It is soon going to be that special time of the year when outdoor parties and backyard barbeques are the normal activity at many Midwest homes. If you’re considering a backyard makeover, there are a variety of ways to give new life to your outdoor living area, many of them for little or no cost.

Outdoor decking material can often use a brightening scrub at the start of a new season. Understand the care requirements of your deck, and make sure to give it a good once-over to get rid of winter grime and dirt. Sometimes applying a fresh surface coating might be necessary for further deck protection.

Plants make a huge difference, and if your deck area is lacking in quality potted plants, just adding a few select accent pieces will give a visual appeal to the entire area. Consider somewhat large, bushy plants for corners and wall accents, and smaller, colorful arrangements grouped together near sitting areas.

Outdoor furniture and patio lounge furniture can create an ambiance that encourages the atmosphere you’re looking for in your backyard entertainment. Subdued and coordinating colors can add a hint of sophistication to your party, while bright, vibrant upholstery patterns give the feeling of festivity and fun.

Protect your deck pieces with a well-designed awning or grouping of table umbrellas. Sunbrella fabric comes in a variety of patterns and colors to complement or accent your existing look; and sometimes just changing a table cover and accent pillows give new life to a backyard grouping.

Rearrange what used to be – and enjoy a different feel to your outdoor party. If a formal furniture grouping was the norm last year, consider a few smaller, more intimate arrangements of chairs and accent tables to facilitate closer conversations.

Finally, take care of your investment. Take the time to carefully clean your outdoor furniture and protect it from some of the more violent summer storms that might occur. A backyard makeover can be a fun experience, and a fairly affordable way of giving new life to outdoor parties this year.