Even on sunny days it’s still barely warm enough to pause on the deck, even briefly, to survey the yard and contemplate this year’s projects.
But that isn’t stopping people all over the region from emerging from their homes to rake, prune, trim, mow and poke in the ground. And it’s the season to begin remodeling and expansion projects.
But extra living space doesn’t always mean an extra room or two in the house; seasonally warm days allow us to use our yards as part of our summer homes.
Decks, patios and porches can be an extra room that’s part dining area, kids’ room, garden retreat and reading corner. That doesn’t mean the area needs to be elaborate, or expensive, or even large. And one patio or deck doesn’t have to serve all of these purposes.
Many landscape designers advise using several areas in the yard to accommodate different activities.
Fire up the traditional backyard barbecue on the deck, but also create a semi-private area for reflection or reading away from the activities, send the kids to the play area where there are no flowers to trample, design a simple stone pathway through gardens thick with a variety of flowering plants and shrubs.
One of the keys to making a deck or patio useful and attractive is to think of it as an extension of the inside of your house.
It’s a transition area which might contains elements of both the inside of the house - furniture - and the yard - plants.
Of course, the fact the furniture must withstand a variety of weather conditions needs to be considered. The marketplace offers a wide variety of patio and deck furniture ranging from the casualness of webbed lawn chairs to more formal and more comfortable resin chaise lounges and dining sets.
Even the cushions sport weather-resistant fabric.
Gardening catalogs and local nurseries include an increasing number of flowers, vegetables and trees hybridized specifically for container gardens.
Now those who garden primarily on their decks or patios can enjoy a flower display, and a vegetable harvest, nearly as beautiful and varied and abundant as their counterparts with gardens out in their yards.
Bear in mind container gardens need not be limited to sitting on the deck; hanging baskets offer the advantage of transportability.
Baskets can start the growing season in the full exposure of southern sun. Then, when the days heat up, they can be moved to partial or full shade on an eastern or a northern side of the house, or even into the yard where they can be hung from tree limbs. Some gardening catalogs and most home centers and nurseries offer preplanted hanging baskets. Pre-planted color spots for decks and patios are also available in containers. These usually include plants with similar water and sunlight requirements and can be moved into the garden to fill in bare spots or to fill in when the flowers are in transition, such as from bulbs to spring-blooming perennials.
In addition to innovations in plants and furniture, building materials are continually improved. Whether it’s building a rock garden, a retaining wall, a water feature or a new deck or patio, time spent browsing area home improvement centers and nurseries can be valuable. You might decide to incorporate pre-built elements into your improvement project and new materials might stimulate a change in design plans.
The home and garden shelves in book stores are dense with how-to guides for creating living space outside.
And, once your project is underway, remember to pause and enjoy and be inspired by the results of your labor.