This summer, much like last summer, will be all about spending quality time outdoors, and you might want to look close to home for your summer getaway. Whether you want to take your outdoor cooking area to the next level, host movie screenings, or attract more wildlife, there are lots of outside-the-box options for making the most of your backyard. Here are a few to spark your imagination.
Add an outdoor pizza oven
If you’re one of the many people who have gotten in touch with their inner baker this past year, it may be time to take your skills outside. An outdoor pizza oven – whether fired by propane or wood – is the perfect excuse to step up your dough game and turn the patio into your very own Neapolitan pizzeria. For those with big yards (and bigger culinary ambitions), a classic brick or stone oven is the way to go, but there are also smaller, more portable models available for those with less space to devote to an outdoor baking habit. Either way, pizza night will never be the same again.
Open your own “drive-in”
Drive-in movie theatres came roaring back last year, giving all of us a way to enjoy the experience of going to the movies during the first summer of the pandemic. You can recreate the experience of watching a movie under the stars at home, however, by creating your own outdoor theatre in your backyard. All you need is a projector, a portable screen (or a bed sheet hung on a clothesline) and some chairs to host a socially distanced outdoor movie night. Just make sure to give your neighbours a heads-up (or better yet, invite them over at a socially safe distance!).
Build a fire pit
Depending on the regulations where you live, you may be able to bring the best part of camping home by installing your very own backyard fire pit. This can take the form of something simple, like your classic summer camp stone circle surrounded by logs, or can be more elaborate, with many different kinds of wood and propane-burning options ready-made and available for purchase. Either way, whether you’re roasting marshmallows and singing songs or just enjoying a glass of wine and staring at the flames, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.
Plant a butterfly garden
If you’re an avid birder, an amateur entomologist, or someone who’s sympathetic to the plight of the nation’s wild bees, you’ll understand the appeal of planting a bird- and insect-friendly garden in your backyard. No matter which of these categories you fall into, giving up a piece of your yard for plants, trees and shrubs favoured by these wild creatures is an easy way to inject more life (literally!) into your space. It’s also a great way to do something good for your local ecosystem, where migratory birds, bees and butterflies may increasingly be threatened. By planting flowers like lavender and echinacea, or berry-producing shrubs like juniper and serviceberry, you’ll be helping your winged and feathered neighbours, and creating a beautiful seasonal display for yourself to enjoy as well.
Add a water feature
Whether it’s the crashing ocean waves or a trickling stream through a forest, humans always gravitate towards water. For this reason, adding a water feature to your backyard can inject a dose of calming ambience and natural beauty (as well as a little white noise) into your outdoor space. For those with bigger yards, a pond can add an old-school country estate vibe, with or without the addition of prize-winning koi fish. Smaller backyards, meanwhile, can easily accommodate a plug-in water feature, which adds the pleasant gurgle of a babbling brook, while drowning out car alarms, sirens and common other non-zen city noises.
Build an outdoor bar
Depending on where you live and the restrictions in place, it may have been a while since you visited your favourite watering hole. This summer, however, the city’s hottest new cocktail bar can be steps from your backdoor if you have the inclination to build it. You can start with your deck as it is, and add elements (a counter, stools, bottle shelves and decorations) according to your taste and budget. Then all you need is a cooler full of ice and a few well-practiced cocktail recipes to get the party started.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.