Whenever we think about time spent on the deck or patio, we tend to think about the summer days and evenings. Warm weather and sunny days provide the opportunity for cooking outdoors, relaxing and dining on the patio and entertaining outdoors. As much as summer is the most likely time for enjoying the deck or patio, there is no reason not to extend that enjoyment into spring and fall–and, yes, even winter.
There are a lot of reasons that being on your deck or patio in the spring or fall could be preferable. In the spring, there are few nuisance insects like flies and mosquitoes. Most of the flowering bushes and trees are in full bloom and the lawn and gardens look fresh and lovely. In the fall, the temperatures are more comfortable, and the flowering trees and bushes are putting on a fall show of berries and colorful foliage. Don’t close the deck down in winter. There are plenty of milder winter days when, with a little pre-planning, your deck or patio can still be a great place to spend time outdoors. Here are some ideas on how you can extend your time outside on the deck or patio.
1. Use Year-Round Furniture. Choose deck and patio furniture that can withstand the weather. Good quality furniture will pay for itself in its beauty and longevity. Think about sitting on your furniture in the winter. What will provide the most comfort in all seasons? Furniture made from teak, metal and polyresin are good choices. Your furniture should have some weight to withstand possible winds in winter. If you cover your furniture when not in use and keep cushions and pillows in a weatherproof outdoor chest, they will last much longer.
2. Add Heat. Heat can make all the difference if you want to extend the use of your patio or deck. Fire tables are a feature that not only look attractive but can provide enough heat to make it comfortable in early spring or fall. There are also overhead heaters, much like those used in outdoor restaurants, available for home use. These are electric or use propane. If you have shade curtains on your pergola to block the sun in summer, use them in the spring and fall to block the wind. Add some soft blankets or quilts for a cozy look and additional warmth for you and your guests.
3. Add Lights. The days are shorter in fall and winter. Adding lights will extend the time you can be outdoors. Lights also provide so much beauty to the outdoors. Use string lights in the ceiling of your pergola. Solar lights will highlight the area around the deck. Use lights to feature the shaggy bark of a decorative tree or the red bark of a landscape shrub.
4. Plant for All Seasons. When you plant around your deck and yard, keep in mind all the seasons. Include flower bushes for spring and summer, but also think about trees and shrubs that have interesting or colorful bark in the winter and perhaps a plant that holds berries for the birds to enjoy throughout the winter. Include some evergreen shrubs in different shapes or shades of green. Pines or cedars are great choices, but don’t forget bushes like holly, which are also evergreen but with a leaf instead of needles. Again, this will add interest to your winter landscape. Your plants will not require any special care in the winter to look good. As long as you watered and used plant fertilizer in the summer, your plants will look their best in your outdoor winter landscape.
5. Incorporate an Outdoor Kitchen. This can be as simple as a nice grill with an outdoor table next to it, or you can add a complete outdoor kitchen to rival the kitchen in your home. Being able to prepare food outdoors adds to the uniqueness of the food and expands your ability to entertain outdoors. A grill with a side burner will give you the option of making hot chocolate or warm apple cider on those cold evenings outdoors. A complete kitchen will give limitless possibilities for food preparation.
6. Celebrate the Holidays Outdoors. Start a new tradition of celebrating the holidays outdoors. In spring, celebrate Easter or Mayday with fresh asparagus from the garden made on the grill, along with the main course. Hopefully, you have planted lots of spring bulbs around your deck or patio, which will be blooming just in time. The spring-flowering trees and shrubs should also be blooming to add to the beauty of this spring holiday. In summer, what is more traditional than a 4th of July picnic? A Halloween or fall fest party in the fall will be the perfect party with lots of pumpkins and gourds mixed into the landscape. Add straw bales around the fire pit and lots of hot dogs and marshmallows for roasting over the fire. A winter get-together after an afternoon at the sledding hill has to include hot chocolate and bowls of steaming hot chili.
7. Plan Activities. Carving pumpkins, coloring Easter eggs, building snowmen and making bird feeders from pine cones are all simple activities your guests can participate in. If you live in the North where there is lots of snow, gather friends and family to try to build a snow sculpture dinosaur or honor your favorite sports team. Have a selection of board games as well as lawn games to try.
There are so many activities that can be enjoyed outdoors. Keep your patio open and used year-round. Some of these events held outdoors will be unexpected and much more memorable.