With the snow finally off the radar and spring beginning to warm things up, most of our minds have already drifted into making plans for the sizzling summer sun. Hot days on the beach, lazy weekend picnics and maybe even a nice cold drink in the beer garden of our favourite pub – right?
Getting out of the house seems ideal when you’ve been staring at the same four walls all winter, but don’t forget that everyone else will be thinking of doing the same thing. Why not go somewhere that’s free from people, free of charge and literally right on your doorstep?
Here are five ways you can beat the queues of people flocking to the beach this summer and stay cool (and smug) in your own back garden.
1. Grab some shaded lawn furniture
One of the quickest ways to get some shade in your garden is simply to put up some parasols, but you may as well do it in style. If your current patio table doesn’t have a hole to support a parasol you can either use this as an excuse to get a new set or opt for a free-standing design. Update the cushions on your seats to match the fabric of the parasol and consider treating yourself to a co-ordinated swing seat or loungers so that you have somewhere cool and comfortable to relax after lunch.
New lawn furniture is an effective way of giving your garden an instant makeover, making it feel like you’ve been transported somewhere exotic without ever leaving your home.
2. Treat yourself to a stunning summer house
Create an inviting, shady retreat in your own garden by building a summer house in a secluded spot, away from the house. A bit like a shed (only much, much prettier and devoid of muddy tools), you can get summer houses in all kinds of styles.
Whether you like the idea of just enough space for a comfy chair and a bookshelf, or a cabin that’s are big enough to double up as a home office or guest bedroom, there’s a summer house that is perfect for your garden. The only requirements are that it lets in plenty of natural light but has windows that open and shutters that close to keep you cool in the middle of the day!
3. Invest in a luxurious swimming pool
Building a pool is a commitment, but if you intend to stay in your home for many more years and have a big family, or love to host parties, it can absolutely pay off. Just imagine the joy of being at the beach or lido on a hot day, but with warmer water, cleaner toilets, zero crowds and no drive to get there – heaven!
Modern designs mean that you don’t even need a huge garden to accommodate a pool, with plunge pools, lap pools and hot tubs all being great pool options for a small home. Above-ground (rather than in-ground) styles will bring the cost down and choosing a modest size will be much easier to maintain, too.
4. Build a romantic pergola
Somewhere between a gazebo and a trellis, pergolas are great for providing cover over a patio or walkway. To get the most shade from a pergola you will need to surround it with fast-growing climbers and shade plants, which will wind around the beams to create a beautiful, natural rooftop.
Pergolas can make for a beautiful focal point in a large garden but are also ideal for more compact spaces, where having both seating and plants would be otherwise difficult. It’s the perfect spot for dining al fresco and enjoying your garden throughout the year.
5. Lay back in a breezy hammock
If these suggestions are sounding a little bit intense, there’s nothing simpler than stringing up a hammock and putting not just your feet, but your whole body up. Two sturdy trees should be able to support a hammock and provide plenty of shade, or you can use the beams of a pergola if you have one and don’t need the space for dining.
There’s something immediately relaxing about gently swinging above the ground, although the best part about a hammock might be how incredibly easy it is to pack up and put away once it gets colder. Between partners, friends, children and pets, your hammock will probably be occupied for most of the summer!
It might be a little bit more effort than grabbing your sunblock and heading to the local park, but if you get your summer shade plans in action now, your garden will be a veritable paradise in time for June.
Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.