The mild days of Autumn are a great time to tick a few jobs off the list and get your outdoor area ready for winter entertaining. Whether it’s a deck, patio or a sheltered spot in your back yard, here are 5 things that will ensure your outdoor area is a comfortable and attractive place to be over the colder months.
1. Prepare your garden
To ensure that your garden beds, pot plants and lawn thrive throughout winter, spend a bit of quality time with them over the next few weeks. Regardless of the type of garden you have, giving your plants and lawn a good feed with an appropriate fertiliser is the best way to help them survive the winter.
If you have delicate plants in pots, move them to a sheltered position where they are protected against the cold and wind, such as a north-facing wall or window, as both will generate heat on a sunny day. And mulch all your plants, whether in pots or in the ground, as this helps to keep their roots warm and saves on water at the same time. Finally, keep your outdoor area and garden under control with regular raking and/or sweeping, weeding and pruning, so it’s always presentable when guests pop around.
2. Clear gutters and downpipes
Once you’ve tidied up the garden and pruned any overhanging branches from your deck or patio roof, now’s the time to clear out your gutters and the tops of your downpipes. Taking control of what is a pretty tedious job at this stage of the year means a couple of things for your outdoor entertaining plans. Firstly, you won’t be taken by surprise at the first heavy rainfall with over-flowing gutters and downpipes, which can cause costly damage to your patio or deck, not to mention discomfort for your guests. Secondly, you won’t risk swamping your garden, ruining your lawn and potentially killing plants, undoing all the great garden prep work you’ve just completed.
3. Protect your furniture & fittings
Check the state of your outdoor furniture and fittings to assess whether anything needs replacing or weather-proofing. Your timber furniture could be due for a sand and stain, or perhaps a coat of linseed oil or beeswax will see it through the winter. If you have an outdoor lounge and chairs, you might want to weather-proof the upholstery and work out a way of storing the cushions during inclement weather. You’ll also probably want to clean the BBQ and make sure it’s working properly, as just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean no more BBQs! Think about ways you can increase the shelter over your outdoor area, such as a sturdy market umbrella or two. You might even want to install some outdoor blinds, helping to keep the heat in and the weather out of your patio, pergola or deck.
4. Get your heating sorted
If you’re planning on entertaining outside through the winter, you’ll need to have some form of heating so you and your guests can relax in comfort. Increasingly, outdoor fireplaces are being factored into patio or deck design, such as the amazing set up in the feature image. If you don’t already have a fireplace, you can retrofit your outdoor living area with an open fire, choosing from a wide range of steel or stone fire pits, braziers or chimineas.
If lack of space or the design of your outdoor area does not allow for an open fire, you might want to consider a free-standing patio heater, which can be a relatively inexpensive form of heating (unless you opt for top of the range). There is also an extensive selection of radiant panel heaters that are designed for outdoor use, but generally they’re not cheap. They do run very economically, however, which can offset the initial investment over time.
5. Light up the night
Adding a good source of light to your outdoor area is pretty crucial during winter, with the shorter days and darker evenings. And there are so many beautiful lights to choose from - let your imagination go wild and see this as a chance to create a truly unique ambiance. There is, of course, a huge range of solar-powered options available, including the classic retro-style string bulbs that not only look great but don’t cost the earth (quite literally!). Or, you might want to use candles to add to the vibe of an open fire, or bamboo Tiki torches for a tropical touch. Whatever you decide, a distinctive use of outdoor lighting is the final element in making your outdoor space a place you really want to spend time over the winter months.