A lot of people hold gardening as one of the main passions in their life, but then let it fall by the wayside when they have kids. From there, the only image that comes to mind when someone says “family garden” is a bald lawn scattered with colorful plastic toys! It may not be the simplest change in the world, but it’s certainly possible to create a garden that both you and your children will love, without straining your finances too much. Here, we’ve scoured all the best landscaping advice out there for tips and tricks to create a perfect, family friendly garden. Follow some of the following tips, and you’ll be well on your way to a wonderful garden for the whole family.
We’ll get the most important step out-of-the-way first: getting a personal safety strategy in place. You’re going to have a hard time enjoying your garden if you have to supervise your children every time they want to go out and play. Obviously, different ages of kids need different degrees of care, and the solution you come up with will have to suit your individual family. Having said that, there are a few given safety basics that everyone should bear in mind when they’re overhauling their garden design.
First of all, make sure the garden’s near enough free of any bodies of water, no matter how safe and benign they might seem. Even a trough, water-butt, or a deep bucket, can be a serious hazard if your children can access it unsupervised. Make sure there’s some degree of containment and no physical way for an unsupervised toddler to wander out into your road. A simple padlock around a side gate is usually enough for this. If there are any trees or climbing frames for your children to climb, make sure they have soft landings around these structures. Keep the grass lush for as much of the year as possible, and make sure there aren’t any hard surfaces getting too close to the things your kids like to climb. Finally, check for any toxic or irritant plants that may be in your garden. Serious poisoning by plants is extremely uncommon in a lot of the US, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Think in Zones
If you’re like most adults, you’ll want one area for you and your partner, and another for children; the designated home of all their toys and play equipment. When you’re planning out zones for your garden, it’s generally best to think in large, sweeping rings radiating out from the back of your home. The first area, closest to your home, should be the safest, allowing you to see your children clearly, even when you’re not in the garden with them. If there’s anything potentially hazardous further back – like a decorative pond or some steps, it’s time to set some clear boundaries with your children, allowing you the flexibility of hands-off supervision. Of course, the area closest to the house is also the ideal zone for a “show garden” zone, which you can flaunt and entertain company in. The only advice we can really dish out here is to be patient! It may not seem like it, but your kids are going to grow up fast, and pretty soon you won’t need to worry about all those toys strewn over the lawn.
Sourcing and Installing Equipment
In many cases, play equipment is a massive obstacle to a stylish and functional garden. Most options are large, bold, bright and far from subtle. Natural timber climbing frames can look much more tasteful but tend to be exceedingly more expensive than the more garish ones. Also, you’ll need to treat the wood annually, and the cheaper options won’t last. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of leveling out the ground and creating a soft fall zone. You can read more on leveling out a landscape at Love the Garden. Weather-proof bases are a good idea, as otherwise, it can become muddy and dangerous in the winter. Though a climbing frame may be a great investment when you’ve got a lot of kids, simpler, cheaper options, like summer houses and swing sets, will often hold a child’s attention longer than larger and more complex ones. This brings us onto another important point…
When you’re shopping around for new play equipment, bear in mind that children tend to outgrow expensive pieces very quickly, no matter how fancy or fun they looked in the pictures. Kids, just like the rest of us, need a change every now and then, so plan well ahead when you’re budgeting for your family-friendly garden. Garden toys and games are usually much more economical than any playground-scale equipment, and can be easily replaced when your kids grow out of them. Still, there are larger pieces of equipment that can be much more versatile, and will keep your kids entertained for longer than other options. Check out the SaluSpa lazy spa Palm Springs portable hot tub review on Portable Tubs HQ, for example. These will make a cheap and fun addition to the garden for your kids, just as much as for mom and dad! If you want to encourage your family to be a little more active when they’re in the garden, this Zupapa Trampoline Review at Trampoline Review Guide may be more interesting to you. Unless you’re planning to have more children in the future, planning ahead and buying equipment that’s fun for all ages is the way to go.
Leave At Least Some Mature Trees and Shrubs
When they’re redesigning a garden, a lot of people have a rapid cull of the various trees and shrubs that have grown in their garden over time. Before you get rid of any of them, take a moment to think about the role they could play in a family garden. A good, strong tree, provided it’s not too tall, is great for climbing, and can offer some kids a lot more fun than any expensive climbing equipment. You can also use them to make a good old-fashioned rope or tire swing fairly easily. Fully grown shrubs can make brilliant hiding places for games of hide-and-seek, and makeshift dens when your children are still small enough to clamber in. Aside from that, bigger trees can provide much-needed shade in the peak of summer, and hold up hammocks for teens and adults. Some of these plants may be in the way of your grander landscaping ideas, but it’s usually better to put these off until your kids are grown up.
Plan Some Ambient Lighting
Okay, now you get to think about the adult’s zone of the garden. Lighting isn’t something a lot of people associate with exteriors but can make a major difference when you’re entertaining guests outside. It’s important for your guests to be able to see each other, without squinting in the glare of bright patio lighting. To help you set a relaxed and homey mood, invest in some good outdoor lighting. Strings of globe lights, lanterns, or even chandeliers if you’ve got somewhere to hang them from, are great tools for creating a soft, yet elegant lighting on warm summer nights. If you’re struggling to find places to mount these things, a pergola is a great solution.
Contrast Furniture with a Single Pattern
Many people don’t really have a well-planned-out area in their garden for entertaining guests, which leads to their furniture and decor feeling a little thrown-together and out-of-place when they actually do need a place to entertain guests. A fairly simple way to get around this is contrasting all your uniform furniture with a single pattern that ties the space together. For example, if you’ve got a lot of wooden furniture that’s all in one color, get a few seating cushions with the same color or pattern, and scatter these around. Just try to avoid anything that’s white or another light shade, as dirt shows up on these much easier than other hues.
Keep the Cold One’s Cold
One staple of a successful gathering in the garden is cold, refreshing beverages. Keep drinks within easy reach, and at a nice temperature, and you’ll keep everyone comfortable, and take a lot of the work out of being a good host! There is a range of ways to do this, and you’ll need to pick the best solution according to your budget, and the way you want the adult zone to be laid out. Galvanized tubs, built-in outdoor refrigerators, and coolers, all the way to rolling bar carts, are all options to consider. Even if you’re not entertaining a lot of guests in the garden these days, it’s generally best to splash out a little on cold storage. You usually get what you pay for, and this is one feature that you’ll be able to use for decades.
There you have our guide to designing a garden that’s comfortable and fun for the whole family. We hope it helps you along with the outdoor space you’ve always wanted!