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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
With the weather getting warmer, people’s thoughts are turning to summertime. Government mandates to stay at home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, combined with a general wariness to travel, means more people are planning on spending their summer vacations close to home. Many are opting to spend the money they normally would have on travel on making improvements to their backyards.
Holland Home Leisure, a store in New Minas, N.S., that sells pools, hot tubs and outdoor equipment, pride themselves as experts helping people to vacation at home.
“Being able to be home in your own backyard and be able to vacation with your family any day of the week has always been our goal, instead of only one week out of the summer and needing to travel to do so,” says owner Andrea VanZoost.
This summer, she says, vacationing at home is exactly what families are being told to do, so they are trying to make the best of it. As a result, VanZoost says their phones are ringing off the hook with inquiries about pools, hot tubs, barbeques, and outdoor furniture.
Not everyone is going for a major addition to their backyard, but adding simple features to make it more usable for summer. Take Laura Lindsay of Cornwall, P.E.I., for example.
With a two-year-old daughter, an active dog, and a baby on the way in a few weeks, Lindsay says now was the time to update their yard by completing a fencing project. This way, she says, she’ll be able to open the back door and not have to worry about any two- or four-legged family members running away.
Lindsay says she’s been looking for a swing set, checking the major department stores and searching for used ones online. She is now realizing that everyone else must have the same idea for backyard updates, as swing sets, she says, are impossible to find.
How to plan your yard
Landscape architect and planner Rachael McLean, from Pictou County, N.S., says backyard changes are really common right now.
“By the time we get to summer, families will have been together for a long time, so family members will need a place to escape to read a book or nap in the hammock,” she says.
“Think nooks and crannies - little spaces to steal away from your annoying siblings.”
At the same time, there also needs to be a gathering place for everyone, too, says McLean. This may include an outdoor eating space where the family can gather for a meal, a game of cards, or a board game, as we all have more time now, says McLean.
Lauren Fry, co-owner of Down to Earth Landscaping in Port Williams, N.S., agrees, saying cooking together is a great way to spend time as a family. Outdoor kitchens can be a really fun way to do so, she says, adding that there are some great options for outdoor wood-burning pizza ovens as well.
Fry and McLean both recommend a fire pit where the whole family can gather.
Ronnie Coady’s family has operated a blacksmith forge in St. John’s, N.L., since 1882. Now the fifth generation of working for the family business, Coady makes fire pits as well as other items for the backyard.
Aside from the memories you are going to make with who you share that fire with, Coady says a fire pit allows you to do it in a responsible and controlled environment.
“No matter if you’re in the country or the woods or surrounded by houses in a subdivision, that experience doesn’t change because of your surroundings,” he says.
Coady’s Metal Works can make just about anything, ranging from fire pits and spark arresters (the grates for over top of any fire pit) to cooking platforms and custom monkey bars. Being a custom fabrication shop, he works with homeowners to give them the exact product they are looking for.
Coady says they use an in-house design his father came up with to build their popular fire pits. Much like a traditional firepit you would find at any National Park, it offers two cooking surfaces and a warming surface, with the ability to completely contain a nice campfire.
Other backyard features that might appeal to adults include a life-sized chess board, or if you’re a golfer and miss the golf course, consider installing a putting green, says Fry.
Growing interest in gardens
By far, the biggest trend that Fry and McLean are seeing right now is an interest in growing food.
“I keep hearing about garden centers selling out of seeds and that’s definitely indicative of the current trend of edible landscaping,” says Fry.
Try building raised vegetable beds for planting vegetables, herbs and berries, or on a smaller scale, create a little herb container or grow sprouts in pots.
Whether it is something big like a pool or a hot tub, or something simple like a fence, swing set or fire pit, it’s important to get outside as much as possible this summer and connect with nature, says McLean.
Besides, says Fry, spending time outside is not only good for your mental and physical health but investing in your landscaping can have a dramatic positive impact on your property value.
“We get so busy in our day to day lives that sometimes our properties are not a priority,” says Fry. “Now is the perfect time to make it one.”