outdoor fire place and barbecue

How to heat your outdoor space

Use your outdoor space to the max with an open fire

The face of modern gardening is changing, few of us have time to tend a traditional quintessential English garden. Many of us are opting for structured hard landscaping with patches of green, whether natural grass or artificial, and a few low maintenance structural plants. The modern outdoor space is more about a relaxing area to cook and entertain family and friends than about somewhere to grow plants. The weather doesn’t necessarily have to be summer or perfect, all a chilly day requires is a fire, a cuddly throw and some cushions.

Heating your outdoor space is an absolute essential, allowing you to use it well into the evening or on those lovely clear spring and autumn days. It doesn’t take much to make your outdoor space a comfy relaxing area for chilling out with family and friends. All you need is some comfortable all-weather resin weave lounge furniture and or course a fire. If you are keen on cooking then a barbecue is also a necessity. If you just want to do a little cooking then it makes sense to buy a fire and grill combined; they cut down on clutter and are ideal for a small space.

outdoor wood fire

There are several considerations when buying an outdoor fire, budget, function and style. If you have a very low budget then the range of styles may be limited, but if all you want is a fire source then the budget range are perfectly adequate. Obviously the more you have in the kitty the greater the options.

Prices vary from £50 to several thousand; if you are going to be using your space frequently then go for as good a quality as you can afford. The popularity of clay chimineas which were so in fashion a few years ago has now waned but if you have a Mediterranean or traditional style garden they can still look at home. They need a low slow burn to begin with in order to prevent cracking; put a bucket full of sand in the bottom and then light a few sticks of kindling, increasing the intensity of the flames after a couple of hours. They need to be protected from the winter weather with a frost proof cover or moved somewhere sheltered.

In vogue at present are the sleek stylish European designed fire-places which are perfectly suited for a modern minimalist space. The uncluttered design of the Happy Cocooning fire-places are designed to go in the centre of your space allowing you to position your seating all around. Several of these stylish pieces also include a simple grate allowing you to also grill the barbecue staples of burgers, steaks and sausages for up to about 4 people. Watch the video showing how to cook over the Kadai fire bowl.

The modern fire-places are made from long-lasting cast iron or aluminium and require very little seasoning or maintenance. If the cast iron does become rusty just remove the rust with a wire brush and paint with a heat resistant paint. Keep them looking new for longer and cover in winter. The advantage aluminium has over clay and cast iron is that it doesn’t crack if you accidentally knock it over and once they’re cracked unfortunately they are unusable.

There are also electric outdoor heating appliances but they are not environmentally friendly whereas the fires can burn briquettes, charcoal or logs, all of which are either waste products or sustainable. The wood ash residue can be added to the compost heap or scattered sparingly onto the herbaceous border. If you don't want the mess of clearing away ashes or the sparks and smoke associated with wood then the Happy Cocooning appliances are for you, as they run off gas the heat is instant. The only downside is the presence of a gas bottle, but these could be incorporated into a side table.

Happy Cocooning outdoor gas fire
Happy Cocooning outdoor gas fire

When buying your outdoor fire one point to consider is that you get what you pay for. If only in temporary accommodation or regularly change the layout of your garden then there is no point in spending a fortune but if you have just revamped your outdoor space to become a family area which will be used regularly then invest in the best you can afford and enjoy being with family and friends.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas