It is easy to create an outdoor office work space, no matter how large or small your yard is. It need not be elaborate. All you need is a wireless signal, a surface for your laptop and beverages, and some shade so you can easily view your screen.
The Basics of an Outdoor Office
This post is inspired by an article by garden writer friend C.L. Fornari. The original article appeared in The Garden Center Magazine. C.L states, “An outdoor office can be simple or elaborate. Basically, what most people need is a wireless signal, a place to put the laptop, a surface to hold a phone and a beverage, and some shade so that they can easily see their screen.” It sounds simple – and it is!
My home is blessed with a porch on the north side that the sun never shines into. There is a roof overhead for shade and comfortable chairs to sit on. The little garden table is enough to hold the computer and coffee (hot or iced, depending on season) and I’m using the Wi-Fi signal from the house. All that is lacking is a ceiling fan for those warmer days. Or there is the west patio. Good until about 2 pm when the sun starts shining in.
But if you are not blessed with a porch to shade your computer screen, what can you do?
Time for a ramada of some sort! Ramada is the Southwest term for a shade structure, commonly called a pergola or gazebo in other parts of the world. Arbors are also an option.
There are a number of “readi-built” structures that are easy to purchase and build. Home improvement stores and membership stores often carry them at this time of year. Normally I would suggest hiring a crew to build one for you (shop local). Right now most such tradespeople are backed up and extremely busy with all the home improvements many people are doing. It might be easier to buy one of these and assemble it yourself. It needn’t be elaborate.
Mind you, this outdoor office can, and should, double as an outdoor living area. (This is one way to sell a spouse on the idea.) My spouse is “jonesing” for an outdoor BBQ area with a bar to sit at. If the bar area is shady – then I would have a work space for when the north patio is too cool (winter in the Southwest!)
An arbor is sort of like a ramada, but it is open to the sky and provides a trellis for vines to grow up and over. The vines provide the shade. More about vines for your arbor – here. Shady arbors are so lovely for meals or cocktails after office hours.
There are many vines you could add to your arbor – just a few are listed in those vines posts. I shall have to get some more up on the website soon – I have over 40 on my personal list of favorites for our region.
If your arbor is next to the home, consider a deciduous vine so the leaves come off in winter, allowing the winter sun to shine in and help warm your home.
This is the fun part! You will need to add plants to your outdoor office.
It is so wonderful to be toiling away on the keyboard and have a hummingbird visit the pot of flowers on the porch next to the computer. Mind you – if your porch is open to the wildlife world make sure your containers can withstand the hooves of hungry javelina. Be sure to plant wildlife resistant plants found under “Zones & More” on the website menu.
Many fragrant herbs are wildlife resistant and can provide a little aromatherapy when your Zoom meeting goes on for a just bit too long. Ones with lemony scents often bring the added advantage of being mosquito repellent. There are some native low-water herb options as well.
It is wonderful to add outdoor living spaces to your yard. It is like adding a whole extra room to your home!
More about overall care of your land and landscape in this book: Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.
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The El Sol newsletter can help with bite-sized bits of information.