Now’s the time to plan an outdoor dreamscape
The holidays are behind us, and now is the time to start planning for spring and summer in your outdoor living room – your backyard. Before you call a contractor, make a list of the possible features you want to add to your “dreamscape” and think about where you want to put them. Here are 16 ideas to consider:
1. Sunproof your yard: Maybe you already have a covered patio, but if not, you may want to add one on your house. You can also build a shade structure if you don’t already have one. Put a large awning on the edge of the pool or create a gazebo where you can have a dining table. If nothing else, plant shade trees.
2. Think about misters and foggers: Run misters on the roof’s edge or mount them on chandeliers inside the covered patio. One basic requirement: a pump that will push water through the tubes at 1,250 pounds per square inch. High pressure produces the finest mist, and the finer the mist, the cooler you’ll feel.
3. Go for a hardier hardscape: Durable, long-lasting materials like concrete pavers are a necessity in the Arizona heat. Install lighter colors that won’t absorb a lot of sunshine.
4. Plant natives and think about xeriscaping: Choose plants that are easy to grow and that are native to desert areas. They’ll be less expensive because they need less water than other plants.
5. Add color to the desertscape: You don’t need to plant a lot of blooming flowers or annuals that need extra care. But you can add excitement with textures and natural colors found in blue agaves, light and dark green cactus, or yellow golden barrel cactus. Other colors are possible with penstemons, lantanas, sages and trees, like the desert willow.
6. Save space for a foodscape: Build a small raised vegetable garden with concrete pavers or concrete blocks. Keep it fenced or covered in some way to keep critters from eating your plants.
7. Remodel your drip irrigation system or install a new one: This is a necessity for gardening success. You can also work on improving the drainage in your yard if you’ve had problems with standing water in your yard; now is the time to fix the issue.
8. Think about artificial turf: Artificial turf can make for great play areas for children or pets. A real grass lawn can be wonderful, too, but does require more work and watering.
9. Attract birds and butterflies: Bee brush, mallow, lantana and verbena are among a long list of plants that can attract butterflies in Arizona. If you’re a bird lover, you may want to plant velvet mesquite, blue palo verde, prickly pears and desert willow.
10. Redo your swimming pool: Maybe you loved the pool when you bought your house, but now it’s looking out-of-date. Pool companies can make changes that will make the pool feel new again. You might also want to add a different kind of water feature like a small shallow dish with water trickling into it that can make your yard feel peacefully cooler.
11. Add a fire feature: Fireplaces can be a beautiful focal point for a yard, but fire pits are less costly and allow more people to gather around.
12. Plan for fun and games: If you want to stay active and entertain children, there are lots of possibilities: life-size chessboards, bocce ball courts, horseshoe pits, corn holes, and volleyball nets.
13. Buy new outdoor furniture: Wicker chairs and sofas are popular right now. But whatever you buy, make sure the materials used will be tough and durable in the Arizona sunshine. You can also use pavers to build benches that curve around the fireplace or fire pit. But be sure to provide plenty of cushions.
14. Create an outdoor kitchen: Besides having a permanent grill structure for a barbecue, you need dining or seating areas close by. The kitchen itself should be close to the door of your indoor kitchen. Many appliances are on the market for use outdoors, including backyard refrigerators and dishwashers. But their lifespan might be very short in hot weather.
15. Switch to LED lighting: If you already have outdoor lighting for nighttime convenience, switch to LEDs to save money on electricity.
16. Add electronic fun: Outdoor TV sets can cost $1,500 or much more. But you can take out an old indoor set and use it on the patio for a while; its lifespan may be shorter as a result.