Today marks the first day of summer and barbecue season is here! Temperatures are rising, and we can look forward to a summer of entertaining in our gardens. But before you start inviting guests, you need to know that you’re ready to host al fresco social gatherings. As well as getting your grill in shape, you should get your garden ready for what lies ahead.
The more your garden and outdoor areas are prepared for barbecue season, the better your events will be. But this won’t happen overnight. You need to start planning now. There’s a lot of hard work involved — particularly if you haven’t been keeping on top of the situation in your garden over the winter and spring months.
To help you host killer garden parties this year, we’ve put together a simple guide to preparing your garden for the barbecue season.
1. Tidy things up
Before you do anything, your first job should be tidying your garden. This will involve clearing away litter and any debris that has accumulated over winter and spring. Once you’ve done that, you can start tending to your garden. Mow the lawn, remove weeds, prune shrubs and hedges, and give the space a splash of colour with a few carefully placed flowerbeds.
As people will be eating in your garden, it’s nice to ensure it’s as clean as possible. The easiest way to do this is with a pressure washer. Blast water at paths and patios in order to dislodge moss, weeds, dirt and debris. Brush up anything that’s left, and dispose of it sensibly. This should give you a blank template on which to host spectacular barbecues.
2. Make your own barbecue accessories
The best and most memorable barbecues have an overriding theme. They’re also a reflection of the host’s own tastes and preferences. Inject your own personality into proceedings with a few of your own barbecue accessories. You can make these throughout the spring months so they’re ready in time for your first gathering.
For example, you can make some pretty table decorations with lavender, rosemary and thyme. Dress your chairs with white covers or some carefully chosen foliage.
3. Prepare your garden furniture
If your garden furniture has been outside or locked away in storage over the winter months, it’s going to need a spring clean. Wooden items should be cleaned with care, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions. But if your furniture is made with plastic or non-corrosive metal, a powerful steam cleaner should be all you need to cut through dirt, grease and dead bugs.
4. Set the scene with some pleasant aromas
Introduce a few aromas to make your barbecues a more pleasant experience. However, steer clear of anything that might overpower the aromas you’ll be creating on your grill. As well as a little lavender and rosemary on your tables, introduce a few subtly-scented plants such as honeysuckle, jasmine and phlox. You might also want to light a few aromatic candles just before your guests arrive.
If you’re going to be hosting barbecues for many years to come, it might be worth creating a herb wall. This will create some beautifully natural aromas that complement the smells you’re creating on the barbecue. And if you locate it close to where you place your grill, you’ll have quick access to herbs for cooking.
5. Introduce some shade
It’s very important that you give people the opportunity to find some shade during the hot, summer days. The average barbecue lasts for around four hours, and that’s a long time to be standing in direct sunlight.
If your garden doesn’t offer much shade, you’ll have to make some. You can do this with a gazebo or a pergola. For the long term, consider planting a few trees to provide permanent shade in the most appropriate areas of your garden.
6. Think about heating
If you live in Northern Europe, even the hottest days of summer can be followed by relatively chilly nights. Don’t stop your barbecue parties when the sun goes down. Prepare for colder temperatures by creating a firepit zone. Position your garden furniture around it to create a cosy zone for socialising during the evenings.
7. Prepare some lighting
Sticking with the theme of evening barbecues, give some serious thought to lighting. Identify the darkest areas of your garden, and introduce some lights where appropriate. Use fairy lights for ambience and floodlights or LEDs to light up the area. While there are some very good battery-powered lights on the market, the simplest solution is to buy solar-powered lights.
8. Create comfortable socializing zones
Once people have their food at a barbecue, they usually like to find a seat. Think about how your guests like to socialise, how many people you invite to your barbecues, and the ambience you like to create. This will help you to create socialising zones that are conducive to chatting and relaxing.
Start by choosing some robust, all-weather furniture. This can be left out during spells of fair weather. The choose some outdoor soft furnishings. There are some very good, waterproof cushions and pillows that are perfect for creating comfortable seating areas. Add a few rugs, chairs and potted plants to create a warm ambience for all your guests.
9. Introduce some entertainment
Conversation is always the best form of entertainment at a good barbecue. But if you’re bringing a lot of people together for the first time, you might need to give things a shove in the right direction. Plan some games that get people chatting. Or simply set up a music system to add some background music.
If you’re hosting family barbecues, you might want to give people the option of watching a major sports or music event. Everything from cricket’s Ashes series to Glastonbury takes place during the summer. Set up a TV somewhere that’s going to remain dry no matter what the weather does. Or if you have space, use a projector to beam the images onto a wall.
A little planning now should help you to put on summer barbecues that will live long in the memory.