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School is out. COVID numbers are dropping. The heat is on. It’s time for summer parties! But before you send out those 4th of July celebration invitations, let’s get your backyard ready for a good time.

First things, first. Make sure your yard is more inviting than the Amazonian rainforest. It’s a good idea to cut back any bushes, trees and, of course, weeds, that are surrounding your gathering areas. If folks will be hanging on the patio, cut back the foliage that may be encroaching on your party space. Your guests shouldn’t have to avoid getting poked in the side by branches or brushed across the ankles by overgrown grasses.

Once the landscaping is trimmed up, mow that grass! The kids will want plenty of room to run around and a clean lawn leaves space for lawn games like tag with each other and fetch with the pets.

When it’s time to decorate, you don’t have to spend a mint—or anything at all! Think of your patio or main gathering space as an outdoor room and stage it like one. Arrange your outdoor furniture into casual seating areas that will invite conversation. You can even use a rug to anchor the space. If you need more seating or tabletops than your patio furniture currently provides, bring your kitchen seating outside along with a coffee table and some side tables. Dress them up with wildflowers in vases or dress them down with simple placemats and dandelions in coffee mugs. (The kids can help with that!)

If you’ll be prepping food on-the-spot and over a grill, you can keep things cooler and safer for your guests by setting up the food prep area a little ways away from the patio. Keep it well-lit after dark by hanging string lights around the prep area as well as around your gathering space.

Things are looking pretty festive now! Your guests will truly enjoy all of the work you put into setting up the perfect party. (And so will you!)