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Designing a garden for everyone is all about identifying needs. For you, the garden is a paradise, a place to chill out and relax in the sun. For your kids, the garden is all about having enough space to run around, get mucky and practice handstands. For your friends, the garden is the ideal space for eating one too many kebabs off the barbie and having fun together.
Balancing these aims might sound difficult, but actually, there’s a lot of overlap. Ultimately, you need 3 areas for your garden: a place to sit, a place to grill and a space to run around in. This boils down to building a patio, planting a lawn and installing a barbie. Simple!
But if you are looking for a little more styling advice, keep reading!
Building a Patio
There are so many patio designs that choosing the perfect one for your garden can be quite tough. So, to make this choice a little simpler to navigate, let’s start with materials.
Wood is a common material for patios as it is relatively cheap, doesn’t heat up as much in the sun and looks natural in your garden. However, wood can also require quite a lot of maintenance. You will have to sand and varnish your patio to maintain its look, which can lead to a frustrating afternoon for you. Of course, you could always hire a handyman to do it for you, but this will add to your cost.
Paving stones are a really popular option and tiles are quite close behind. The nice thing about paving is that you can choose all kinds of patterns to break the space up. The downside is that some stones can accumulate a lot of heat from the sun and be quite uncomfortable to walk on in bare feet. Another problem can emerge if you don’t put down proper foundations as the stones can quickly become uneven.
Poured concrete isn’t a particularly environmentally-friendly option but it will create a strong surface that will last a really long time. Again, the right foundations are essential for a smooth finish. A major benefit of concrete is that plants won’t creep through the cracks (mainly because there aren’t any).
If you want to blend your interior and exterior design, it is definitely worth trying to match the materials either side of your patio doors. Poured concrete is surprisingly cool and easy to maintain inside so is a great option but wooden boards and tiles work just as well.
Space to Run Around
Grass is the most obvious play surface for your garden and your kids will love being able to run around. However, lawns still require some care and attention. For a start, you must water your lawn throughout the summer months. It’s best to water them deeply once a week than a little bit every day as this allows the water to sink down to the roots. Watering at night is perfect because the heat of the day won’t evaporate the water before it has made it into the soil.
To separate your calm patio space and the running around area, it’s a nice idea to add some plants. Long grasses are brilliant for creating a sort of barrier but they won’t object too much if balls and small children end up in them! Native grasses are ideal because they don’t need as much care and attention. They also come in a range of different heights so can be used ornamentally as well as for your lawn.
Planting trees around the border of your garden will help to keep your soil together and will also provide shade. This is really important if your kids love being outside as it will cool your garden slightly and reduce the amount of sunlight they are exposed to. Again, low maintenance trees are ideal for a family garden and native species will be quite happy doing their thing.
Most kids love playing in the garden so while running around is a natural draw, you should also encourage them to take care of the plants around them. Helping them sow some seeds and care for their own plants will give them an appreciation of the natural world and can even help fussy eaters learn to broaden their palettes. There is nothing like growing your own vegetables to make you want to eat them!
Having friends over to entertain in the garden is a lovely way to use your space but you do need to plan your garden design accordingly. If you already have your patio sorted, adding seating and a fire pit can create a natural focal point, just as a fire might create a feature in your living room.
If you plan to cook outside (and why wouldn’t you?), placing your barbie near enough to your seating without getting in the way of running about space is essential. You could design an outdoor kitchen if you are feeling fancy but most people are quite happy to do all the prep inside and then bring food out. But if you have some cash to splash, one cool investment to consider is a beverage fridge.
Shade is essential if you are planning to spend a lot of time outside entertaining so while trees will provide some shade, you might also like to consider adding a pergola to your patio. Growing vines over your pergola will provide gentle shade and, if you choose the right vine, will also give your garden a sweet scent. However, you could also add parasols or awning to provide shade as and when it is requested.
Your garden should be a great space where everyone can enjoy being together. With a few simple tricks, you can separate your spaces using plants and design the perfect area for every function. As you spend more time in your garden, you will also learn more about how you want to use it and what might work. And, as your kids grow up, you will probably find more time for planting too.