Year-round retreat

Outdoor living areas aren’t just for the summer.



Sports pools like this one are gaining in popularity as they provide two shallow ends and deeper centers perfect for lounging and play.

Jeff Greer

Are you envious of those happy wafts of laughter that keep floating across your neighbor’s fence — proof of yet another ideal outdoor get-together? 

If you have the backyard blahs, now is prime time to be proactive. Whether you choose to spruce up your vegetable garden, buy a new grill with all the bells and whistles, or reconstruct your yard into an extravagant outdoor space, there’s still time to bring your backyard back to life.

 

 

Outdoor living and more

Outdoor living spaces have evolved far beyond pools and grills — although those elements are still in high demand. Now, homeowners are looking to extend their lives past the patio. They want to live outdoors year-round.

“Outdoor living started small, but now we’re seeing a full-blown outdoor living extension of the home,” says Cherlyn Reeves, lead designer and project manager at Tom’s Outdoor Living. “Whether they’re wanting to entertain, or lounge, or they need a playspace for kids or grandkids, we see it all.”

While a grill and patio table used to be the standard, now clients want a pool area, fire pit and full kitchen, complete with wine refrigerator and a grill with a couple of side burners. 

Outdoor kitchens can have more than just the usual suspects when it comes to kitchen appliances. Courtesy Metro Outdoor Living

 

“People are still very into grills, and they are building them into outdoor kitchen islands,” says Terry Taverner, who works in sales at Metro Outdoor Living. Even the popular Tulsa-based Hasty Bake charcoal grills are showing up as a built-in staple of the outdoor kitchen island.

“We’re also selling a lot of Evo flat-top grills,” Taverner says. “You can grill, make pizza and cook pretty much anything on them.”

The round gas- or propane-fueled grills are popular for those wanting to entertain a crowd. Building them into the end of the outdoor island gives the crowd a great gathering place for an outdoor chef’s table, she says.

But before putting together your wish list of outdoor features, it’s important to consider construction time and cost.

“When a client calls we have to make sure to help them manage expectations,” Reeves says. “We can help guide them through the process and help them get the most bang for their buck.”

The experts at Tom’s Outdoor Living say outdoor living has become an extension of the home. Courtesy Tom’s Outdoor Living

 

Construction of an outdoor kitchen can start at $30,000 for a small kitchen, pergola and lighting, and the sky’s the limit for a full-blown structure with shingles, gutters, lighting and even heating.

But if your budget is on the lower end, an outdoor kitchen with a pergola is a basic starting point.

“Overhead structures, pergolas, are the thing,” Reeves says. “We love our weather, but we want to also be covered from the elements.” 

For planning purposes, Reeves says earlier is better. So, those who plan their outdoor space in the spring will probably have to wait, as it’s a busy time for construction. She has seen cases though, where a client started on a structure, pool and all the amenities in July and completed the project in November. 

“The only thing that takes a little longer is a pool,” she says.

Pools are, of course, high on the wish list for many outdoor-loving homeowners. 

“Right now we’re seeing a lot of naturalistic water elements, and a lot of stonework,” says Brendan Schmidt, a designer at Blue Haven Pools. “And there’s a real push to have as much durability as possible. People want low-chemical, low-maintenance and long lasting.”

On the rise are sports pools — a type of pool that is shallow on each end and deeper in the middle, so people can play games in the middle, and relax on either end.

“Kids can have one side and parents the other, and the deep end in the middle divides it,” Schmidt says.

Homeowners also are becoming more chemical conscious, he says, so they often prefer an ozone sanitizer.

“It’s the greenest, lowest-chemical sanitizer you can put in a swimming pool,” Schmidt says. “It’s actually used as a step in bottled water purification. It’s a drastic reduction in the amount of chemicals used.”

Environmentally friendly choices can be made for the entire outdoor living area, such as using low-voltage lighting, which is affordable and saves energy, Reeves says.

“Almost every client uses irrigation, and we make sure we’re tying in the gutters with the drainage so it’s not spilling out into the yard” or watering concrete, she says.

Homeowners can even go green while lounging in their outdoor furniture.

“Recycled plastic furniture is all the rage,” Taverner says. “These pieces are made from recycled dairy and detergent bottles and come in so many colors. You can choose chairs, chaise lounges and dining pieces.”

Recycled plastic furniture, like these chairs and table from Malibu Outdoor Living (sold by Metro Outdoor Living), are all the rage. Homeowners can choose these earth-friendly pieces in a variety of colors. Courtesy Malibu Outdoor Living

 

Installing an outdoor space can be as easy as adding a firepit and a grill, or it can be a full-blown construction process, so be realistic about how you want to use the space.

“People are investing a lot of money into their outdoor spaces, so they want to use them year-round,” Taverner says.

 

 

Organic gardening

Gardening is relaxing, it brings color and life to your landscape, and it’s rewarding to bring fresh food to the dinner table.

April is the perfect time for planting a summer vegetable garden, and people are more interested in organic gardening than ever before, according to Carla Grogg of Grogg’s Green Barn in Tulsa, an all-organic nursery.

“People are very conscientious about where their food is coming from, and they want to create their own organic gardens,” Grogg says. “People are a lot more aware of the benefits of organic gardening, and they want to take care of it themselves.”

Although purchasing organic produce at a grocery store might seem pricey, growing it yourself is not, Grogg says. She advises customers who want to start from scratch to first decide how much space they want to use. Grogg’s, other area nurseries and community facilities offer classes for budding organic gardeners.

“It is going to cost some money — but it’s more about time,” she says. “If you’re a person who has a demanding job or is out of town a lot, you don’t want to invest in a raised-bed garden. You’ll be frustrated if you can’t be there to tend and water it.”

For those who want to bring a new element to their gardens, try growing berry bushes.

“Blueberry bushes are high on our customers’ lists,” she says. “Think about how much you pay for a container at the grocery store. They’re easy, and we have lots of varieties.”

 

Here are some of Carla Grogg’s tips for greener gardening this spring:

Carla Grogg

  • If a plant says full sun, it doesn’t necessarily mean Tulsa sun. “Full sun in Tulsa is very hot, especially in July and August,” she says. “It’s OK to place your gardens in an area that gets afternoon shade. Good morning and
  • early afternoon sun will be fine.”
  • Collecting rainwater by hooking a rain barrel to the gutters is a good way to conserve water. “It’s amazing how much rainwater you can collect off the roof,” Grogg says.
  • Don’t forget to compost — creating a pile of banana peels, coffee grounds and eggshells is the natural way to fertilize your organic garden. “Your landscape can be functional and look pretty,” Grogg says. “It’s totally about the way you plant it and the varieties you pick.”

 

 

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