Late Summer is Outdoor Space Planning Time

By now, your garden may be looking a little disheveled, bedraggled, brown or burnt. “The bloom is off the rose,” which makes this a good time to take a thoughtful look at your garden, patio and plantings, and picture how you’d like your outdoor space to look and feel next year.


Start next year’s outdoor space planning now!

Did you enjoy your outdoor space this summer? If not, why not? Not enough shade or comfortable seating? Too buggy? Maybe there was too much shade, so plants didn’t thrive.

Walk around your entire house and take lots of photos with a “real” camera, so they don’t get forgotten behind family holidays, selfies with your pet, sunsets, and restaurant meals on your phone. These will be helpful to reference as you plan over the winter.

Look at the exterior and all hardscape and plantings with a critical eye. Do the pavers or bricks to the front door need attention? Is the decking in bad shape, or need to be re-sealed? Has the gravel in a walkway wandered all over the lawn?

How about the foundation shrubs? Are they too leggy, or blocking a window? Do they need replacement or just a serious pruning?

When to call in the pros 

Are there any dead trees on your property, or limbs hanging over or touching your roof? These are invitations to disaster and should be dealt with by professionals.

Now take a seat on your patio or deck, wherever you like to relax outside. What is working for you and your family, and what needs work? What is your goal for your outdoor environment: to get sun, to entertain, to attract birds and bees with a garden and water feature, to barbecue, grow herbs or food, play, have a private retreat?

Do you enjoy gardening and the elegance of an old English cutting garden complete with hedges and paths, or do you want a meadow of wildflowers with a rainbow of colors throughout the season?

Perennials reappear, but planting bright annuals lets you change up colors from year to year. Some plants, you’ll discover, aren’t “happy” where planted, but may thrive in another corner of the yard. So, before you toss that flower on the compost heap, transplant it someplace else. Oh, and how’s the drainage? With the rains this summer, did you have screened-porch-deckponding or puddling on the patio or erosion of soil or mulch? Or maybe you need some variable automatic irrigation.

How comfortable are you sitting on your porch or deck? Are there splinters or nails popping out on the decking? Does the patio grout, stone dust or sand need replacement? If you have to drag furniture cushions and/or furniture out of the garage or shed, what about seating or built-ins that double as storage space?

If your plain backyard could use a refresh, you may want to add architectural and functional elements:

  • A pergola
  • An awning
  • An arbor
  • Lighting
  • Benches, table, seating
  • Firepit, barbecue or pizza oven
  • Outdoor covered kitchen

These are just some ideas. And remember, if you want everything to come out according to your expectations, you’ll probably want to hire design professionals for anything major or structural.


If you don’t want to spend hours digging in the dirt or perhaps travel frequently, think about a raised bed garden, They’re another way of adding architectural interest, hardscape (stone wall, wood, brick) and a variety of heights for added drama. Even easier are backyard-gardencontainer gardens, where you can add and subtract annuals for quick color through the season.

Lining the beds with newspapers or weed-blocking fabric can cut down or even eliminate weed and keeps groundhogs from digging up from below. Plus, your nutrient-rich soil won’t drain off.

This is a lot of food for thought, so take your time and use your photos for reference. Some programs let you call them up on your computer and redraw and rearrange to show you what changes would look like, including Better Homes & Gardens’ free Plan-a-Garden at

The design/build team at 3W design inc. can help your outdoor space dreams take root, so feel free to consult us if you’re planning any outdoor add-ons or structural changes.

This entry was posted in Outdoor living, Seasonal Design Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One comment on “Late Summer is Outdoor Space Planning Time

  1. This article is very good and gets you to think ahead and asses what worked and what didn’t work this year. It gave me some ideas of where and what to look at with great perspective and look forward to planning correctly for next year. Up to now I never would have looked at the garden this time of year and plan for next year but I see the benefit of doing this now and planning what jobs need to be done first. This article by far is one of the best I have read and I hope there are more to come. Please keep me informed of more publications.

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