We talked a bit about making the most of your outdoor space last week and I wanted to continue that thread this week. We're back home now and enjoying the seasons changing and the temperatures (slowly) rising.

I took the time to scrub the deck, wash the grill and fire-table and power wash the table and chairs last weekend. It felt good to get the deck ready for summer. We have not put the cushions out on the couch yet. We all know there's still a chance of ice or snow yet. We're almost out of the woods.

When you are considering putting some time and effort into your backyard, there are some generally accepted "rules" that most of us tend to follow. Today, I want to encourage you to break away from those norms and strike out on your own. It is your backyard after all. Why not make it a little more distinct and perhaps entice those buyers a little more. Of course, all of these suggestions also make the area more attractive and usable for you as well. Let's dig in.

The first norm we're going to buck today is the lawn. Unless you are hosting the Masters at your house, spending time and money on your lawn is truly silly. We spend money, time, and effort to make this thing grow only to turn around and cut it all down every week (or more) and then spend more money, time, and effort to get rid of the clippings. Seriously, what is wrong with us?

I recommend converting that wasted space into something truly useful. You could rip out (at least) half of it and put in a garden. Now you're growing your own food. And don't forget there are people who don't have the space for a garden that would love to use that space for their own.

If you have (or are going to have) kids, you could convert another whole area to sand or bark mulch and put in a play area for them. We are currently researching the feasibility of running water and power to a corner if our backyard in order to put in a tiny home. It will either be an office space or a rental. Either way, it's another big chunk that we don't have to maintain.

While we're on the topic of yard maintenance and manicuring let's bump up one level to the shrubs and trees. The "norm" police would have you trimming those shrubs into perfect orbs and squares (or whatever you're supposed to do with them).

For my rule breakers out there put down the shears. While you are smartly ripping out chunks of lawn, sprinkle in a few shrubs and trees throughout the area. Stay away from straight lines and unnatural shapes. Let them grow out and create that same (or at least similar) sense of wonder you get while on a hike in the Whites. Imagine a backyard that reminds you of your favorite hike.

We mentioned entertaining last week and your backyard is no different. Putting in horseshoe pits or a bocce ball court makes the area infinitely more useful and removes yet another chunk of maintenance hassle. We always have the corn hole boards out (we do keep the bags indoors) which always lends itself to folks coming off the deck to play.

"The backyard is intended for your enjoyment, not just for you to look at,"  Badger Realty agent, Daren Levitt said. "Add some features that encourage your family and friends to want to spend time out there. You'll be glad you did."

As far as the flora is concerned, I strongly recommend you stay local. The trend in past years has been to incorporate more exotic plants into the landscaping. This can have negative effects on the local ecological system and tends to require more maintenance.

Talk to your local nursery and see how you can incorporate local, native plants, shrubs, and flowers into your yard. Not only do they look amazing it is yet another way to remove more of that silly lawn and eliminate those wasted weekends on yard maintenance.

Lastly for today is the battle against the waning sunlight. Your backyard is not just for daytime enjoyment. Mosquitos notwithstanding, your backyard can be a fantastic place to entertain in the evenings. The trick is lighting.

We boarded the LED train long ago and have incorporated those wonderful little lights all over the house. They use almost no energy. They can be programmed by your phone. And they can be super fancy with countless shades of color and tone.

Tiki torches are great and always make me want to grab the nearest margarita. That aside, consider some more consistent (and less smelly) lights for your yard and make that space usable and comfortable deep into the night.

Happy entertaining.

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