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How to Arrange Your Garden, Patio or Other Outdoor Spaces to Safely Welcome Guests

How to Arrange Your Garden, Patio or Other Outdoor Spaces to Safely Welcome Guests

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I have spent more time in the garden this year than ever before and have been delighted with every fresh bud and seedling (weeds excepted). The deep pleasure it’s given me has been key in sustaining my mental health through this long self-isolation. I now know every microclimate, shade and breeze of my garden and can choose the spot for outside distance visiting by temperature alone.

Managing such spaces well can make your own garden more inviting for outdoor entertaining during the metro area’s typically hot summer.

Area residents likely can expect another year, at least, of semi-isolation, with strict distancing of guests and BYOB requirements in place in my own garden.

I’ve been making some modifications to that garden to take this new normal into account. For one thing, I’ve been dressing down – shorts and sandals it is. Guests will be limited to two at a time, with visits dated at least three days apart, and all will be invited to sanitize hands at the stone entry table near the driveway. Hand sanitizing wipes and spray bottles will be at the ready, along with two kinds of insect repellent, one with essential oils only and one loaded with DEET (diethyltoluamide, the most common active ingredient for repelling bugs). The bug zapper will remain discreetly out of sight.

Guests and I will all wear masks until we’re settled in our seats, which will be placed 10 feet apart through an abundance of caution. Depending on circumstances, some guests will bring everything with them – wine, glasses, napkins, snacks or even dinner – and others will trust me to provide safe appetizers, ice, wine and mixed drinks.

The central coffee table has been replaced with sturdy side tables at each end for individual service of beverages and food. Everything will be served on separate plates, with nothing passed. Also, I’ve switched to insulated freezer sleeves instead of a wine bucket or cooler for ease of sanitation and double-wall stainless, stemless cups to hold the chill.

Modifying the temperature outside in August will be essential for comfortable garden visiting. Fans remain integral for lifting a breeze and confusing mosquitoes. Outdoor ceiling fans or portable misting fans that hook to the garden hose to spray a cooling fog help most on excessively hot days. I myself also will offer inexpensive paper fans that guests can keep.


Shade likewise will be essential. As a suggestion, add a fabric sun shade to an arbor or terrace. Ours hangs between trees. Patio umbrellas make a quick fix, but strict separation may demand more than one. Moving water changes temperature perception by as much as 10 degrees, so a garden entertainer can create a miniature oasis by installing a waterfall or fountain to trickle in the background. Even a small tabletop fountain can make a difference with its gentle bubbling.

Since many area residents will be entertaining exclusively outdoors for the foreseeable future, investing in some of these simple additions can make sense and enhance garden entertaining.

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