fire pits commonly built today – in-ground, above ground, and built into a tabletop – but variations on size, style, and function means there’s almost an endless list of fire pit design possibilities. Before finalizing the plan, check with your homeowners association, local governing bodies, and fire department to make sure your fire pit is in sync with the law.
Building a Fire Pit
How to Build a Fire Pit
Well-placed outdoor lighting can set the mood in the garden as effectively as it does indoors. Lights placed along the perimeter of a garden make it look bigger in the night while plenty of lighting near seating areas makes for comfortable, easy entertaining. Lights along the ground define walkways and flower beds while lending the garden a degree of casual elegance. Overhead lights provide more protective coverage and make nighttime outdoor activities safer. Motion detector lights come on as you get near, making them easy for hands-free use as do solar lights. Some lights can be controlled automatically to come on and turn off at certain hours or when the darkness reaches a certain degree. Consider a combination of outdoor lighting systems to suit your individual lifestyle.