The colder days (and nights) are setting in and perhaps the last thing on your mind is an evening in the garden as the temperature drops. Now feels like a really good time to snuggle up in front of the log burner with a cosy blanket, and this can leave the garden rather lonely as winter sets in.
But not every Autumn and Winter evening brings a raging frost – in fact, back in 2015 in Trawsgoed, Wales the temperature hit a toasty 22.4C in November, smashing the previous November record of 21.7C back in 1946 (also in Wales). That year, the UK saw the warmest December in 350 years – and a year later, the Welsh were again enjoying 17 degrees – more than twice the average for the time of year.
With the odd warmer evening a distinct possibility, now’s a good time to think about how you might continue to use the garden well into the winter months. Here are some ideas to help you kick back and enjoy the outdoors whilst keeping cosy through those chillier nights:
Fire pits and bowls
Baby it’s cold outside – but not when you’re sat next to the warmth of a burning fire pit with its captivating flames keeping you toasty warm well into the evening.
Fire pits and bowls are just as they sound – a metal container that you can start a great big fire in, without worrying about burning the whole garden. As to whether they give off substantial heat, this depends on the type of fuel you use – wood gives off a lot of heat, propane doesn’t.
You can buy a smaller fire pit but the smaller portable ones don’t tend to last very long. You also need to consider safety as the flame does blow to either side with the breeze – and for that reason you should leave at least 10 feet between any structure and the pit itself. You should also avoid overhanging trees or anything else that might set alight.
Chiminea are usually a bit smaller in diameter than fire pits so well suited to the smaller outdoor space. However because they have sides enclosing the fire, they typically will make a smaller fire than a fire pit so offer a little less warmth. They are best suited for milder winter evenings where a heat source is needed just to take away the chill.
Above: Ooni 3 Portable Pizza Oven
There are a very wide range of outdoor ovens on the market which vary from enclosed BBQs to full sized stone pizza ovens. Although they give off heat, they are designed to cook and keep the heat in, so they won’t be as effective as say, a large fire pit or patio heater under a fire-resistant gazebo. However, they’re great for milder evenings and there’s nothing quite like the taste of food cooked outdoors.
Gas patio heaters come in a range of styles – wall mounted, lamps and parasol heaters – bringing toasty warmth to your patio throughout the year. Although the gas bottles are quite expensive initially as you’ll have to leave a deposit, they’re long lasting and refillable. However, they are not environmentally friendly as they aren’t very efficient.
Electric patio heaters are a more environmentally friendly choice as they use 85% less energy than gas heaters. The cost to run an electric heater is typically about 12p/hour.
Patio heaters don’t produce smoke which is a big advantage over chimneas, fire pits and ovens. They can also be made more efficient by sheltering the area to be heated from the wind – something you can’t realistically do with a firepit, which needs far more room around and above it to be safe. This can be achieved through windbreaks, gazebos and awnings, with infra red heat lamps a popular choice as a heat source under cover – however, take care to purchase fire-resistant materials and ensure that the heater sits well clear of the fabric.
Fake hanging baskets
The garden can look a little scrawny and bare during the winter, so fake hanging baskets and hanging topiary balls are a great way to inject a little off-season cheer. Whether you’re setting up a gazebo with a patio heater or you’re investing in a dazzling fire pit to crown your patio, a few pops of colour will make your sitting area all the more enjoyable.