The winter may seem an unlikely time for gardening, but provided you can withstand the cold for a short while, there are many plants that are best started in the colder months in preparation for spring. Tulips and crocuses are great ones to start off with. If you’re more into fruit and veg than flowers, why not try growing your own rhubarb? And since the ground may be quite solid, it never hurts to have a spare planter or grow bed lying around.
If the thought of labouring outside in the cold does not appeal to you, you can still continue to enjoy gardening within the comfort of your home. Window boxes and trough planters are slim lined and fit neatly on any window ledge, allowing you to continue to propagate your bulbs and seeds indoors, rather than relying on whatever the local florist can provide. Herbs in particular are great for indoor gardening and you can often find handy and affordable herb growing kits which will also sit on your window sill and are ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
At this time of year, protecting your more fragile plants and flowers from the frost and cold is a big priority. If you are anxious about leaving them open to the weather outside, it’s best to store them inside a greenhouse. However, if indoor space is an issue, do not despair! Fleecy plant covers are just the ticket to keep your garden plants protected from frost. Cheap, effective and easy to use, they just slip over the plant and keep it safe from the harsh winter weather while still allowing moisture and light to penetrate through to the plant
Now that winter is fast approaching, it’s a good time to start thinking about how to keep warm whilst enjoying your garden over the coming months. There are so many different types of outdoor heater that can suit any garden style, taste or price limit. Here we’ll run through just a few of the options available to you, along with their relative benefits and costs.
Electric heaters are a great source of heat, and are extremely easy to use which is probably why they have become so popular. All you really need to get up and running is a nearby electrical output, although these heaters work best in smaller areas, so are ideal if you’re looking to create an intimate patio setting, and work well in sheltered or enclosed areas.
One advantage is that, contrary to popular belief, electric heaters are actually quite eco-friendly. They don’t consume vast amounts of energy, and also don’t release soot and other nasties into the air. Another plus is that they warm up almost instantaneously, meaning you can have instant heat as and when you need it.
Of course, another advantage is that there are now so many styles and varieties to choose from, that you can find most styles to suit your own tastes. You can have stylish, free-standing heaters that can blend right in with your other garden décor, or you can have simple, wall-mounted halogen heaters for something a bit more functional. Of course, you have to take into account that they only cover a limited area, but if you’re only looking for a small heated area, then an electric patio heater could be right for you.
This is another type of garden heater that has recently become very popular. Originating from Mexico, these free-standing open fireplaces make a great addition to any garden, and are a fantastic traditional way to bring heat and ambience into your garden.
Whilst they were originally made from clay, there are now a wide range of materials, designs and sizes to suit all gardens and personalities. From traditional clay, beautiful cast iron and contemporary steel, there really is something for everything.
One thing to bear in mind of course is that you will need a source of fuel, which could start to add up if you don’t have endless amounts of wood laying about! Nevertheless, chimeneas look fantastic and come with added bonuses – My personal favourite is wrapping a potato in foil and throwing it in, for a delicious evening meal. You can also get some fantastic accessories, including scented firelighters to help delicately flavour your barbecues as well as creating a pleasant, fragrant environment.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, then a fire pit may just be the thing for you. Whilst it may sound like a bare open hole in your garden, a fire pit is actually a fire contained in a free-standing, decorative basket or bowl on legs. They too come in a vast array of styles and finishes, and many also include safety features which are ideal if you’re concerned about an open fire around small children and pets.
The most basic version are fire baskets, which are literally steel or iron baskets in which to burn wood or coal. Most come with a grill, and it’s also wise to check whether a tray is supplied which can collect the fallen embers and ash, making cleaning up a lot easier.
If you’re looking for something slightly more decorative, then a fire bowl may be just the thing. These are a lot more contained, and usually come with a lid or insert, making them perhaps slightly safer.
All will usually come with grills, meaning they can make a stylish alternative to the standard barbecue. What’s great about them is that they are generally small and lightweight, making them ideal to stick in the back of the car if you’re taking a trip to the beach or going camping. The only downside of these fire pits is that, due to the fact there is no chimney, they can smoke rather a lot.
For the ultimate statement in outdoor heating, you could always opt for an outdoor fireplace. There’s nothing quite like the ambient glow of an open fire inviting you in, and these can really enhance the environment if you’re entertaining outside. While this category could technically also include chimeneas and fire pits, the difference in style and cost warrants its own special mention.
They are by far the most expensive of outdoor heating options, but can be such beautiful, permanent fixtures and could even add value to your home. You can opt for ready made fireplaces that make the whole thing a lot easier, and even better means you can take them with you if you ever move home.
It will probably be cheaper to build your own, and whilst this could be a bit more effort, it means that you can build it to look like an existing wall, for a truly authentic feel (although you may want to check your local planning codes beforehand!). Outdoor fireplaces are great both for when you are hosting guests, or even if you just want to relax outside with a book and a glass of wine. You can cook a huge variety of things on them and they can create a real focal point in your garden.
Alan Titchmarch recently demonstrated how sail shades can help transform an unattractive part of your garden into a modern, shaded sitting area.
Using one of Primrose’s Kookaburra sail shades, he turned a neglected corner of the garden into a lovely secluded area to relax and unwind. He put up the sail in less than an hour, with the help of the home-owner, demonstrating how quick and simple these things are to get set up.
You can catch up with Alan on his programme “Love Your Garden” through the ITV website HERE (only available until Aug 14), and if you just want to jump to the relevant bits, then skip to 11:10 to 15:05, and 18:40 to 19:30 to see this amazing product in action!
Well, after all that lovely hot weather we had in spring, the summer so far has been a bit disappointing! Sometimes hot, sometimes fresh, often humid – we’ve even had thunderstorms!
However, even though it hasn’t quite been the summer we might have hoped for, there’s still no reason why you shouldn’t continue to enjoy your garden. Whether the sun is shining intensely or the odd droplet of water is falling, if you still fancy some fresh air, what you really need is some shade or shelter to offer a bit of protection from the elements – and there are lots of options to choose from!
One of the most cost-effective options and also one of the most flexible are shade sails. These are waterproof canvases that also protect against UV rays that you can set up anywhere in your garden – all you have to do is attach each corner to a pole, post or tree, making sure it is at the correct angle and covering the required area. As soon as it’s up, you can start relaxing underneath its protection!
An alternative to a shade sail is to invest in an awning. These naturally attach to the wall of your home so don’t have quite as much flexibility as a sail shade which doesn’t have to be placed against your house. However, awnings are very robust and long-lasting, look great and are perfect for providing shelter over a patio area.
Of course, awnings and shade sails only provide overhead shelter. For a different look and more all-round shelter, you may like to consider a small garden house or a gazebo. Often made of wood such as willow or hazel, gazebos will naturally blend in to your garden while creating an attractive spot for relaxation. Large enough to hold some garden furniture such as a few garden chairs and a table, a gazebo can offer some respite from the hot sun as well as greater privacy than an awning or shade sail.
The main point to check, however, is whether the gazebo is waterproof. While the fabric used for awnings and shade sails is waterproof, some wooden gazebos may have small gaps between the woven wood which could allow rain water to pass through.