Planning a Bug-Free Backyard Picnic Area

When the cold of winter finally recedes, most people are eager to get back outside and enjoy the sunshine with some food and friends. After being cooped up for so long, you might be happy with any kind of sunlight you can get, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t be comfortable while you do it. Bugs and pests have a way of putting a damper on a party, even after a long winter.  

To get the most out of your backyard barbecue area, there are a few things you can do beyond conveniently forgetting to invite that one annoying neighbor. By making some simple preparations, you can be sure that your outdoor parties are a hit.  

Decide Where to Place Your Picnic Area 

The location of your eating area is almost as important as what you are eating (although nothing can save a barbecue from overcooked burgers). By planning out the proper placement of your picnic area, you can be sure that you and your guests can eat in peace and not be annoyed by bugs and other pests.  

Take care to place your picnic area a good distance away from the grill. Bugs tend to gravitate towards the smell of cooking food, so if you are far enough away from the cooking area, you can avoid spending your afternoon swatting away mosquitoes. This will also keep the eating area from getting caught in the heat and smoke of the grill. You want your meat to be smoked, not your guests.  

Use Sun Protection 

Umbrellas and canopies are a great idea for any backyard barbecue. It’s great to get some sun, but too much heat and glare can make your party guests uncomfortable. Having something to protect you from the harsh summer elements will give everyone a chance to relax and breathe easily.  

One important thing to avoid, though, is using trees and other foliage as protection from the sun. Bugs and birds love to congregate in trees, which makes them a perfect hiding place for other little critters. Not to mention the fact that anyone who has parked under trees for long enough knows what comes down when there are birds up above. That’s definitely not something you want to be eating underneath. 

Consider Netting 

Mosquito netting is a great idea if you live in a place that deals with these annoying pests on a regular basis. If you decide to go the canopy route, netting is easy to install and can be easily taken down once the party’s over. Netting can also double up and act as a shade for when the sun gets low in the sky. If you have a built-in awning on your porch, consider keeping the netting up for a more permanent solution that will be effective all summer long without the hassle of putting it up and taking it down each time you use your backyard.  

Keep Vegetation Pruned 

Having a backyard with a lot of plant life can make any outdoor party into a beautiful and enchanting experience. Unfortunately, a lush ambiance isn’t the only thing plants are good for. They’re also perfect hotels for mosquito larvae and other nasty critters that have a way of ruining backyard barbecues.  

If you have a lot of plants in your yard, be sure to keep them pruned back and trimmed throughout the summer. This will not only keep them from overgrowing your yard and taking it over, but it will also make plants less inviting for things like wasp nests and mosquito eggs. 

Choose the Right Lighting 

We’ve all heard the expression, “like a moth to a flame” but fire isn’t the only thing that moths are attracted to. Any kind of harsh, bright light will act as a beacon for nocturnal bugs that have a way of showing up when the sun goes down. Be sure to choose your lighting carefully when the time comes to fire up the grill.  

Softer lighting is a much better choice for your outdoor picnic area. String lights give a twinkling, elegant ambiance and will be less likely to bring out the moths and other nighttime bugs. While you’re at it, you can also light up some citronella candles. They not only give off a pleasant, flickering light that is perfect for the magic hour, they also keep mosquitoes and other pests at bay while they’re at it.  

Contact the Pros

It’s never too early to start planning for your summer get-togethers. While you’re arranging your backyard picnic area, check out the services offered by Mosquito Joe for all your pest and bug control needs. Our experts have all the knowledge and professional experience to help you make outside fun again! 

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Keeping Your Pool Ready for Fun

Summer is fast approaching and soon you will want to get a cold drink and spend some time out by the pool. Even though winter isn’t quite over, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to keep your backyard free of mosquitoes. After all, nothing ruins a barbecue or pool party like a bunch of pests (and we don’t mean the neighbor kids).

Fortunately, there’s still time for you to do what’s necessary to get your pool ready for the hot summer months. By going through a few simple steps, you can be sure your backyard oasis will be ready in time.

Keep the Pool Free of Debris

One of the most common issues with swimming pools is that mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs in the pool water. While this is fairly common everywhere, mosquitoes are even more attracted to pools that have leaves, twigs, and other debris floating around. That’s because the debris secretes oils that make the water much more hospitable to mosquitoes and their larvae, which could spell disaster for your casual summer get-together.

