I often say that my house doubles in size in summertime. The outdoor space that isn’t accessible during the PNW winters becomes a haven for myself and visitors. For most of spring and summer, we bask next to the barbeque, on outdoor loungers, taking in the sunshine. It’s a little slice of heaven.
But thanks to global warming, the summer season has become shorter on the patio. Without shade, friends squint at eachother, and look for reasons to dive inside the house for respite. The heat brings all the flies and bees and mosquitos, too. This year, I swore to ameliorate the problem, and here are the three ways I’ve recovered my backyard space.
A gigantic umbrella will create the shade you need
For years, I’ve meant to get one of those massive umbrellas I see all over retail sites, but the season would pass me by as I couldn’t decide among the zillions of brands and sizes and shapes and fabric choices. Suddenly, it would be September. Review sites like Consumer Reports and Wirecutter were zero help, as they haven’t reviewed umbrellas. I dove deep into Amazon and Wayfair reviews, spoke to tons of other gardeners, and settled on an umbrella absolutely no one I knew had a bad thing to say about:the Hampton Bay cantilever umbrellas from Home Depot. In particular, I knew multiple people with the 10×12’ model, and after trying it out, I was won over.
As it turns out, a umbrella is only as good as the base, and most bases just don’t weigh enough. This umbrella allows you to fill the base with sand or water, in four parts so you don’t die moving it; oonce full, the base is a solid 200+ pounds. The umbrella moved really easily, coming apart in three easy-to-move pieces– the footing, the stem and the base, which breaks apart into four parts itself. With the base parts empty, they don’t weigh more than a few pounds. I love how easy it is to reposition—you can swivel the entire umbrella as well as adjust the position of the shade, and I got a real hot tip, which was to use it in the most vertical position, straight up and down like a satellite, each morning, to act as a full barrier to the sun.
The price falls squarely in the middle of the range for these umbrellas, but it’ll still bite at $599. However, this one is worth the investment. If you can’t swing it, it’s worth checking secondhand sites in the ‘burbs for people upgrading and looking to divest in theirs.
A misting fan can lower the temperature, even outdoors, by 20 degrees
The umbrella created shade so I could no longer feel the sun actually melting me like a pat of butter, but it only made it a tad cooler. I didn’t want to set up an entire misting system; that would have been overkill. But some specific, cooling air and mist directed at myself and my guests wasn’t a bad idea. You can buy misting fans, all ready to go. But to save some money, I went with a misting kit and fan separately. This simple kit gets zip-tied to your fan face. I chose a simple black standing fan with oscillation, and attached the misting kit. It looks completely custom, and all by itself, the fan does a great job of creating a breeze. Once I turn the misters on, the temperature plummets by 20 degrees and is completely satisfying, and I only spent $68, all in. The bugs scatter because of the mist, which is also delightful.
You could certainly build your own misting set with some ¼” blank tubing and emitters, but you’d likely end up spending about the same amount as the kit.
Finally, a device to keep flying pests off your food
I’ve bought every food cover out there. Expandable tents, popup covers, cloches. The problem is, at some point you have to take them off to get to the food, and with most patio tables, the pests can attack from below the table—and people never put the covers back on.
Lured by an Instagram ad one morning at 3am, I decided to purchase a few of the FlyAway picnic fans. These whirl away just over your food with lightweight Mylar strips. They do a shockingly good job at deterring flies, yellowjackets and bees, and are completely safe around fingers. They stop at the slightest touch, and since they’re only Mylar, they couldn’t hurt you anyway. The towers are lightweight, so if they knock over, they don’t get destroyed.
I’ve honestly been so impressed by these suckers that I’ve bought a few more, and they dot the table anytime I put out food.