Summer is around the corner and so are opportunities to spend your hard earned dollars on al fresco lunches and memory-making beach trips. But spending that money on refreshing your outdoor space? Not necessary.
From easy upgrades like throwing an old linen on a table for an instant outdoor dining glow up to bigger projects like creating a playscape entirely from items found in nature, these 11 ideas will turn your outdoor space, whether it’s a small patio or an entire yard, into a warm weather-ready retreat.
Repurpose Old Linens
“If your garden table is a bit tired you can use any type of cloth as a tablecloth to hide it,” saysSusanne Pumpluen, a digital creator adding with a talent for designing Scandinavian-bohemian interiors. “In the past, I have used anything from a sarong to old linen curtains no longer use.”
Pumpluen also suggests using old curtains or shower curtains if you have a balcony or patio that is in close proximity to your neighbors. “Curtains are great as visual protection against neighbors’ intrusive glances. I have even stapled old curtains to my balcony railing.”
Divide Existing Plants
Tom and Jenny Williams, owners of The Laundry Retreat, use the plants they already have to fill out their lush gardens.
“It is worth dividing perennials that have clumped together and plant them elsewhere," they say.
You can also do the same with seedlings that might have appeared in gravel or sandy spots, where they are easy to pull up.
“You know that these plants will be happy in the garden as they have thrived already. You can also split plants that have been in pots, and place them in borders,” they say.
Create a Natural Kids' Playscape
Blythe Yost, co-founder and Chief Landscape Architect at Tilly, points out that while traditional play sets are wonderful, they’re typically pricey and kids outgrow them so quickly. Instead, she suggests refreshing your outdoor space with a playscape made from found items.
“A natural play area can be created with things you find in your backyard or during a nature hike in the surrounding area,” says Yost. She suggests setting up a large log as a balance beam, creating an obstacle course from tree stumps, or DIYing a sand pit if you have access to actual sand.
Scatter Seeds at the End of the Season
Have you ever spotted seedlings coming up in the spring and assumed they were weeds? Not so fast, says Landscape Designer Melanie Rekola. Give them time to grow before you get rid of them, you might be surprised when it turns out they’re the next generation of last year’s flowers. But Rekola suggests making it even easier on yourself.
“In late fall you can collect and scatter seeds in areas you’d prefer them to grow,” she says.
Bring Inside Decor Out for the Day
Pumpluen suggests taking cushions or accent pillows from inside the house and using those on your patio furniture on a nice day. If you’re entertaining guests, dress up your outdoor space with those vibrant textiles, but don’t forget to bring them in to protect them from summer storms.
Repaint Your Outdoor Furniture
If you have old wooden furniture that’s seen better days, give it a new life rather than tossing it in the dumpster. Forage through your garage or shed to find extra paint, then pull out a brush and get to work.
“Whether it’s old wooden adirondack chairs or a set of wicker, fresh paint in a fun color can make your outdoor living space feel new," Yost says.
“Before purchasing new planters, look around to see what you can upcycle from things you already have around the house,” says Rekola. She suggests putting a basic plastic pot inside a woven basket or using a planter upside down to elevate another when combining planters in a grouping.
Prune and Delete
Sometimes the easiest way to refresh a space is by removing, not adding.
“Having overgrown shrubs can make your yard feel smaller,” says Yost. She recommends hard pruning or removing overgrown shrubs to give your outdoor space a lighter, airier look. Plus, she says, “Having a more blank space can sometimes spark more creativity in your space!”
Reuse Natural Materials
“We try to keep everything that we dig up, especially river cobbles, and re-use them in later landscaping projects,” the Williamses say.
Their sustainable approach of using what’s around you guarantees that not only are the materials free, but they will blend in with your existing landscape and create a cohesive, organic look. But it doesn’t always have to be found materials from nature. They’ve also used fallen roof slates as edging.
Propagate Plants From Cuttings
Rekola suggests getting plants for free by propagating them from cuttings.
"Take soft plant cuttings including leaves, put them in water and wait for the roots to grow. Change and top off the water regularly as this process can take many weeks and sometimes months! Once you see substantial roots, it’s time to plant them," says Rekola.
Try swapping plants with friends this way. Each of you can grow a different plant, then trade the propagated plants next season.
Create a Secret Nook
“Create a bistro dining nook in an unused corner of your backyard or set up a quiet relaxation area outside your bedroom door," Yost says.
She suggests going this by rearranging or moving existing patio furniture into a new spot. String outdoor lights overhead, add a few pots from elsewhere in the yard, and you’ll have a truly magical hideaway.