Designing the Right Yard for Your Needs
Owning a home is a long-term commitment, but families change over time. Although the backyard may have been the perfect outdoor space for your toddler, it may no longer work for your teen. When deciding what to change to better suit your family’s needs, take into consideration some of the below tips to ensure the perfect space for the entire family.
The most important aspect to keep in mind before starting a backyard project is your family’s safety. Before you plant anything, learn what types of plants and yard decorations work best for your family. Prickly bushes and plants such as cacti and roses may be nice to look at but can be dangerous for pets and children. Plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and hosta contain toxins that can make animals ill. Rhubarb leaves and asparagus ferns have an oil or sap that can cause allergic dermatitis, and certain parts of the stalks of both plants are mildly poisonous when ingested.
Besides choosing non-poisonous plants, if you hire a landscaper, it is important to find a company that uses organic pesticides to minimize the risk of poisoning or skin irritation to children and animals. Sterilized commercial mulch or heat-sanitized mulch is a safer choice than the homemade version since bacteria and viruses thrive in composting materials.
If you property does not have one already, consider adding a privacy fence. A 6-foot fence can keep your pets and young children safe, but be sure to check with your local zoning and community regulations (HOA) before starting the project to ensure there aren’t any current codes or restrictions on building a fence. That’s something good to check on before you purchase your new home.
Once the appropriate landscaping is done, consider adding a backyard play set for your younger children. Whether you are erecting a backyard play set, a traditional swing set or a clubhouse, make sure it is far enough away from the adult area so kids can run and play as loud as they want, but place it where it can be seen from both the inside and outside of the house.
Once those children have outgrown the play set, they may request space to play sports or hang out with friends. Establish an area where they can practice their basketball skills or include room to toss a baseball or football around. Remember that a well-lit and open area will give teens additional space to socialize while still under your supervision.
Hosting a Barbeque
No matter the age of your children, barbeque areas are essential if you like to entertain. Plan for it to be close to the house, specifically the kitchen in case an ingredient needs to be retrieved from inside quickly. A table and seating area are also necessary for guests to sit and talk while the food is grilled. Depending on the household, a picnic table could be a good choice for easy clean-up when children are present. Or if the household is looking for a more comfortable outdoor area, consider transforming part of the yard into an inviting space. Big comfortable chairs, accent tables, potted plants and other decorative elements can transform a patio or deck into an outdoor living room.
Don’t forget to provide shade from the hot sun or additional heat from the cold elements. An oversized umbrella can keep guests comfortable on a sunny day, and a space heater can keep them toasty on a slightly chilly night.
Ease of Care
Some homeowners either don’t have time or don’t want to be constantly working in their yard. Pruning, watering, thinning and dividing plants can eat up valuable time, so avoid putting in large flower beds that require a lot of maintenance if you don’t want to be constantly working on the yard. Avoid planting fruit trees, but consider adding perennials, which will grow back next year.
If avoiding weeding is a priority, non-pesticide treated mulch such as clean straw, crushed gravel or peat moss can be attractive and functional. Weeds are less likely to grow under thick layers of mulch, which means less gardening work for you. Xeriscaping is another alternative, especially if you live in a hot or low-moisture climate. This type of landscaping not only has little maintenance, but it uses less water, which is easier on your pocketbook and the planet.
Designing a backyard can be fun for everyone in the family. Keep in mind when identifying your wants and needs that some landscaping takes more planning and time to properly put together than others. Sketching a layout on paper before breaking ground or purchasing materials will help you better understand the overall concept, and it could even help you decide to consult with a landscape professional if the project is too time consuming to tackle yourself.
Whatever route you take, keep everyone’s ideas and interests in mind when planning the backyard of your dreams.
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