To make your pool less attractive to insects, be sure to skim the water year-round. Skimming can be done by hand or with a motorized automatic skimmer. Getting rid of any leaves or floating dirt gives bugs fewer places to hide and it keeps them from invading your backyard when the weather warms up.

Use a Pool Cover

Whenever possible, cover your pool when it’s not in use. This not only keeps debris out of the water, but also makes sure that mosquitoes can’t get in there in the first place. This simple step is pool ownership 101, but it can work wonders for your sanity on those warm summer nights when the mosquitoes love to bite.

When using a pool cover, make sure to keep it free from is to keep from standing surface water. Covers can settle over time and create dips where water can collect and sit. These dips are like five-star hotels for mosquitoes, so it’s important that you shake off the cover regularly, even during the colder months.

Maintain Disinfection Levels

Keeping your pool chlorinated is another great way to ward off bugs, dirt, and other irritants. While a properly disinfected pool is an important safety consideration anyway, it’s even more helpful in keeping the bugs from moving in.

Pool disinfectant is specially formulated to kill off mosquito larvae before they are hatched. By properly maintaining your pool’s chlorine levels, you can be sure that you will stop these pesky bugs before they even get a chance to start flying. It also helps to keep your swimmers safe when the pool is in use.

Trim Vegetation Around the Pool

One of the most overlooked steps you can take to prevent pests in the summer months is to maintain the vegetation around your pool. Having a lot of green in the backyard is desirable and makes for a great atmosphere. However, it also creates a lot of opportunities for mosquitoes and other living things to make a home in your backyard.

Keeping your lawn trimmed and your plants pruned will go a long way towards keeping you and your friends and family free of mosquito bites. Cleanly trimmed vegetation not only reduces the number of hiding places for bugs, but will also keep leaves and debris from gathering in the pool. The last thing you want to do is spend more time skimming when you could be swimming.

Get Help from the Pros

Although there is a multitude of things you can do yourself to keep mosquitoes from moving in and using your pool without your permission, it’s always best to consult a professional. Companies like Mosquito Joe can help you make sure your backyard and pool are mosquito-free with barrier sprays, natural treatments, and other effective services to control insects. Mosquito Joe has tools and the know-how to get rid of the most stubborn pests and bugs. Schedule a consultation today and let them help you make outside fun again!

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How to Build a Fire Pit

How to Build a Fire Pit for Perfect Evenings Outside

A fire pit is a classic backyard amenity, providing endless entertainment for families and friends alike. Even better? A fire pit is a relatively easy project that somewhat handy people might feel comfortable tackling on their own.

If you want to learn how to build a fire pit cheaply, read on for the step-by-step instructions—you’ll be ready to enjoy s’mores with the family or guests in no time.

Affordable Fire Pit Ideas

Since pre-made fire pit options can get expensive fast, let’s zero-in on budget-friendly fire pit ideas with simple supplies and instructions.

Rather than building an elaborate flagstone patio or seating area, create a DIY fire pit on a grass, dirt, or gravel surface that you already have on your property. Then, all you’ll have to do is pull up your lawn chairs and bring on the fun.

Keep in mind that local building codes strictly govern fire pits, and there may be special requirements. Learn about the code that pertains to your neighborhood before you begin a backyard fire pit project.

Instructions for How to Build a Fire Pit with Bricks

First, gather the following materials:

  • Shovel
  • Level
  • Metal fire pit ring
  • Retaining wall blocks
  • 7″ square pavers or firebricks
  • Pea gravel
  • All-purpose sand

Then, identify the area where you want your fire pit to be located. Choose a flat, level area a minimum of 25 feet from buildings and trees. If you plan to build on a grassy area, remove the top layer of sod with a shovel. Planning to build the fire pit on level gravel or dirt? You are ready to go with no extra prep necessary.

