As the cold winter months approach, the anticipation of cozy, cool evenings with friends and family seeking warmth in your backyard grows. Sometimes, it might be preferable to stay inside, but having a backyard prepared to entertain and enjoy as it gets colder is well worth the effort.
Many people resign themselves to a barren backyard, thinking that gardening is exclusively a spring and summer activity. However, winter gardening offers a host of opportunities to not only nurture certain plants but also transform your space into a winter wonderland.
Winter Garden Ideas
Here are seven ideas to get your backyard winter-ready, ensuring that your guests can enjoy the outdoors even when the temperature drops and your garden remains vibrant throughout the colder months.
Fire pits are a great way to warm up in the wintertime. There’s nothing quite like gathering around a fire pit, cup of cocoa in hand, on a crisp winter evening. Installing a fire pit can transform a chilly backyard into a cozy outdoor lounge.
Opt for a traditional wood-burning pit or a modern gas version, depending on your preference and space. Some popular DIY fire pit designs include traditional stone or brick, metal fire pits, and tabletop applications perfect for small yards.
However, aren’t fire pits usually pricey and challenging to maintain? You can choose to invest a lot of money in a fire pit, but there are many ways to create a stunning outdoor space without breaking the bank.
Building Your Own
There are plenty of tutorials, examples, and ideas for how to build your own fire pits. Whether you enjoy a simple and minimalist design or a more elaborate and artistic one, you can find inspiration and ideas for fire pits to match any style and skill level.
Here’s a basic guide to creating a rustic, in-ground fire pit:
- Gravel or small stones
- Bricks or large stones (fireproof)
- Metal fire pit ring (optional, but recommended for safety and durability)
- Choose a Safe Location: Ensure the chosen spot is at least 10 feet away from any structures, trees, or shrubs. Remember, safety first!
- Mark the Perimeter: Use a stake and string or simply draw in the ground to mark out the circumference of your fire pit. A common size is 3-4 feet in diameter.
- Dig the Pit: Start digging within the marked perimeter. Aim for a depth of about 1-2 feet. Keep the base as level as possible.
- Add a Layer of Sand: Pour a layer of sand at the base of the pit. This should be about 2 inches thick. The sand acts as an insulator and will prevent the ground from heating up excessively.
- Lay the Gravel or Small Stones: On top of the sand, add a 2-3 inch layer of gravel or small stones. This will improve drainage and further insulate the ground.
- Place the Fire Pit Ring (If Using): Insert the metal fire pit ring into the hole. This adds an extra layer of safety and can make your fire pit more durable.
- Arrange Bricks or Large Stones: Neatly arrange your bricks or large stones around the perimeter of the pit. These should rise about a foot above ground level. If using bricks, you can use fireproof mortar to secure them, but many people prefer the “dry stack” method for a more rustic look.
- Final Touches: Clear any debris or flammable materials from around the pit. You might want to create a seating area around the pit with logs, benches, or garden chairs.
Store Firewood With Style
If you’re already a fire pit pro, another way you can get your back garden winter-ready is to look for a way to keep firewood tidy. While a traditional stack off to the side will get the job done, why not store your tinder with style? A DIY firewood rack could add an extra layer of creativity and ingenuity to your backyard.
Upgrading your patio is a great way to bring more comfort into your cozy winter setup. A nice, inviting patio space makes your backyard even more enchanting in the cold winter months.
Not every home is built with a porch or patio that’s large enough to relax on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the space you’re working with. When deciding where to create your outdoor winter space, keep in mind one golden rule: location, location, location.
Ideally, you’ll need to seek out the perfect spot in your outdoor area to create your cozy winter space. If you have a large section of concrete adjacent to the house, that is probably the best place to start because it’s the easiest to clean, keeps you warm, and acts as a barrier between your guests and the dirt. Combining the patio with a fire pit will start to bring the space together in a magical way.
If you don’t have concrete in your backyard, your lawn or grass can also be transformed into an outdoor winter oasis. People love the feeling of being outside in nature, so don’t count your outdoor space out if it’s on a flat section of dirt in the backyard.
