Seattle summers are why I live here. Glorious stretches of sun with zero humidity, daylight that lasts until at least 9 p.m., the breathtaking combo of mountains and water, the salt air smell. What’s not to love? 

The only question is how to get all your home chores and real-life responsibilities done so you can get outside and enjoy it. Here’s how Seattle-area residents save time on yardwork, housework, food prep and other chores in an effort to make more time for summer fun. 

Garden tips

We Seattleites love our gardens. Our yards are our outdoor living rooms. But vaccinations mean this summer we might finally get off the property, and maybe even out of town. Keep your garden growing when you do. I once just left the garden hose on when I took off for a weekend (sorry, garden. You’re welcome, Seattle Public Utilities). 

Here are some better tips from gardeners who are much savvier than me:

Tech-loving Seattleites will appreciate the B-hyve, a $99 smart timer that lets you control your soaker hoses via your phone. My friend Matthew Davis McCreary Fox, of Minneapolis, swears by it. 

These local gardeners went more old-school:

“Remove the lawn! Plant native, drought-tolerant plants and trees. No more mowing, weeding, edging, watering or leaf raking. Very low-maintenance and looks good year-round.” 

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— Val Sporleder, Belvedere 

“We have a clover lawn in our front yard. The bees love it! Almost no maintenance.”

— Tami Scheibach, West Seattle

“Invest in the right tools. Make your own compost. Learn permaculture. Raised beds. Grow anything but grass.”

— Bruce DuBos, Othello

“Set some time aside every day to weed a bit and clean up the yard. Fifteen minutes, 30 minutes, whatever. You’ll stay ahead of it, know what’s growing and what needs attention. It feels good to get in there and see beautiful lines of fruits, herbs and veggies. Also, occasionally carry a glass of wine and hand-water a section of your garden after dinner. It won’t save you any time, but it’s a lovely place to be.”

— Liz Verdier, Ballard

Seattleite Sarah Anderson uses wine bottles to provide drip irrigation in her garden. (Courtesy of Sarah Anderson)

Save time and water

Local gardeners share a desire to conserve water as well as time. They’re protecting the Earth and their wallets in these fun and creative ways:

“I water my indoor/outdoor plants with all the leftover water in water bottles that my girls leave all over the house.”

— Karen Ferrante, formerly of Green Lake, now living in Connecticut

“We recycle the gray water from our shower and laundry. It’s all plumbed in and goes out into two buried lines in the backyard.”

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— Kathleen Warren, Maple Leaf

“Put ice cubes in hanging plants for drip-free, full soak watering, since hanging containers go bone-dry overnight in summer.”

— Gael Zane, Ballard

“For a few of my thirstiest plants, I fill empty wine bottles on really hot days and stick them in the ground nearby to provide a steady drip of water (be careful not to place the bottle too close to the plant where it could damage the roots). I went overboard one year, and it looked like someone got drunk in the garden, but my plants were happy!”

— Sarah Anderson, Beacon Hill 

To weed or not to weed 

I hate weeding, so I usually just run right over weeds with the mower. Others turn weeding into a game — or try to eliminate the need for it entirely. Their tips:

“When I sit outside with friends, I pop a few dandelions that are in front of my chair and we have a contest over who can get an intact root!”

— Kelly Severin Kalkwarf, Admiral Plateau

“In the spring, I commit to spending 30 minutes pulling weeds every day, or a 5-gallon bucket full, whichever comes first.”

— Sherri Grant Pelletier, West Seattle

“Mulch/wood chips — cover that empty soil! It helps keep the soil moist, prevents weeds and it looks nice.” 

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— Kevin J. Rusch, Meadowbrook 

“If you have clean grass clippings free from herbicide, use them as free mulch. I keep ours in a small, fenced pile. If your clippings are freshly cut, don’t make them so thick that they mat and heat up.”

— Jennifer Galicia, Pinehurst

Chores indoors

Sometimes we have to finish up inside before we can get out. Deanna Meyerhoff of Haller Lake uses the extra daylight hours to get more done (and spend less time watching TV). These other ideas might help you manage your to-do list:

“I do more chores at home right when I come home from work. It’s a good way to cool off after working all day outside in the heat.”

— Fer Suarez, Greenwood 

“Get all the important tasks done early. If an opportunity arises, you are able to do it without stressing about what you didn’t finish.”

