Easy and affordable ways to turn your outdoor space into an oasis

Daneille Mattis

Make the most of summer with these easy outdoor living upgrades

With vacation hotspots and seasonal attractions closed in many parts of Canada, we’ll likely be spending extra time in our backyards and park spaces this summer. Now might just be the perfect time to invest in a few simple projects and smart buys to make your time outdoors—both at home and in nearby parks and recreation areas—a lot more enjoyable. 

The good news is that there’s no need to break your budget or dip into savings to create a backyard oasis or enjoy the green spaces near you. From simple DIY projects to affordable backyard updates to new activities you can try at your go-to parks and waterways, there are many possibilities for making outdoor living more fun than ever. Just pick the outdoors-space upgrade that works for you, and get creative! 

Here are nine easy and affordable ideas to help you make the most of the outdoors this summer:


In Your Backyard

1. Transform your space with outdoor lighting.

Use outdoor lights to instantly add ambiance and improve the usability of your backyard, deck, or balcony. Many backyard lighting ideas don’t require any special electrical wiring, and these days there are solar-powered, motion-sensor, and smart options available.

Start with outdoor wall lights for improved visibility, add string and rope lighting for atmosphere, and consider lining walkways, decks, and fences with landscape lighting. And if you want something really simple and budget friendly, a sculptural, battery-powered portable light can be had for less than $10.

2. Revive existing outdoor furniture. 

Quality outdoor furnishings can be expensive, because they’re made to withstand the elements. If you already have nice furniture and seating that fits your space, it can be worth the time investment to refresh older pieces. 

For example, rusted metal patio furniture can be revived with a new coat of rust-proof spray paint, and colourful new cushion covers can add life to a dated lounger or outdoor sofa. Just be sure to do your research before getting started. For any specific project, whether it’s painting over rusted metal or sewing your own seat cushions, you’ll find video tutorials available online to help guide you. 

3. Give your hardscaping new life with a power washer. 

Before you embark on a full backyard renovation, start by giving your hardscaping (e.g., your fence, deck boards, and patio stones) a new life with a power washer. If you can’t borrow one from a friend, gas and electric pressure washers are available for rent from many home improvement stores. In just a few oddly satisfying minutes, you can remove years of dirt, grime and stains! 

Pro tip: Be sure to follow machine instructions and pressure recommendations carefully, especially if you’re cleaning a more delicate surface such as natural stone.   

4. Greenify your yard with a green wall or living fence.

Make your urban space feel like a verdant oasis by installing a green wall or planting a living fence (aka a natural hedge formed by trees, shrubs, or bushes) along a perimeter or two. One affordable way to get the green look on a budget is to fill up one or more plastic or felt wall planters with affordable annuals like herbs, pansies or, geraniums. Then, hang it from a fence or wall in your balcony or backyard. 

5. Add levels to your garden with DIY planters.

DIY garden planters are a fun and resourceful way to make the most of a smaller outdoor space while creating visual interest. You can find instructions online for how to make planters using wood, used cans, and pots, or even upcycled materials like old tires and coffee tins. 

Bonus: Raised garden beds and planters are great for growing your own herbs and vegetables, because you can control the soil composition and added nutrients.  


For Public Green Spaces

6. Upgrade your picnic with a portable grill.

A miniature grill, if allowed, is one sure way to upgrade your next beachfront picnic or park lunch. These days, there are portable charcoal grills and tabletop grills powered by propane gas at all price points, and the options can be surprisingly stylish and sturdy. Whether you choose a portable grill that’s low frills or high tech, do make sure it’s one that is sturdy enough to come camping with you. 

7. Take your workout outdoors by exploring local bike trails.

Looking for a new way to stay fit this summer? Spend some time exploring your region and neighbourhood’s bike trails, which are usually free to explore and can be very scenic. In some parks, there are both paved paths made for road and commuter bikes, and off-road trails designed for mountain biking. You can ride solo or meet up with a few friends along the way.  

8. Embrace the water with an inflatable kayak or paddleboard.

If you’re just getting into water sports, inflatable kayaks and paddleboards tend to be more affordable and beginner-friendly than traditional hardshell kayaks and fiberglass boards. Plus, they’re lighter, more portable, and easy to store in a smaller living space. Bring one to your local lake or beach and explore the water from a whole new vantage point this year. 

9. Try geocaching or an outdoor scavenger hunt.

If you’ve always wanted to find hidden treasure, consider trying your hand at geocaching or an outdoor scavenger hunt. There are “geocaches” or “caches” hidden all around the world, and all you need to get started is a smartphone or GPS unit. 

Geocaching, you can do alone or with a small group of friends, is a fun way to get outdoors and discover green spaces near you that you might never have explored. 



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