Table of Contents
After summer, as the weather begins to cool, it can be a good time to review and assess your garden. What worked well over the current season, and what did not exactly go according to plan?
With both your growing and recreational areas, this can be a good time to think about what you would like to keep the same for next year, but also how things might be improved. It’s also a good time to consider changes you can make now to enjoy your garden in the fall, both for this year and into the future.
Add Additional Planting Around Garden Seating Areas
Perhaps the most common mistake people make when planning and creating seating areas in their gardens involves neglecting or overlooking the importance of the surrounding planting.
The planting scheme around a seating area can make or break the space, having a major influence on the function of the area and its ambiance.
The Right Balance of Planting
In terms of function, for example, trees and shrubs may cast beneficial shade—but when overgrown, they may encroach too much and overshade the area.
However, without dense, layered planting around it, a seating area can often feel too open—either exposed to winds and other weather or exposed to the prying eyes of neighbors.
So, adding additional planting could help to improve privacy and shelter a seating area more effectively so that it can be used more frequently in the shoulder season. Adding native shrubs or trees to filter wind and break sight lines can make a big difference to the function of the space.
Planting to Engage the Senses
Additions to the planting around a seating area could improve the ambiance, too. Thinking carefully about how to engage all the senses can help you create a seating area with the perfect atmosphere. Consider adding fragrant blooms; think of plants with unique visual appeal or tactile qualities. Accenting the area with potted herbs is a great way to add interesting plants to the space—and they can be brought inside when frost arrives.
Remember, for both aesthetic appeal and for wildlife, ideally, you should have plants in bloom in your garden throughout as much of the year as possible. Planting for fall color (both blooms and foliage) may make you want to use the seating area past summer until it gets too cold.
Improve Patio & Paving Water Management
Another important consideration when looking to improve garden seating areas is how water is managed in and around that area. It is important to know whether the area has permeable paving or whether water runs off the area.
And if water runs off the area, how might you prevent runoff and instead catch that water and keep it around, or direct it away from areas where it might cause problems?
Add Permeable Paving
If you are in the mood for an ambitious project, you might lift impermeable paving and replace it with an eco-friendly permeable paving alternative. You might also keep existing paving, but take note of where water drains from the paved seating area.
Create a Water Feature
In areas where water drains to, you might create a beautiful rain garden basin with native plants. Or you might create a French drain or another system to direct the water to a wildlife pond or to another water feature in your garden.
Harvest the Water
If the seating area is close to your home, consider integrating rainwater harvesting into the area. You might simply collect rainwater from home guttering using a barrel or water butt. But you might also create wicking beds to catch and store water while also growing food—wicking beds can be integrated with bench seating.
Add Sustainable Multipurpose Features
Other ideas revolve around introducing greater multifunctionality.
In a sustainable garden, every element should have multiple functions, and there should be multiple elements to fulfill each function so that there is built-in redundancy to add resilience to the system.
To improve a seating area for fall, you might look at adding new seating or covering the area with a new pergola, gazebo, or other structure. Thinking about adding multifunctional elements whenever you add anything new is a good idea.
For example, a seating area might be created to provide storage space for garden tools, plant pots, kids’ toys, or other items below the chairs or within benches. Bench seating might also open to reveal sand pits, water troughs, or other play areas in a family garden.
A pergola, gazebo, or arbor structure might also serve to support a line for laundry drying. It might provide trellis-type structures for plants. It might also provide a structure from which you can hang bird feeders and other features for a wildlife-friendly garden.
Often times when we think about a seating area, we really only consider tables and chairs. However, employing more holistic thinking in the design can help you improve a seating area while also bringing many different multifunctional elements together.