Gardening Landscape design

This Year, Plan a Staycation

Your staycation needs little more than a comfortable place to relax.

With summer coming up, a lot of people are planning their annual vacation: a trip to the cottage, travel abroad, a train trip… or staying home: a staycation, in other words.

In fact, studies show that more and more people are choosing the latter. Travel is expensive and money is tight. Crossing borders has never been more complicated or more stressful. And you can’t even find a quiet camping spot anymore, but find yourself packed in among throngs of people. So instead, why not just relax and make your home the ideal vacation spot? That’s the idea behind a staycation.

A Staycation Is More Than Lounging

The idea behind the staycation is not to lounge around binge-watching television shows like you might over an ordinary weekend, but to make your property a personal oasis where you can really enjoy yourself. It does require planning, just like any vacation: it’s just that you’ll be investing in your own garden, not in other people’s enterprises… an investment that will pay off later, as it improves your home’s value.

Bite-Sized Landscape Projects

The secret to creating the ideal staycation resort is to gradually turn your yard into a personal paradise. The easiest and cheapest way is to look over your landscape plans and divide them into a series of small, inexpensive projects that you could carry out bit by bit, one each spring, so they’ll be ready to enjoy at vacation time. (No, you don’t want to have to work on your landscaping over your vacation: that would defeat the very purpose of a vacation.) As time goes one, you really will be turning your yard into an oasis!

Here are some quick-and-easy ideas to make your property more relaxing.

Hang Up a Hammock

You need somewhere to stretch out and relax, be it a hamac or a lawn chair. Photo: IHA

Your yard needs a quiet spot where you can relax and read a book or listen to your favorite music: a partially shaded patio with comfortable outdoor furniture. Make sure there’s room for the family so you can get a conversation going. Put in a deck or terrace or enlarge the one you have. Add a few trees or a beach umbrella or two (lying out in full sun is no longer considered a healthy choice) and you’re on your way.

The Relaxing Sound of Water

A water feature can be something quite simple.

Why not install a water feature? It can be as small as a bubble fountain in a pot or include a real pond (just watching koi swimming is sooo relaxing!), a small waterfall or a splashing fountain. The very sound of water gurgling is very calming… plus it hides the sound of traffic, so you can feel like you’re off in nature even if you’re just in your own very urban back yard.

Invite Nature In

Tiger swallowtail. Photo: School Garden Weekly

Sure you can go birdwatching in your own back yard… or butterfly watching, or bee watching. Why not pick up an insect identification guide and get to know the bugs that frequent your yard? They aren’t all harmful, in fact, far from it.

To attract wildlife of all sorts, add a flower garden with plants specifically chosen to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, plus a few plants with berries to feed the birds. Many animals need a place to hide, so a few medium-size shrubs will make them happy. And a shallow bird bath or even a puddle of water where they can drink or bathe can be a major draw.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

You can build your outdoor kitchen slowly, as your budget allows.

All those Fortune 500 estates have their own outdoor kitchen. Don’t you think you deserve one too? Start small and cheap if you have to (a simple hibachi still makes great hamburgers!), but you can slowly build on a home barbecue to make it a true cooking spot, adding a small fridge for your beer and wine, a sink where you can wash veggies, a counter where you prepare food, storage space, etc. A miniature herb garden or a few pots of vegetables, perhaps right on the countertop, can supply fresh greenery.

What about that outdoor dining room? It can be a simple as a small table and a few chairs or much more elaborate, depending on the space available, but you do need a place for the family to dine in their outdoor oasis.

A Place to Wander

OK, most yards are a bit small for hiking, but if you convert some of that lawn into flower beds and wildlife habit and add a sinuous path, you’ll have somewhere you can wander when you feel like stretching a bit.

For Those Cooler Nights

Nothing says “vacation” more than roasting marshmallows… and you can do it in your own backyard!

If your neighborhood tends towards chilly evenings, add a firepit you can relax around in the evenings. Or a gas- or propane-fueled fire table. There’s nothing more vacationlike than roasting marshmallows or making s’mores… only now you’ll be doing it in your own back yard.

Or add a patio heater: it’s not only stylish, but it can also extend your staycation experience well into autumn.

Get Out and Visit

Of course, a staycation doesn’t mean you have to literally “stay home” for those two or three weeks. Plan visits you can do locally, within say a 30-minute drive: museums, historical sites… and public gardens. There’s bound to be a few nearby. Take a family bicycle trip or go play at the municipal pool or a local beach. You’ll discover there are plenty of activities you can do without having to travel.

Oasis on a Balcony

If your back yard is actually just a balcony, that does cut back on the usable space, but you can still create an attractive and enjoyable personal oasis. Add a few potted plants, two chairs, a small table, a small barbecue and perhaps line it with fabric to give yourself a bit of intimacy and there you go: a spot where you can quietly sip a margarita while reading a good book.

A staycation: it fits your budget, it’s just what the doctor ordered… and you won’t need a plant or pet sitter.20170419A

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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