With national lockdown easing on the 29 March, making socialising outdoors in groups of six – or with one other household – possible in England, there’s no better time to get your garden in shape.
From fire pits to pizza ovens – and months spent in lockdown – outdoor entertaining has never been more inviting.
So, whether you’ve got a sprawling estate, a sun-soaked terrace, or a flower-filled oasis, we’ve listed some of the ways to upgrade your alfresco experience.
Garden tools and accessories: see all of our reviews and advice.
1. Keep warm with a fire pit
Come wind, rain, or snow, we will be entertaining outdoors, so preparation is key.
You could ask your guests to bring a coat and have plenty of blankets to hand, but nothing will make your outdoor space feel cosier than a fire pit or chiminea.
Whether you opt for an impressive gas fire pit with faux pebbles, a traditional kadai fire bowl or you build your own using an old washing machine drum, a fire pit will create a warming focal point in your garden.
Combine it with some comfy seating and you’ll be catching-up on lockdown memories well into the evening.
We run through the different types and reveal popular models in our fire pit buying guide.
2. Clean your patio or decking
Brightening up your outdoor surfaces will make a huge difference to your garden. During the winter, lots of mud and dirt will have stained your patio and its cervices are probably collecting moss.
You can give it a scrub with a firm broom, but if you’ve got the budget, a pressure washer will make the job much easier and the results better.
Once it’s clean, soften up the space by laying an outdoor rug in the seating area.
3. Expand your cooking equipment
A good host will never leave their guests hungry. So, slip on your chefs’ hat, fire up the barbecue and get the sausages grilling.
Or, why not take your outdoor cooking to another level and invest in a pizza oven? Pre-make the dough, lay out some tasty toppings and get everyone making their own.
See all our pizza oven reviews.
4. Freshen up your furnishings
Accessorise your garden furniture with placemats and table runners, decorate the table with wild flowers, or reupholster your seat cushions. You could even repurpose leftover scrap wood and make mini stalls or outdoor tables.
But DIY might not be for everyone and adequate seating is important, so if your old set is looking a little worse for wear it might be time to upgrade.
Check out our garden furniture buying guide to find out what you can get for your budget and how to take care of it once you do.
5. Tidy up the lawn
It’s never polite to make your guests trudge through overgrown grass just to get to their seat. But with a long winter of neglect, your lawn is probably not looking it’s best.
Dust off your lawn mower, set the blades to the highest setting and cut the grass.
If you really want to impress, you could even use a grass trimmer to edge the borders of your lawn and give it a feed, so it’s lush and healthy for the season’s first visitors.
Has your lawn mower packed in? See all our lawn mower reviews.
6. Declutter – or create your very own garden bar
I’m sure the latter sounds far more fun but outdoor storage, but a shed is a lifesaver when it comes to decluttering quickly before a gathering. Scoop up the kid’s bikes, grab the dog’s toys and hide them from view.
Or, you could just make your very own outdoor bar, equipped with a beer pump, cocktail mixers, and fairy lights – you’ll soon forget about the clutter.
Not sure where to start? See our step-by-step guide on how to build a shed.
7. Fill up your garden with plants
Nothing will brighten up a garden more than filling the space with colourful flowers and lush, green plants.
Which? Gardening editor, Ceri Thomas recommends buying some potted bulbs for quick colour and easy shrubs and perennials, such as hydrangeas, roses, phormiums and choisya for beauty for months to come.
8. Entertain the kids
It’s not just the adults that need catering to, you’ll want to make sure there’s plenty of activities to keep the little ones occupied.
Colouring, hide and seek and stuck in the mud are all fun games, but nothing beats a trampoline. We surveyed 663 parents in June 2020 to find out the best and worst trampoline brands.
Just make sure you never leave the kids – or the adults – unsupervised.
9. Invest in a hot tub
The locked down summer of 2020 saw people scrambling to get their hands on a hot tub. Sales increased by more than 1000% and many retailers completely sold out. So, if you missed out last year, now’s your chance.
From soothing sore muscles and relaxing with friends, there are plenty of things you can do in a hot tub. But as we are still social distancing you might need to take your dips in turns for now.
Choose your tub wisely with the help of our hot tub buying guide.