Making the most of your garden this summer

A child playing on a water slide in the garden

Gardens can be a welcome retreat at any time of year, but they’re especially important as we reach midsummer. In the absence of normal foreign holidays, sunbathing in a deckchair is the closest many of us will get to an escape, while gardens are increasingly a sanctuary for children tiring of yet more time out of school.

If you’re not creatively minded, it can be hard to realise a garden’s potential to entertain and provide additional living space. These are some of the ways to make the most of your garden this summer, from hired help to home-made toys…

Improve privacy

If outside space is overlooked by neighbouring properties, there are plenty of privacy-boosting options. Pin artificial ivy or bamboo slatting to hit-and-miss fences, or frame a patio with low screens or hedging. Installing an arbour creates a private nook to sit in without blocking daylight. An extendable canopy above your patio obscures upper-storey views from neighbouring properties, and a large parasol over a patio table achieves similar results.

Ideas for children

Contrary to popular myth, children don’t need money lavishing on them to have a great time. Entertain them with a treasure hunt featuring sweets (or existing toys) hidden behind plant pots and hosepipes. Create a slip-and-slide with plastic sheeting and warm soapy water, or make a slalom racecourse out of saucepans. Chalk goalposts or concentric circles on a fence for target practice, and buy pavement chalk for soluble ground-level graffiti. 

Give nature a helping hand

Even if you’re not green fingered, it’s easy to improve your garden’s appeal to wildlife. A bug box can be crafted out of old cardboard tubes and cotton reels, while an upside-down wooden box with a hole in one side might accommodate anything from hedgehogs to frogs. Feed the birds by coating an old toilet roll tube with peanut butter and seeds, and put out a bowl of water (replenished daily) for small visitors.

Add colour and character

Even people who hate gardening can quickly boost their back yard’s aesthetics. Creating a shrub bed is simplicity itself, with a few hardy perennials instantly adding character to a freshly-dug border. Buy ready-made conifer troughs, or insert artificial flowers into real soil for added authenticity. Fill plant pots with coloured sand and pebbles, and visit the beach to scavenge a selection of shells for a small trough or planter.

Something borrowed

A growing number of companies specialise in hiring out garden equipment, from assault courses to hot dog machines. Enliven a child’s party by hiring a suitably sized bouncy castle for an afternoon, or book a visit from a mini zoo. It’s amazing how one new piece of play equipment can transform a garden’s appeal; imagine unwinding in an inflatable hot tub while savouring cocktails delivered by one of many drinks-to-your-door companies.

Install lighting

Forget about cut-price solar lights which won’t last the winter. Instead, employ an electrician to install mains-powered lighting. This can be fitted at ground level, attached to fences or walls, or left freestanding like bollard lights. Vintage streetlights work well in large, square outside spaces. Position low-power lights a few feet apart along pathways and around patios, illuminating these features even as the sun sets.

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