3 Privacy Options You Can't Afford Not to Have 3 Privacy Options You Can't Afford Not to Have

As the world population grows, we lose a little more of our privacy every day. Whether you live in an urban or rural area, there always seems to be a car driving by or a nosy neighbor. Here are some of the things you can do to have a private backyard retreat that doesn't cost a lot.

Natural Privacy

Trees, shrubs and even tall plants can give you the semblance of privacy. Trees that are bushy and full, such as evergreen trees, provide the most coverage. One such variety is Blue Spruce, which stays full from the top all the way to the ground. In addition to keeping out prying eyes, they can also protect your yard from blustery winds. However, they take a while to grow and need plenty of room because their bottom branches can grow up to 20 feet in diameter.

A faster growing evergreen that can be trimmed to whatever shape you want -- or left to grow on its own -- is the American Arborvitae. This evergreen can grow up to 18 inches per year, making it a good choice if you want natural privacy, but can't wait a generation for it to develop. Their final height is about 7 or 8 feet tall. To make a quick hedge, plant them 2-3 feet apart. If you buy a taller plant to start with, in one or two summers your yard could be a private haven.

An even faster growing privacy plant is ornamental grasses. The Calamgrostis is a feathery reed that grows in zones 5-8 and can reach 48 to 60 inches tall by early summer. As a perennial that won't spread by seed, it will stay where you want it to stay. In the winter they have a beautiful golden hue like wheat. When you see new growth in the spring, cut the old growth down. This way the reeds dance with the slightest breeze, which is very relaxing to watch.

Fencing in Your Privacy

Although going the natural route is attractive, fence panels have their place and are much faster than waiting for plants to grow.

If you don’t want to cut off your whole yard and feel boxed in, just put up one or two panels on each side of your yard. You will instantly have a place to sit and enjoy your morning coffee, or to have guests over for a barbeque and still have the feeling of privacy from your neighbors.

Fence panels usually come in 6-foot widths, up to 8-feet tall. To satisfy your artistic desire, there are several designs available including dog-eared, shadowbox and stockade varieties. Wood panels start around $40 each. Don’t forget that you will also need posts, screws or carriage bolts and cement mix, which will add to the cost.

Besides wood fence panels, there are also vinyl fence panels that start around $80 per panel. Composite panels start around $140 per panel. Another alternative is chain link fencing. A 6-foot tall by 50-foot long roll of chain link starts around $220 per roll.

If you want a more attractive panel with a dash of nature intertwined, get a lattice panel and grow a perennial vine on it for the best of both worlds.

Least Expensive Privacy

One very quick way to get privacy is with a canvass gazebo. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be put up in an afternoon -- they're basically like a glorified tent that can stay up all summer, provided there are no wind storms. Some have retractable screens, while others have fully enclosed sides that can protect you from wind, rain, high temperatures and bugs. They can actually add a little charm to your backyard space.

If you don't want to go the canvass gazeebo route, how about using tarps or shade cloth for a quick and inexpensive way to provide privacy? Just run a line from your house to a post or other tall solid structure and hang the tarps or shade cloth with shower curtain hangers. This method provides privacy when you want it, but can also be opened up when you don’t want it. Tarps start around five bucks for a 9x12 piece and shade cloth around $65 for an 8x12 foot section. Shower curtain hooks vary in price by how decorative you want them. If you live in a windy area, keep in mind that you may have to anchor the bottom as well.

The desire for privacy is in our nature. Everyone needs a place to retreat or regroup and enjoy the outdoors. Build your solitude today.

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