Don’t let a heat wave keep you from enjoying your backyard. Here are some easy ways to stay cool outside
The easiest way to cool off your backyard is to create some shade from the sun. If you’ve got a pergola, like blogger Molly Madfis of Almost Makes Perfect, add a shade fabric on top or beneath for extra sun protection. Bonus: It can keep leaves and sap off your outdoor furniture.
If you need to create some shade from scratch, try adding a shade sail like this one ($60) over your patio or yard space. Got a table? Add a patio table umbrella like this one ($37) to keep things cool and shield your food from the sun while you eat al fresco.
Choose Furniture Wisely
Thomas J. Story
Nobody wants to sit down only to get singed by furniture that’s been absorbing the sun’s hot, hot rays. Backyard seating and other furnishings should be selected with the outdoor elements in mind—including the sun. Avoid dark-colored materials and metals for furniture that’ll come in contact with your skin.
Try a classic wicker bistro set like this one ($300) or a trendy round set like this ($190) for light-colored but outdoor-ready furniture. Love the concrete look? Try these dining square stools ($214) and pair with light-colored cushions.
Cast Green Shadows
Thomas J. Story
Don’t just add sails and umbrellas to your backyard—get a little natural shade in there, too. If you’ve got an arbor or trellis, check out this list of nine great climbing vines that grow fast and flower. No arbor in your yard? DIY your own with this easy step-by-step.
If you’re game for a bigger project, plant trees in your backyard. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the shade and evapotranspiration (the process by which a plant actively moves and releases water vapor) from trees can reduce surrounding air temperatures by as much as 6° F, while air temperatures directly under trees can be reduced by as much as 25°F. Makes sense, doesn’t it, considering the cooling effect you feel when standing under a leafy tree?
For some expert advice, the Department of Energy offers an energy-saving landscaping guide to help you make it happen.
Add Water Works
Courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids
We’ve all heard of sprinklers that connect to your garden hose and spray the kids (and maybe you!) in all directions. It’s a summer staple here in the West, and my new favorite sprinkler has arrived: an inflatable cactus (on sale for $71)! Looking for more options? Try this splash pad for kids ($23) or go super summery with this palm tree sprinkler ($15) in your yard.
Depending on where in your yard you run the sprinkler and for how long, it might make sense to skip irrigating the lawn that night to keep from overwatering your grass (and to save water, of course.)
For something less dampening, consider a mister system—it can cool the surrounding air temperature up to 20 degrees. Many are designed to work with patio umbrellas, like this misting line ($50) that rings around the umbrella’s edge to mist those sitting under it.
Invest in a Pop-Up Pool
Thomas J. Story
No backyard pool? No problem. Here are a few different ways to get your own splashy paradise in your backyard, no construction required.
One trend that’s been all over Instagram is the use of galvanized stock tanks as pools (a.k.a. cowboy pools), whether it’s a giant round tank where the kids can swim or just a single trough meant for solo soaking. These pools are a favorite since you can stick them in your yard, fill them up, and you have an instant pool for the rest of summer—plus, they look great, in a minimalist industrial kind of way. But if you’re leaving the tank full all summer long, you might want to grab chlorine tablets or a small pump and aerator to keep it clean, and get a cover to keep it from heating up when it’s not in use and to keep mosquitoes at bay. Find stock tanks at your local farm store, or Rural Kings has an 8ft by 2ft stock tank for just $349.
If your outdoor space is relatively small or you just want a less permanent fixture, you can use the classic blow-up pool to the same effect, and dump out the water afterwards to keep away mosquitoes and germs (use it to water your lawn instead of running the sprinklers that night). This kiddie pool is just $13 and comes in “Sunset Glow”, while this Family Swim Center (from $30) is great for kids six and up. Bonus: You can take an inflatable pool with you on vacation for an instant outdoor pool at your campsite or Airbnb.