After choosing your fire pit spot, follow these steps:

  1. Use the size of your metal fire ring to determine how large the pit will be. Place the metal ring on the ground with the retaining wall blocks surrounding it, and then mark the outside with the shovel’s sharp edge. This will identify the area that needs to be cleared.
  2. Move the blocks and ring out of the way and dig inside the marked hole to make it at least 7″ deep.
  3. Line the hole with a 1″ layer of the sand and tamp the sand down flat to create a level surface. Use the level to ensure you have an even surface.
  4. Lay the first layer of blocks neatly inside the hole, placing them on the outer edge of the hole to create a circle.
  5. Place the metal ring inside the first layer of blocks.
  6. Insert the firebricks or square pavers in the bottom of the pit, covering as much of the area as you can.
  7. Fill the gaps in between the blocks and pavers with the pea gravel.
  8. Stack the remaining retaining wall blocks until you reach the height you want. Stagger the blocks so that the seams are not aligned, creating both a nice look and a more solid structure.

How to Build a Fire Pit with Rocks

If you prefer the rustic look of stacked rocks for your fire pit, you won’t need the metal ring or pea gravel. Line the ground with a 1″ layer of sand, covering a foot or so outside of the fire pit for additional protection. Make sure there is no yard matter or grass within two feet of the pit. Then, stack the rocks as securely as possible. Use non-flammable landscape adhesive, masonry adhesive, or liquid nails to provide additional staying power.

Give your Fire Pit some Flare

To level-up your fire pit without burning up your budget, consider some of these decorative options:

  • Add a smoker fire basket, also known as a vertical drum. Insert it into the center of your fire pit and secure it tightly with the rocks or bricks.
  • If you choose the brick pit option, you can top it off with a fire bowl. Build the first layer of the pit securely around the screen top of the bowl.
  • Hang outdoor lights above the fire pit to create an inviting ambiance.
  • Place comfortable outdoor seating around the fire pit along with trays or small tables for holding s’mores ingredients and drinks.

Protect Your Yard from Mosquitoes for the Ultimate Backyard Experience

Spending time outside in the evening can mean spending time surrounded by pesky mosquitoes. Don’t let mosquitoes take the fun out of your new fire pit! The experts at your local Mosquito Joe perform seasonal mosquito treatments to protect your yard and allow you to make the most of your backyard fire pit experience.

With barrier sprays that repel not only mosquitoes, but also fleas, ticks, and some flies, you can enjoy your s’mores without the hassle of insects. Give us a call at 1-855-275-2563 or contact us online so we can make the backyard fun again for you and your family.


Don’t have time for a DIY? Get The Grounds Guys involved for any of your backyard landscape design needs. Like Mosquito Joe, The Grounds Guys is a fellow member of the Neighborly® family of home service brands.

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Backyard Activities for Kids

Enticing kids away from electronics to enjoy the great outdoors is a challenge most parents can understand. With the right backyard activities for kids of all ages, you can keep toddlers, preschoolers, and even teens entertained for hours.

Turn your backyard into the place to be, with these activity ideas that transform your yard into a fun zone. Your kids will love having something new to do, and you will enjoy the opportunity to make memories outside with the family.

Make the Backyard a Blast for Kids of All Ages

Finding activities that appeal to both a toddler and a teen can be tricky, but it’s possible! Get hesitant teens and older kids involved by encouraging them to assist younger children with projects and games. Not only will you be helping them build teamwork skills, but the right activities will enable the kids to make sibling memories together that they will remember for years.

Giving teens and older children the task of keeping the younger ones engaged will provide them with a sense of responsibility. Once you get the ball rolling, you may be surprised to see older siblings take ownership and think of new ways to create family fun in the backyard.

Backyard Activities for Toddlers

Toddlers love to be busy. Focus on finding activities that will keep their bodies moving and their brains stimulated.

Here are some of our favorite outdoor play ideas for toddlers:

  • Draw with chalk or ice. If you have a backyard patio or sidewalk, toddlers will enjoy creating artwork with colorful sidewalk chalk or even ice cubes. Little ones will be intrigued by the watermarks they can make with ice as it melts on the surface. Let toddlers free-draw, or show them some of your artistic skills and watch them re-create their own versions.
  • Go on a treasure hunt. Guide toddlers on a backyard hunt for easy-to-find items such as leaves, rocks, a dandelion or flower, and bugs.
  • Create a kiddie pool full of fun. Fill a plastic kiddie pool or large bin with sand, water, or gravel along with fun sensory items like plastic shovels, bowls, small balls, and toys.
  • Play with a ball. Kicking a ball around the yard is an excellent way for toddlers to expend their energy and enhance motor development.