There are many ways to utilize the space on the ground, from simple ideas like adding lighting and decor, to bigger plans like setting up a gazebo. Consider installing patio pavers, stepping stones, or a wooden platform to ensure stable footing. This way, even if the lawn is covered in snow, you’ll have a solid, slip-free surface to walk on.
Make a Three-Season Room
If you want to create a porch or patio space that you can use year-round, why not upgrade your patio into a three-season room? The idea is that they’ll be cool enough to use in summer, but warm enough to create a comfortable outdoor space in winter, too. Not only are they convenient, but they can add curb appeal to your home’s design.
Step Up Your Furniture Game
A great set of outdoor furniture with some outdoor blankets and pillows can be just what you need to start making those memorable winter nights a reality. Browse outdoor furniture on sites like Pinterest, or your favorite home and garden spots, for some inspiration to help you land on the style that’s going to work best for your tastes.
You can go big, with sofas, chairs, and tables, or create a chic outdoor dining space with a table and outdoor dining chairs, just make sure that your patio furniture is winter-proof.
Opt for materials that can withstand moisture and freezing temperatures, such as metal, teak, or all-weather wicker. Add cozy touches with outdoor blankets and weather-resistant cushions to get your backyard winter-ready.
Proper outdoor lighting can make your guests feel warmer, more comfortable, and excited to come over. There are tons of inspiring ways to light your backyard:
- String, fairy, and festoon lights are some of the most popular ways to light up your garden
- Path lights to help illuminate the way to your winter patio
- Hanging pendants from trees and your gazebo can create a warm and cozy atmosphere
- Giving your guests torches to create an intimate back garden setting.
- Placing spotlights near your plants and walls to illuminate them with a soft glow.
Mixing and matching outdoor lighting options will help you create a well-lit and enchanting outdoor space tailored to your exact preferences.
Incorporate Evergreen Plants
Evergreens are the stalwarts of winter gardens. From pine and spruce trees to boxwood and holly shrubs, these plants retain their color all year round. They not only provide a constant green backdrop but also offer shelter for birds and other wildlife during harsh winter months.
With their varied textures and shades of green, these plants create a multi-dimensional landscape. Moreover, they serve as a windbreak and privacy screen, making your backyard a cozy winter retreat.
Think about placing tall evergreens on the side of your garden where the prevailing winds come from (normally to the north or west side of your property), to act as wind barriers, reducing cold winter drafts. Evergreens can also frame and emphasize entrances, creating a welcoming effect and sheltering you from the harsh realities of winter.
Architectural Plants and Winter Structures
Winter gardens are often seen in terms of color, but they’re also about shape and structure. The skeletal outlines of deciduous trees, the starkness of ornamental grasses, and the frost-covered frames of pergolas and arches create architectural beauty.
Incorporate plants like the contorted hazel or birch with its striking bark for added structural interest. These elements become focal points, especially when highlighted by snow or frost.
These structures can also help your local wildlife. Winter is a challenging time for birds and small animals, so you can support them and add life to your garden by setting up bird feeders, bird baths with heaters, or even small shelters. Plants with berries, such as viburnum or holly, can provide natural food sources. Not only does this support biodiversity, but the presence of birds can also inject movement and sound into a still winter garden.
Prune and Prepare
While this might not seem like the most exciting task, winter is an ideal time for pruning many plants, especially fruit trees and roses. Pruning not only ensures healthy growth in spring but also helps to maintain the structure and beauty of your garden.
Additionally, mulch flower beds to help protect plant roots from freezing temperatures and ensure they are ready to burst into life come spring.
Winter may usher in cold winds and snowfall, but it also opens a realm of possibilities for garden enthusiasts. By merging nature with structure and thinking about keeping warm, you can create a space that’s not only beautiful to look at but also enjoyable to use with your family and friends.
So, as the temperature drops, don’t retreat indoors. Embrace the chill, wrap up warm, and get started on crafting a mesmerizing winter garden. Your backyard will not only be a personal retreat but also a testament to the fact that gardens can, indeed, flourish in every season.