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LI experts offer creative backyard ideas

An awning at the Huntington Bay home of

An awning at the Huntington Bay home of designer Kim Hendrickson-Radovich Credit: Kim Hendrickson-Radovich

As the weather has gotten warmer, Long Islanders have been taking refuge in their backyards. Naturally, homeowners may be interested in making some improvements to the place where they will be spending a lot of time during a socially distanced spring and summer.

We compiled some ideas on creative ways to use these spaces.

THROW IN SOME SHADE

Protect yourself from the sun and also extend the season by installing a fabric gazebo or an awning with curtains. This can be set up on a deck or it can be a freestanding structure. Basic structures start at around $800 and can run up to $16,000, depending on the size of the structure and quality of the fabric.

Kim Hendrickson-Radovich, of Huntington-based Kim Radovich Interiors and Kim E. Courtney Home, had an awning installed on the patio of her Huntington Bay home.

“I love it,” Hendrickson-Radovich says. “I don’t want to sit out in the sun all day.”

An outdoor heater can be used in the evenings or when the weather starts getting cooler, Hendrickson-Radovich says.

GET  SET WITH A NET

Athletes who want more protection when playing sports at home can call on All Sport Netting. Based in Cold Spring Harbor, the company offers custom back-up and barrier netting to prevent balls of all kinds from going over fences and down hills into neighbors’ yards.

Owner Tom Hildebrandt has been offering nets for 15 years and says his business has picked up as more people have been home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company provides kits for 25-by-12-foot nets for $397 and also does custom installations.

“Customers say, ‘This is the shape of my yard, this is the sport I play,’ ” Hildebrandt says. “We put netting around putting greens so balls don’t go into the pool.”

A recent installation in Syosset was for a family whose son normally plays ice hockey at a boarding school, but who was home because of the pandemic.

“He was shooting a lot of pucks and they were ricocheting off the neighbor’s yard,” Hildebrandt says. “We did a V-shaped net that was 18 feet on one leg and 18 feet on the other, with a roof on top.”

Customers can install the nets themselves or hire a local landscaper.

ALL OUT WITH A COOKOUT

Outdoor kitchens have been all the rage for years. They can be as simple as barbecue, but often expand to include bars and pizza ovens.

“The backyard barbecue has become an extension of the kitchen,” says Alan Howard, the vice president of Plessers Appliance in Babylon. “We are still selling freestanding grills, but the largest growth has been in the built-in grill area. No more are we just selling a grill head. Most customers are opting to build in refrigerators, ice makers, pizza ovens and even weatherproof TVs to cap off an outdoor lifestyle."

Barbecues have also gone beyond a tool for grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Grills start at $399 at Plessers and can go as high as $15,000 for the ultra-high-end Kalamazoo brand.

“We recently finished a penthouse in Miami that featured over $90,000 worth of Kalamazoo grilling equipment and components,” Howard says. “There is no limit to what you can build outdoors. Whether it’s an outdoor dishwasher or a warming drawer, we can do it all.”

WATERWORKS ARE COOL

Water features can be a soothing outdoor element. Centerport resident Randy Bolander is a sculptor who has been creating modernist steel fountains since 2013 through his company, Modfountain. Aside from having his work included in major commercial and residential projects, Bolander also creates custom and standard pieces for homes.  

"Our business has been pretty strong as a lot of people are contemplating what they want outside," Bolander says.

Along with custom installations that start at $4,300, Bolander offers Mini-Mods By Modfountain, which are available in five styles in 18-inch tabletop sizes for $495 and 36-inch patio sizes for $1,300. The smaller fountains are signed by Bolander.

Both the full-size Modfountains and 36-inch Mini-Mod patio-sized fountains come with plastic tubing with a water valve to adjust the flow. It attaches to the coupling in the bottom of the fountain and then to a submersible pump, which comes with the fountain and needs an outdoor power source. All Modfountains need to be placed in a water reservoir or above-ground pond. The Mini-Mods are sold with a choice of three self-contained above-ground water basin styles and include a platform that the fountain sits on and covers up the pump. Reservoirs can also be purchased separately from a company called Blue Thumb, which also sells the patio-size fountains with a kit that includes the underground reservoir, pump and fittings, along with decorative rocks.

GARDENS GROW ON YOU

As many people shift to cooking and from-scratch baking, vegetable gardens have been seeing a resurgence.

“Obviously, we have a lot of beginners coming in now,” says John Cannarelli, one of the owners of Bay Gardens in East Moriches.

Cannarelli says two of the biggest trends are raised bed gardening, which requires less kneeling and bending, and organic gardening.

“Raised beds are a little easier,” Cannarelli says. “You want to make sure it’s a rich soil and not compacted. Constant watering is key as well.”

To keep maintenance down, gardeners can put a landscape fabric over the soil, cutting an ex in it to let the plants grow while keeping weeds from coming through, Cannarelli says.

Another big trend is growing “cocktail gardens” with herbs meant for mixed drinks, such as mojito mint and basil. There are also citronella and lemongrass plants to help keep insects away.

To get kids involved, Bay Gardens offers gardening kits with seeds to help get them more involved.

“They can plant the seeds and watch them germinate and then plant them in the ground,” Cannarelli says.

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