String lights are a creative way to add a unique dash of ambiance and atmosphere to your backyard.
Although hanging them from trees is perhaps the most straightforward method, it's completely possible (not to mention easy) to hang these stylish lights up without using any trees at all.
Here is everything you need to know to hang backyard string lights without trees.
How to Hang String Lights
The method that is best for you depends on the layout of your backyard, the location of any existing poles or other supports, and the amount of time you have to invest in this project.
Along a Fence
Aside from hanging string lights on trees, perhaps the easiest method is to hang along a fence.
Select the portion of the fence you wish to hang the lights from. Then lay out the lights on the ground below the fence to get a better idea of how they will hang.
Of course, the exact way they hang is up to your personal preferences, but most people prefer a little slack in them rather than pulling them completely tight.
Once you've found your preferred layout, it's time to attach them to the fence. You can secure them with nails or even metal hooks. If you don't want to make marks on the fence, it's often possible to simply drape the lights over the fence posts in your desired layout.
Remember that the fence must be close enough to a power outlet to plug the lights in. Otherwise, you'll need an extension cord long enough to run from the fence to the closest outlet.
On Patio or Deck Railing
One of my favorite ways to decorate by outdoor space is to hang string lights on a patio or deck railing.
This is a good option for pretty much anyone as it can be done in your backyard, front yard, or even on an apartment balcony. It adds a huge dosage of ambiance and lighting to pretty much any outdoor space.
First identify the supports you will use. The next step is to lay the lights out (like in the "fence method" above) to ensure you have a good layout.
Just like the fence method, you can use nails or metal hooks to hang the lights. Personally, I usually prefer to just drape the lights on or around the patio or deck railings to prevent damages. This also makes taking the lights down easier.
Once again, it's essential the lights are close enough to an outlet for an extension cord to run between the two.
On Other Existing Supports
Look around your yard to find other structures that might act as good supports for your lights.
Examples are any poles and pillars on a porch, sheds or other outbuildings, gazebos, or trellises. You can easily attach your lights to any of these supports without using trees.
You'll often have to use nails, screws, or metal hooks to hang your outdoor lights from these structures.
On Other Shrubbery
A tree isn't the only type of shrubbery suitable for hanging string lights.
You can also hang string lights from other shrubbery as well as planters, trellises, and other fixtures in your garden.
The trick here is to make sure that the layout looks good. Because these features are often much closer to the ground than a fence, porch pole, or gazebo, it's important to make sure this lower lighting doesn't look funny at night.
Build Your Own Supports
Our final method to hanging outdoor lights is to build your own supports. This is the most expensive and time-intensive option but it can be well worth the effort.
Although there are countless ways to build supports, my favorite method uses buckets and poles to ensure easy portability. In my opinion, this is far superior to a permanent method where you bury the pole in the actual ground.
My favorite method to build your own supports consists of placing support poles in two heavy-duty buckets and then adding in a heavy fill material.
I prefer wood poles but hollow metal poles and even PVC pipe also work well. I like to fill each bucket with gravel to hold the pole in place. However, for a somewhat more permanent design you can fill the buckets with concrete, like Quikrete.
Simply cut the poles to your desired height, place each in a bucket, fill the bucket with a heavy material, and hang your lights - voila, you've just completed one of my favorite patio lighting ideas!
Tools and Materials You'll Need
The proper tools and materials not only make the job quicker and easier, but also prevent injuries. Depending on the method you choose, you'll need:
- Pencil - Make marks to help plan your lighting layout.
- Tape Measure - Take accurate measurements to hang your lights pleasingly.
- Hammer & Nails - Pound in nails to hang the lights from.
- Drill & Screws - Screw in screws to to hang the lights from.
- Metal Hooks - These are a nifty and somewhat attractive alternative to nails or screws for hanging.
In addition to these tools and materials, the "create your own supports" method requires the following additional materials.
- Posts - Wooden, hollow metal, or PVC pipe works best.
- Buckets - Heavy-duty buckets act as a base for each pole so you don't have to dig into the ground.
- Hardware - Add hardware to easily secure the lights.
Remember to be careful when using any and all power tools, even just a simple power drill, as these can easily cause injures when used incorrectly.
Best Outdoor String Lights
Dozens of options for string lights are available online and in stores. Rather than tell you which specific models to buy, we're going to break down the most important features to look for in the outdoor variety.
Your outdoor lights must be waterproof to hold up to the rigors of the outdoors. Look for a model that is specifically designed for outdoor use. More specifically, the lights should be waterproof rather than simply water-resistant.
Length and Bulb Type
Outdoor string lights come in various lengths. The best length for you depends on your intended layout. Often it's in your best interest to plan a layout (with your pencil and tape measure) before you buy the actual lights.
Most backyard lights require an electrical outlet o run properly. You can use an extension cord if they are too far away to plug in normally. Solar lights are another option. These have small built-in solar panels to charge and recharge as needed.
Other Great Backyard Accessories
String lights are just one element for decorating your garden, patio, or backyard. Here are a few additional accessories that will add even more of that special oomph to your relaxation space.
Other Outdoor Light Ideas
String lights are far from the only option to light your yard. Other patio lights ideas include lanterns, tiki torches, uplighting, Christmas lights, pendant lights, and so much more. Out of these, lanterns are perhaps my favorite way to complement string lighting.
Hammock or Hammock Chair
The best backyard hammocks make your outdoor area even more relaxing. A comfortable hammock chair is yet another option. The Mock ONE is my personal favorite backyard hammock thanks to its built-in hammock stand, comfortable lay, and incredibly portability. Of course, normal patio furniture will also get the job done.
Backyard String Lights FAQ
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about backyard string lights.
Q: How to string lights across backyard?
A: Use trees, fences, sheds, gazebos, trellises, or other structures. You can also create your own support posts.
Q: How do you hang outdoor string lights without nails?
A: Screws or metal hooks are another option. Otherwise, your best bet is to drape the lighting over objects in your yard such as fences, trees, and patio railings.
Q: How high should patio string lights be?
A: It all depends on your personal preferences. To me, lighting for patio should be along the hand railing (if there is one) or about a foot off the ground. However, you might prefer to add yours at chest or eye level.
There's no denying the atmospheric benefits of adding string lighting to your backyard.
Even if you don't have any trees, hanging string lights is easy with a little know-how, the right tools and materials, and a few minutes of your time.
But, now we want to hear from you. How do you hang lights in your yard or patio? Which model lights are your favorite for use outdoors?