Lots of us like to use our garden for a bit of alfresco dining – whether we like something hot from the grill or a selection of cool mezes. It conjures up images of piles of scrumptious food, colourful drinks – and the kids playing happily together while everyone relaxes.

Sadly, the reality is often a BBQ under cover of the garage door or golf umbrella (yes I’ve done both these!), while everyone else clusters indoors wondering if the drizzle is going to stop.

In this blog I’m going to give you some fresh ideas on how to successfully – and enjoyably – eat outdoors this year.

  1. Add some heat. In the UK we can’t guarantee the sunshine – so think about providing an alternative. I’m talking fire pits, chimineas, even an outdoor fireplace. They make a great focal point, and your guests will be happy to party on rather than going home early (I’ve done that too). Most importantly, you will enjoy your space in spring and autumn, not just those few scorchio weeks in summer!

  2. Get a canopy. These could range from a full-scale outdoor room down to a simple overhang from the back door. It doesn’t need to be grand or expensive. Just something with room enough to cook and a seating area. A sail can also be a good choice, especially if you have little ones who need to be kept sun safe but aren’t keen on putting on the sun screen – but install it well away from the smoke and heat of the barbecue. My next-door neighbour has built himself an entire Scandi-cabin but you absolutely don’t need to go this far!
  3. Choose your outdoor flooring wisely. Most of us like the idea of eating outdoors on a patio or deck area. If you’re re-thinking your outdoor eating space take into account the grease, food, and general goo (ketchup anyone?) that is going to get dropped on the floor. Some stone is porous; light-coloured boards can stain easily; so make sure you choose something that can stand up to this and still look good.
  4. Sort out your outdoor sideboard. Always trailing in and out of the kitchen to get more plates/drinks/napkins? House them properly within your canopy area and you can spend much more time relaxing or talking with your guests.

  5. Check out the latest in outdoor appliances. There are so many great stoves, grills and gadgets out there now to help you make the most of your outdoor cooking. Some of them look funky and some are down-to-earth. If you fancy making your own simple grill try Pinterest for some DIY ideas. Or of course there are the glossy, upmarket ones which might catch your eye (and your pocket!). Choose something that works for you and looks good. We have a Cobb table-top BBQ which is great as it doesn’t take up much room and cooks brilliantly.
  6. Grow some herbs. One of the best things about outdoor eating is the freshness of the food. Grow some pots of herbs by your outdoor eating area and you can sprinkle thyme or bay into your marinades, add basil and parsley to your salads.
  7. Give your outdoor furniture some TLC. Wood furniture will need cleaning and oiling before you use it again this year. If it’s badly soiled you can try jet washing it first, but be careful as jet washing is pretty fierce and could damage the surface. Check that canvas deck chairs aren’t worn, and oil the joints of folding chairs. Give cushions and other furnishings a freshen up. If you fancy some new furniture there’s plenty of choice; outdoor sofas are currently very popular. Online stores such as Primrose.co.uk have some great products.

Still in need of inspiration?  Take a look at Houzz, the latest online place to see upmarket gardens and accessories.