— Vicki Jacobs Childs, Shorewood/White Center

“Chore night! One night a week is dedicated to chores, so we don’t spend our weekends doing them! We order takeout on chore nights as a little reward. Our two-year-old’s chores are to help us with laundry, recycling and compost.”

— Randi Eseltine, Wedgwood

“I have a housecleaner that comes once a month to dust, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, kitchen and floors. It seems a bit indulgent, but I justify it because it gives me more free time, I stress less because my house is clean, and I am supporting a local business in the process. It is well worth the cost.”

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— Dana E. Neuts, Kent

A charcuterie board always looks fancy — but it’s actually a simple way to get everyone fed without cooking. And it can travel. (Getty Images)

Meal hacks

When it’s hot, I stay out of the kitchen — or at least away from the oven. I love to dine al fresco. I make a charcuterie plate almost every day for lunch. It feels fancy, but it’s really just salami, Tillamook cheese cut into cubes, baby pickles, olives and some sliced Washington apples, all spread out on a tray. Bonus: My middle schooler loves the finger food and can make it himself. We’re not alone:

“Smorgasbord means no dishes! We eat on a picnic blanket outside or even inside (flick the crumbs out the door) so I don’t have to clean.”

— Ruthey Borg Maxwell, Ravenna

More food-prep hacks for summer: 

“When we’re out on a bike ride, we stop by the produce market and I let my 7-year-old son pick out any veggies he wants, and then we come home and do a taste test of them all. (How does it taste with salt? With pepper? Plain? Roasted?) It feels like a game, but it’s actually a very lazy dinner and an easy way to get vegetables into his diet.”

— Natalie Hamilton Kelly, White Center

Jules Tschopp Fallon, of the Admiral neighborhood, preps veggies that can be thrown into salads and stir fries on the fly. (Courtesy of Jules Tschopp Fallon)

“I work for a busy family of six. One of the things I started doing this past year is prepping veggies for salads and sautés. I keep the dish full with fresh chopped veggies they can grab for salads, stir fry, eggs. I also started having dishes of fruits and veggies for the kids that are left out during the day for them to help themselves to anytime. They will clear out a bowl while doing homework.”

— Jules Tschopp Fallon, Admiral 

“I am a big fan of dinner salads and 9 p.m. dinners in the summer to make time for more events and activities in the evenings and relish the long days.”

— Alexis Ortega, Olympic Hills 

The author can make a simple treat into an event by pulling out her home snow cone maker. (Courtesy of Bree Coven Foster)

Summer entertaining

This is likely to be a big summer for easy entertaining and catching up with friends we haven’t seen during our year-plus of lockdowns. My summer revolves around a $50 home snow cone machine that turns an afternoon treat into an event. Nicole Hardy, of Fauntleroy, offers adult guests gin and tonic freezer pops. 

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Summer hosts can also try these tips:

“Watermelon play date! I’ll get a big watermelon and invite some friends over with their kids. I’ll put big trays of watermelon on the table, and both kids and adults happily munch on it all afternoon.”

— Allie Azersky, Genessee Hill 

“Food-prep tip for not poisoning people when entertaining: Make vinaigrettes or peanut-based dipping sauces as condiments for outdoor meals, versus mayo or dairy-based. Serving hack: Prepare and store things in mason-type jars. Mason jars are ‘cute,’ so you can, say, make pickles or pickled onions or a condiment, store it in the fridge in the jar, remove lid for serving, and restore lid for when it goes back to the fridge.”

— Jane Hodges, Admiral

Welcome friends back into your yard with a watermelon play date, like West Seattleite Allie Azersky holds at her home. (Getty Images)

Be prepared

A recurring theme to stress-free Seattle summers is being prepared for anything. Heed this advice:

“When summer finally hits Seattle, I keep a couple collapsible camping chairs in my trunk, along with a small bag of essentials (sunscreen, towel, flip flops) for impromptu outdoor plans. Saves me from having to make the mad dash home to grab my summer gear, and I can head straight to the beach!”

— Rachel Corwin, Ballard

“Get lightweight, medical-grade, sun-prevention clothing [available from many companies]. It is super dryable, cool and saves a ton on suntan lotions. My daughter lived in her shirt all summer and could even swim in it.”

— Anne Stanton, High Point

The most Seattle suggestion of all: 

“Pack like the weather is going to change, because it will.”

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— Suzanne Tiedeman, Gatewood