Designing the Perfect Eco-Friendly Patio Space for a Garden

Since a patio links the home to a garden, it can become a relaxing venue for outdoor living.

beautiful patio in the backyard

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As a sustainable garden designer, my primary considerations are always the ecology of the site and maximizing its potential. But good garden design always entails blending the natural and built environments. It involves creating a space that not only looks beautiful but also fulfills multiple functions and provides multiple yields for human inhabitants. 

A garden's primary function will often be to grow food. An important secondary consideration is often human enjoyment. An eco-friendly patio space can be key in creating a garden that can be utilized fully throughout as much of the year as possible.

Designing an eco-friendly patio space for a garden is often one of the key considerations for me when I work on my domestic garden designs. Here are some tips to help you create the perfect patio space for your own garden:

Positioning a Patio

One of the first things to decide when adding a patio to a garden design is positioning. For me, it is important to balance ease of access with practical considerations largely related to sun and shade. In cooler climes, a patio will usually be positioned in a sunny part of the garden. And for many in the northern hemisphere, a south-facing patio is the ideal. However, in hotter climate zones, some shade can definitely be desirable, and this needs to be taken into account. 

Many people will automatically place a patio directly outside the rear of the home. But it is important to consider the site. Sometimes, such a position can be ideal. But in other situations, there is a better position within the garden. And the benefits of a spot further from the back door can sometimes outweigh the inconvenience of walking a little further to reach it. 

Size and Shape Considerations For an Eco-Friendly Patio

A square or rectangular patio squashed against the rear of your home is not necessarily the best option. Sometimes, it is better to think outside the box. Organic shapes and circular or curving forms can often help a patio feel more connected to the rest of the garden. Curving shapes can also sometimes feel more restful than spaces with a lot of hard straight lines and sharp angles. 

I also find it helpful to consider size and proportions. A patio that is too large can overwhelm a garden. And expansive spaces do not often feel as welcoming as a smaller, more intimate space. So while some gardeners may be inclined to make a patio as large as possible, sometimes, the best things come in small packages. 

Materials for an Eco-Friendly Patio

If you are trying to make your garden as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, materials are a key consideration. Patios are frequently paved. But many paving materials—concrete or quarried stone—come at a cost to the environment. 

Of course, wooden decking is one option that can be more eco-friendly—as long as it is not coated with harmful protective materials. And using reclaimed wood as source material can be even better. But you can also consider creating a patio with solid paving made from reclaimed materials. 

Reclaimed concrete, reclaimed stone pavers, or reclaimed bricks, for example, are all options to consider. You might also create a mosaic patio from broken pavers or old tiles. Or use eco-friendly modern materials like limecrete.

Cover For an Eco-Friendly Patio

In some climates, it can be useful to create some cover for a patio, which can either provide some shade or offer protection from the rain so the area can be used even when the weather is wet. A pergola or covered porch area can be useful in some settings. These structures can also be made from reclaimed timber and other reclaimed materials. 

Planting Around a Patio

While materials and the design of the built environment are important, it is the surrounding planting, in my opinion, that will really make or break the design. A patio design needs to be considered in conjunction with the planting scheme. 

Plants should be placed around a patio to give it a private, enclosed, and relaxing feel. These plants can be useful as well as beautiful. They should improve privacy and frame the space without making it feel hemmed in or too enclosed or shaded. I like to include both evergreen and deciduous plants so that the space looks good all year round. 

Planting should be considered to climb fences or walls, and any covering structures. Vines grown over a pergola, for example, can be wonderful for adding privacy and light, dappled shade. Lower planting can create partial screening between a patio and other garden rooms without restricting the view of the rest of the garden. 

As well as thinking about the visual appearance of the planting, it is also important to think about all the other senses. Surround your patio with a sensory garden that is a delight to all the senses. With fragrant flowers and aromatic herbs, for example. 

Eco-Friendly Patio Furniture Ideas

When furnishing a patio in an eco-friendly way, again, reclaimed materials are ideal. Reclaimed timber can be used to make DIY patio furniture in a range of different styles. And you can create a comfortable place to eat or sit for a very low outlay indeed. Many other reclaimed materials can also be used. You can also consider using natural materials (logs, clay, earth, etc.) to build patio seating, dining furniture, or even outdoor kitchen structures. Sometimes these natural materials can be sourced on-site, which also keeps costs to a minimum. 

Additional Eco-Friendly Patio Additions

The finishing touches can also help you create a wonderful eco-friendly patio space in your garden. For example, you can add solar LED lights or lanterns for candles. Reclaimed fabrics can be used to add personal touches and comfort to the space. Make some cushions, for example, or a rag rug for an undercover patio area. Personalize the space with DIY projects to really make it your own. 

View Article Sources
  1. Babor, Dan, et al. "ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF CONCRETE." BULETINUL INSTITUTULUI POLITEHNIC DIN IAŞI, 2009.