Using Your Fire Pit in Winter
The winter is a time to retreat to the warmth and cosiness of the house. But what if we open those doors and venture outside into the moonlight…
The garden is often another room during the summer months, with the doors open we spend as much time in the garden as the house, sometimes more. But as the nights draw in we find we’ve closed the curtains and shut the garden outside by late afternoon. The patio that served us so many serene morning coffees and lively family BBQs in the warmer months can double up as a cosy spot for restful stargazing, hot-toddies and quality time with the kids when you install or build a fire pit.
For around 200,000 years, humans have had the ability to control fire. It’s little wonder that, to this day, we’re still captivated by a fire’s flames and it’s easy to incorporate an open fire into the garden, with many options from tiny table top bio-fuel bowls to built-in fireplaces and cooking stoves. They can burn timber or run on electricity, gas or Bioethanol. They bring multifunctionality to a space but all have advantages and disadvantages.
Whether you have lots of space or just a small garden the location of a fire pit is worth considering. A wood-burning fire will generate a lot of heat and smoke, so place it further away from your home and other structures. Gas or electric fire pits can be located closer to your home or even placed under a roof for more protection. Plan your seating to give your fire pit area a more comfortable feel, maybe you want to sink the seating or raise it. The area directly above the fire needs to be clear of hanging plants, trees and flammable items like shade sails.
A portable fire pit is a good option if you really want to utilise the space. There are lots of small fire pits, from lanterns to bowls that can be moved around the garden for maximum benefit. There are even fire pit tables where the tabletop is removed to reveal the fire pit beneath. This is a great idea where space maybe lacking as the patio can be used for dining before lighting the fire. You may wish to consider a closed fire or one with a spark screen or guard if you have young children, pets or you are using the fire in a small space.
With the climate crisis being our priority at the moment consideration to the environment is of particular concern so we need to think about what fuel we will burn and how to choose sustainable, clean fuel.
Electric fires are great if you already have an electricity supply in the garden or would consider having an electrician put one in. Available in traditional and contemporary styles they have all the perks of a wood fire but without the smoke or mess. They can even be controlled by a remote. They emit plenty of heat but no toxic pollutants. You may feel they lack the atmosphere of a wood fire though.
Bioethanol fires are fairly new to the market but are growing in popularity. Bioethanol is a totally renewable liquid fuel produced from agricultural by-products that burn clean, meaning you have no smoke and no sparks. It is a natural, renewable and green energy source made by fermenting plant by-products and yeast. There are many attractive Bioethanol fires for the garden from small, inexpensive tabletop fires to large focal-point pieces.
Most garden fire pits are designed to burn logs. Wood is a renewable source of energy as long as we continue to plant trees and let them grow. However, if we are cutting down more wood than we allow to grow, it may be renewable but it is not necessarily sustainable. While burning wood is not quite carbon neutral, it does emit less carbon than fossil fuels and when it comes from a sustainably managed source it also acts as a sink for carbon. When buying logs, look out for BSL certified wood, Sustainable, Kiln Dried / Seasoned Firewood to show that it comes from a sustainably managed source and that it is dry so will burn cleaner, creating less smoke and air pollution. Be responsible when using outdoor fires – Never burn wet wood, unseasoned wood or wood that has been painted or treated and check your neighbours windows are closed and washing is inside before lighting up. Always store logs in a dry place, away from moisture.
Nothing beats the warmth and atmosphere of a real fire and cooking on them is fun too, if you’ve never tried a S’more before here is your chance, check out our recipe. Traditionally a North American campfire snack they were recently propelled to the heights of The Great British Bake off after Paul Hollywood set the bakers the task of recreating them in the tent.
Planting around your fire pit
Considering the planting around your fire pit is really important so that the area feels part of the garden but also using plants that will withstand the heat the fire may give off. Grasses are a great option, they are soft and offer a beautiful movement in the garden, they also exquisitely catch the light at sunrise and sunset. They are tough and able to stand high temperatures as are many mediterranean plants like Lavender, Sage and Yukka, which will actually benefit from the high temperatures. Herbs are a lovely plant to have close to seating as you brush against them to release their scent or pluck off to use in the cooking. Plants should always be a minimum of one metre away from the pit.
- Light your fire pit and wait till it’s burning even and hot.
- Take a digestive biscuit and Top with a piece of chocolate. Keep another biscuit handy.
- Skewer a marshmallow on a long stick or skewer and hold over the heat of the fire. Toast, turning occasionally, until the marshmallow puffs and turns golden brown.
- Place the marshmallow on top of the biscuit containing the chocolate piece and, using the remaining biscuit , squish the marshmallow down and pull off the skewer.
- Hold the sandwich together between your fingers for a few seconds and let the heat of the roasted marshmallow melt the chocolate.
- Eat while it is warm and gooey and perfect.