How to prepare your garden for hosting family and friends

Gardening expert Angela Slater shares her advice on readying your outdoor space to welcome back family and friends.

Barbecues will be popular this summer - if the British weather holds out

Now that we are finally allowed to see family and friends in our own gardens, we can push the boat out and really show off what we have been doing all through those long dreary lockdown weeks. Having a cosy welcoming space will really make them feel really special and that it is an occasion not just a catch-up. Before you do anything to make your space attractive clear away all the clutter and scrub the patio with an algal remover.

1. Food

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Make sure the barbecue is cleaned and in working order and capable of cooking for six people. If you need a new grill go for the best your budget will allow as it will last a lot longer than a cheaper DIY superstore option.

Simple outdoor lighting can help extend your social gathering after dark

Sit down and really plan your menu. Make sure you’re not too ambitious: it’s much better to do something you have done dozens of times before and know you can get right. If you do want to try something out of your comfort zone have a go beforehand so there won’t be any untoward mishaps on the night.

To avoid any cross-contamination use two sets of BBQ tools, one set for raw food and one set for cooked, keep one set on each side of the BBQ to avoid getting them mixed up. Make sure any food is cooked to the correct temperature to avoid any cases of food poisoning; invest in a digital temperature probe and learn the cooking temperatures of various foods to make sure you get this right and say goodbye to salmonella chicken and leathery steaks.

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2. Decor

Add some quick easy finishing touches to make the space a little more special, all it could involve is providing some cushions and throws just in case it becomes chilly.

If you really want to make the area special you can make bunting and matching placemats if you are dining at a table, it’s a great project for getting kids involved. All you need are some scraps of fabric for the bunting and the same fabric covering some strong cardboard for the mats, you’re not wanting something to last a lifetime just something to make your loved ones feel special.

3. Comfort

Comfy furniture is an absolute must; you are going to be spending as much time together as possible so no-one wants to be standing all the time or sitting on a chair which gives you a bad back.

If you don’t have suitable garden furniture, order new in good time as there are delays this year on shipping. If the furniture isn’t going to arrive in time is there any indoor furniture you can carry outside? A last resort can be to invest in some home-made large floor cushions for the children or throw down a rug and plenty of cushions for them.

Upturned metal buckets with a cushion on top can provide a seat for a child as can an old rustic fruit crate stood on end, not only does it make a seat but it also provides useful storage. A couple of planks suspended across some bricks can serve as a makeshift bench, just make sure they are covered in throws just in case there are any splinters.

4. Planting

If you don’t feel confident in putting together a planting scheme you can get some ready planted containers from your local garden centre and group them together for impact or plant your own pots with a single variety. Easy plants include evergreen grasses, lavender, small evergreen shrubs or Buxus topiary.

If your garden is already established just give it a tidy, cut the grass, edge the lawn and dig over any exposed soil in the borders. Plant up a large container with the most commonly used herbs; sage, thyme, parsley, oregano, chives, rosemary and basil. Site it close to the BBQ then you can just add them to your steaks or chicken to elevate your barbecue fare from the mundane to the sublime.

5. Heating

There are many ways to heat your outdoor space and they don’t all cost a fortune. You can buy a relatively inexpensive log burning brazier for less than £50.

If you are going to be using your outdoor space a lot over the coming months it may pay to invest in something stylish which will complement your space. There are braziers to suit a more traditional English garden and sleek minimalist fireplaces to suit a contemporary chic urban outdoor living space.

If you are feeling handy you can just construct a rural style fire pit out of a circle of stones or bricks, just remember to site any fire on a hard flameproof surface and make sure it is well extinguished before turning in for the night.

6. Style

What is your style of garden, minimalist, urban chic or traditional English garden? If you are investing in new furniture and planting keep in mind the look you want to achieve and don’t buy beautiful blooms and ornamental containers just because you love them. A mish-mash of styles can be quite jarring to look at so stick to your plan; you can get lots of ideas from Pintrest for budget-friendly DIY and up-cycling projects.

7. Lighting

If you don’t have any lighting just re-use the Christmas tree lights, provided they are specifically for outdoors. Remember not to leave any cables trailing across pathways.

You can also use candles in lanterns for a soft romantic glow.

If you are going to be using your outdoor space on a more permanent basis it may be worthwhile investing in some permanent lighting professionally installed. Solar lights can supply a soft glow but they don’t usually give off a lot of light, they are useful to mark out steps, level changes or any obstacles which may protrude onto the path.

For more inspiration, visit Hayes Garden World