Backyard Activities for Preschoolers

Like toddlers, preschoolers enjoy activities that allow them to move their bodies. They also benefit from activities that provide an outlet for them to create and explore.

Here are backyard play ideas for children in that 3-5-year-old range:

  • Make yard art. Tape a large poster board or paper to a fence and bring out markers and finger paints to let your preschooler beautify the backyard. Clean-up is easy, and your child will take pride in making an outdoor masterpiece.
  • Wash cars, bikes, and toys. Adding water to any outdoor activity increases the fun factor for preschoolers. Fill a bucket with water and some tear-free baby shampoo and let your child use sponges or rags to clean your car or even their own scooters, tricycles, and other outdoor toys. Let them rinse everything off with a hose and show them how to dry with clean towels.
  • Create an obstacle course. Help preschoolers to work on gross motor skill development, like jumping, running, kicking, and throwing, by setting up an obstacle course. Include steps such as kicking a ball through a hoop, jumping off a step, hopping on one foot down a path, and throwing a ball into a bucket.
  • Make giant bubbles. Fill a kiddie pool or plastic bin with a homemade bubble solution made with a gallon of warm water, one cup of dishwashing soap, and two tablespoons of glycerin. Create bubble wands out of bendable wire hangers, fly swatters, and pipe cleaners. Let children experiment to find out which wand-type makes the biggest bubbles.

Backyard Activities for Older Kids and Teens

Worried your older kids and teens might think playing outside is for babies? With these activities, they will rediscover a love for the backyard:

  • Have a water balloon fight. It’s a classic backyard game that older kids will love. Fill water balloons with an outdoor hose. Supply each kid with an equal number of water balloons and see who has the most accurate throw and who gets the wettest.
  • Set up a cornhole game. Whether you decide to create a DIY version or purchase one from the store, this beanbag-toss game is a hit with older kids and teens.
  • Play giant Jenga. You can build a giant Jenga game out of 2x4s or purchase one online, but this is a game that will bring hours of entertainment for one or two older kids or even a small group.
  • Invest in a trampoline. Trampolines with a security net are a great way to tire out kids of all ages while they have a blast!

Backyard Fun for the Whole Family

Getting the entire family outside to enjoy the backyard together is a dream for most parents. Here are some family-friendly ideas you can try to engage all of your family members:

  • Play a game of chalk Pictionary. Split into teams and play Pictionary outside. Instead of using a piece of paper and pencil-like in the traditional board game, use the patio or sidewalk and chalk to draw the images. Working in teams means even the younger kids can play with assistance from older siblings and parents.
  • Set up a team scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is a blast when the whole family is in on the hunt together. Create a list of items—some easy to find and some more challenging to find—and work in pairs to find them.
  • Have an outdoor movie night. Throw a white sheet up on an outdoor building or tall ladders and use a projector to put your favorite family movie up for everyone to enjoy. Bring out blankets and lawn chairs for seating, and serve your families’ favorite movie snacks to make it a night to remember.

Make Sure Your Backyard Fun Is Mosquito-Free

Are you worried mosquitoes might put a damper on your backyard family fun? Let your local Mosquito Joe keep pests, including mosquitoes, ticks, and flees, away with effective lawn barrier treatments. Call 1-855-275-2563 or connect with us online to schedule expert mosquito control services designed to keep your backyard activities bite-free.


You don’t want your kids running around on a busted deck. Contact your local Mr. Handyman for help repairing your deck or building a new one. Like Mosquito Joe, Mr. Handyman is a member of the Neighborly® family of trusted home service brands.

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Patio Design Ideas So You Spend More Time Outside

Explore Inspiring Patio Design Ideas

Do you love the thought of spending more time outside with your family or guests but feel like your outdoor living space is less than desirable? Get ready for some serious inspiration with these patio design ideas to transform your yard.

Whether you’re looking for patio ideas on a budget or you’re ready to make all your wildest patio dreams come true, we have tips to breathe new life into your patio.

Let’s make it your new favorite spot for relaxing and entertaining.

What’s Your Patio Budget?

When considering patio design ideas, it is a good idea to determine your budget upfront. Knowing how much money you want to spend on the project will guide you as you plan out the new area.

