It never fails. We spend all winter complaining about the cold and longing for the heat of summer, and then when summer arrives, we switch to whining about how hot it is! There are few things as welcome as a shady spot on a scorching summer’s day, and you have lots of different options to create that cool oasis in your backyard, and at a reasonable price. Let’s look at some of the possibilities.
1. Outdoor Curtains
Even if you have a gazebo set up on your deck or patio, the sun can still get in, especially as the afternoon wears on and the rays are at a lower angle than at high noon. This can be a real issue if you want to enjoy dinner outside, but don’t want the sun in your eyes. Eliminating this problem can be as simple as adding some curtains along the sides of your gazebo that you can close when the sun is beating down. You can get patterned or plain curtains ready-made for your gazebo.
It’s not necessary to surround the entire gazebo with curtains, unless you’ve also got a need for privacy. Hanging curtains on just the south and west sides are all you’ll need to add shade when you want it, and then you can open them back up to enjoy cool evening breezes after the sun sets.
2. Sun Shade Sail
If you don’t have a gazebo, you still can get the shade you need with a sun shade sail. Sleek and trendy, and available in a range of colours, sizes, and shapes, these fabric shades are stretched tight overhead to create a refreshing island of shade on a hot summer day. They’re a lot less expensive than a fixed canopy or retractable awning, but provide excellent protection from the burning sun.
To install a sun shade sail, first measure the area you want to cover, and order the appropriate size. Because the fabric shade will stretch when it is pulled taut, order a size that is 2 feet less than the width and length of the patio or deck you want to shade.
You can attach the anchors to sturdy house walls, mature trees, posts that you’ve installed just for this purpose, or any combination of the above options. Use eye bolts to hook the corners of the sail, and a ratchet strap on the final corner until all the wrinkles have been eliminated. You may have to readjust the tension from time to time during the summer to keep it taut. It’s also a good idea to take it down on really windy days to keep it from getting damaged.
3. Use Recycled Materials
@foodforestgeek How we help our flock stay cool during the hot months by recycling material from our plants and trees in the yard and making a shade cover 🐓🦖🍃 #homesteadlife #backyardpoultry #petchickens #growfood #homestead #growtopia #chooks #fruitorchard #reducewaste #backyardchickens #urbanhomestead ♬ original sound – Foodforestgeek
Whether you’re hanging curtains or stretching a shade sail, consider using materials that you already have! Old bed sheets, shower curtains, bamboo, branches or tablecloths can be used to save money on creating shade in your backyard.
You can also find deals at a second hand store if you don’t have anything at home. You can get hooks at the hardware store or on Amazon to attach your recycled items to concrete, siding or even trees.
Watch the TikTok of how foodforestgeek covers their backyard chickens!
4. Tarp Shade Sail
If you’re looking for something more durable than ordinary fabric for your shade sail, why not use a tarp? Tarps are waterproof, so a shade sail made from a tarp will protect you from rain as well as the hot sun. It’s not something you’d probably want to use on your deck or patio as a permanent fixture, given that it lacks the looks of a canvas sun shade sail, but it’s a perfect solution for a campsite where function matters more than looks.
You can buy canvas tarps and they are mike a canvas sun shade sail!
5. Large Patio Umbrella
If you don’t have a gazebo, and don’t want to go to the trouble of installing a sun shade sail, a large umbrella is a great way to add shade to your patio or deck. Whether you opt for a fixed umbrella that fits into the center of your outdoor dining table, or an offset model that can be tilted as the sun moves across the sky, an umbrella is an affordable and attractive look for any outdoor space. You can move them wherever you want, and they’re easy to take down when it gets too windy. The trendy market umbrellas come in a wide range of colours so you can find the perfect one for your outdoor décor.
6. Canopy Tent
Whether you want a temporary shady spot in your backyard, or are planning a day at the beach, canopy tents are a great way to easily set up a shade shelter. They’re designed to be easy to carry and set up once you get to your location, be it a beach, campsite, or family picnic. It’s a good idea to secure the legs with sandbags or spikes, and you do have to be prepared to take it down in really windy conditions, but for hot sunny days on the beach or at a campground, it’s an easy and affordable way to create some shade.
7. Roll Up Outdoor Screens/Blinds
If you’re looking for an attractive way to protect yourself from the sun, consider installing roll-up blinds on your deck, patio, or porch. When you don’t need them they roll right out of the way, but when the sun starts to beat down, you can lower them to screen out the hot sun. Not only do they protect you from the sun, but they can also shield you from wind and dust, as well as adding privacy to your outdoor space. Whether you opt for the classic look of bamboo slats, or prefer polyurethane blinds, adding these screens or blinds to your outdoor space will go a long way to creating a private, shady spot in your backyard.
8. Use Plants to Create Shade
You can also use plants to create shade in your yard, and you don’t have to wait 20 years for trees to mature to get results! You have lots of annual and perennial options that will quickly fill in and screen the hot sun. If you’re in a real hurry, consider growing vining annuals such as morning glories up a trellis on the south or west side of a patio or deck. They won’t bloom until later in the summer, but the fresh green foliage will soon cover the trellises, and last right through until the first hard frost in autumn.
At the same time, you can plant some perennials that will more than do the job in the years to come. Hops, for instance, are good for more than making beer; the vigorous bines (not a typo; that’s what they’re called!) will climb 20 feet in a season, dying back down to the ground when things get cold. They can grow a foot a day in ideal conditions. Wisteria, trumpet flowers, and honeysuckle are woody vines that maintain their structure year-round, adding winter interest even when they have no leaves or flowers. And when they’re in bloom, they’re irresistible to hummingbirds and pollinators!
Of course, nothing beats a mature shade tree for cooling off a hot landscape, and can even help keep your house cooler when situated properly. Maples are the classic choice, but expect it to take at least 10 years before you really benefit from its canopy. Tuliptrees, sweetgums, and hackberries are other good shade trees that grow fairly quickly. Of course, the smaller the trees you plant, the less expensive they are, but you need to balance that against how long it will take saplings to mature enough to create shade.
Bamboo is a fast-growing perennial grass that can quickly reach 6 feet or more, but be careful when choosing which variety to plant. Some are quite aggressive spreaders, and should be planted with a barrier below ground to keep its wandering roots contained.
9. Retractable Side Screen Awning
One of the sleekest and easiest ways to create shade on your patio or deck is with a retractable side screen awning. When you don’t need the shade or privacy screen, all you will see is a metal column at one end, and a short upright at the other. Then, all you have to do is pull the screen out of the column and across to the upright. Voila! It’s easy to install yourself, and comes in a variety of configurations to accommodate your exact needs. For instance, you can get a corner column with two awnings coming out at right angles, or a single panel to screen in a porch or balcony.
The warm sun is glorious after a cold winter, but you can get too much of a good thing. When it’s too hot to enjoy your outdoor space, having a shady spot can make it more pleasant to sit outside in steamy summer weather. Whether you opt for the natural cool of trees or climbing vines, or prefer the ease and convenience of shade sails, awnings, or umbrellas, adding these amenities to your backyard will make summers outdoors even more pleasant!
Janice is a retired High School teacher who is spending her leisure years keeping busy with all sorts of projects. Aside from freelance writing, she’s an enthusiastic amateur chef, home wine maker, and tends a large raised-bed vegetable garden, while at the same time running a Bed & Breakfast.