Summer Fun

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How to prep your yard for summer parties

Backyard soirees are a staple of summer for many families. Whether hosting a family reunion, a gathering of friends or a mix of both, such gatherings can be a great time to reconnect with your loved ones in a relaxing and natural setting.

Hosting such gatherings might not require as much work as organizing a more formal get-together, but that doesn't mean summer soirees don't require a little work in advance of the guests' arrival. That's especially true if you plan to host the party outdoors in your yard, which will need a little TLC before guests arrive. The following are a few tips to get your yard ready before your next summer soiree.

* Cut the grass and clear your walkways. Cutting the grass before guests arrive might seem like common sense, but try to do so a couple of days before the party. This gives you an extra day or so to clear the walkways of grass clippings, and it saves you the trouble of cutting the grass on the day of the party when you're likely to have more pressing tasks to take care of.

* Decorate your yard. Decorations are a staple of parties held indoors, so why not decorate your home's exterior when hosting a get-together in the backyard? Use freshly cut flowers from your own garden as centerpieces on your patio furniture, or purchase flowers of various colors from your local florist to add a dash or two of color to the festivities.

* Clear the yard of toys. Before guests arrive, clear the yard of the kids' toys, putting them away so guests don't injure themselves by stepping on errant action figures or skateboards left hidden in the grass.

* Trim trees and shrubs around walkways. While a backyard barbecue is less formal than a party held indoors, you still want your home to be as accommodating as possible for your guests. Don't forget to trim trees and shrubs around the walkways so guests don't feel like they're on safari when coming to and from the backyard.

* Make sure outdoor lighting is working properly. If you're about to host your first event of the summer, inspect your home's exterior lighting so everyone isn't left sitting in the dark. Check patio lighting and replace any bulbs and make sure the lights along your walkways are functioning at full capacity so guests can safely navigate their way around the party. You may even want to string holiday lights around the patio to create a more laid-back ambiance in which guests can relax without lights beating down on them.

* Protect your guests from insects. Insects like mosquitoes can quickly turn a swinging soiree into a nuisance, so purchase some decorative citronella candles to repel mosquitoes. Tiki torches along walkways and around the patio furniture may also prove effective insect repellants. In addition, if there are any areas around your property where water has gathered, such as bird fountains or puddles from recent rains, do your best to get rid of that water. Water attracts many insects, which lay their eggs in the standing water. The less standing water around your property, the less likely any uninvited insect guests are to appear.

Backyard gatherings are a staple of summer. But even if such soirees are less formal, hosts still must survey their property and address any issues before guests arrive.