Keep in mind that upgrading your patio can be an investment that boosts the overall curb appeal and value of your home. By spending time and money to make the most of your living space, you’re also investing in family time, recreation, and the hours of personal enjoyment you will experience once your new patio is complete.

Small Patio Design Ideas on a Budget

If you wish to take a budget-friendly approach to your patio transformation, there are plenty of low-cost ways to upgrade. You can make a big change to your small patio by adding a pop of color, thoughtful décor, or a few pieces of stylish, comfy furniture.

Here are some of the best small patio design ideas to meet your goals and budget:

1. Plants make patios prettier.

Adding attractive potted plants gives your patio a focal point of interest. Flowering plants and greenery naturally add beauty and life. Plus, you can purchase several plants without blowing your budget. Consider incorporating a trellis with whimsical vines or add your favorite flowers to several small pots or a large planter. If you cook with fresh herbs, why not incorporate potted basil, rosemary, and thyme? The herbs add eye-appeal, bring nose-pleasing aromatherapy to the patio, and make it easy for you to grab a few sprigs while cooking.

2. Spruce up the patio with stylish furniture.

Investing in a few pieces of fashion-forward patio furniture can make a big impact on your patio vibe, functionality, and appearance. Choose a comfortable chair and table set so you can take dinner outside. Cozy lounge furniture will encourage long, leisurely hangout sessions enjoying nature’s ambiance. If you do not have shade on your patio, consider purchasing a table with a built-in or removable umbrella to create a shady place to chill, even on the warmest summer day.

3. String up some illumination.

Hanging up a string of white lights or lanterns, or using torch lamps is an easy way to turn your patio into an inviting space for evening fun and entertaining guests. The lights not only help with safety and vision—they turn a humdrum patio into a twinkling retreat.

Dream Big with Next-Level Patio Design Ideas

What if you don’t have to adhere to a strict budget for your patio project? Perhaps you’re ready to go big and make this space your personal backyard oasis that’s the talk of the neighborhood.

Let’s explore some of the dreamy additions and improvements you can make to create the patio environment you’ve always wanted:

1. Build an outdoor kitchen.

Fresh-air kitchens are all the rage. If you have the space available, turning part of your patio into an outdoor kitchen is an on-trend idea that will boost home value and make cooking more enjoyable than ever. Want to add a built-in grill with a smoker or a fantastic stone pizza oven? Or maybe your goals include convenient outdoor cabinetry and countertops with plenty of food prep space. You can have everything you need to whip up a feast for the family and entertain guests.

2. Install a gas fireplace or stone firepit.

There’s just something about a gas fireplace or firepit that takes an outdoor living space to the next level. Who doesn’t love lounging around a cozy fire on a crisp fall evening? There’s a fireplace to complement whatever style you prefer—from rustic to high-end luxury with all the bells and whistles.

3. Install a chandelier or unique light fixtures.

Illuminate your outdoor patio with light fixtures that are as beautiful as they are functional. A chandelier adds elegance to the space, while well-placed task lighting can be exactly what you need to create a masterpiece in your outdoor kitchen.

4. Incorporate a Jacuzzi for the ultimate relaxation.

Jacuzzi time, anyone? Imagine how much your family and guests would dig a Jacuzzi built-in to your patio. Surround it with a decorative pergola, enhance with ornate stone steps, or install it next to the fireplace to create a Jacuzzi experience you can enjoy year-round.

Is Your Backyard Ready for This?

While it’s fun to dream about incorporating some of these fabulous patio design ideas, it’s important to make sure your property is ready for the upgrade. Nobody wants to hang out in a Jacuzzi or cook in a glorious outdoor kitchen while the mosquitoes are swarming around family members or guests.

Give your property the treatment it deserves this season with a barrier spray application from your local Mosquito Joe. We provide effective mosquito, tick, and flea control solutions to help you enjoy your new and improved patio without the hassle and annoyance of biting pests. Contact our team today, and we will recommend the outdoor pest control treatment that is ideal for your property. Give us a call at 1-855-275-2563 for more information or request a free quote online.


The Grounds Guys offer quality hardscaping services designed to bring your dream patio to life. The Grounds Guys is a fellow member of the Neighborly® family of trusted home service brands.

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