We feel incredibly lucky to live and work in the Pacific Northwest. We truly live in a part of the world that is unique in its aesthetic beauty, its natural resources, and its many recreational opportunities. And while, yes, we do experience distinct seasons in terms of weather, we don’t necessarily experience them in the extreme manner as many other states, like those in the midwest and northeast do.
Despite this, there is a very specific perception of Washington state winters, one that assumes that when the cold season finally comes, we cover our homes with umbrellas, turn on the light therapy lamps full blast, and don’t stop brewing coffee until spring arrives.
Here’s the thing, though: winter in the Pacific Northwest isn’t really like that. Sure, it gets colder here and certain parts of the state are bound to get some snow, but if you live in Southwest Washington like we do, then things basically a bit colder, grayer, and wetter, but our ability to enjoy a full spectrum of activities doesn’t really change all that much. In fact, we actually get less rain than a lot of other parts of the country.
Preparation is the key to winter yard enjoyment
Enjoying winter in Washington state is really about preparation. Do we have the right combination of rain and winter gear that we can stay warm enough and dry enough to still have fun? If we can answer that question in the affirmative, then we know we can basically handle anything. Pacific Northwesterners are planners, because we have to be. Otherwise, we’re wet, we’re cold, and probably a little miserable. No one wants that.
We carry this same spirit of planning when it comes to our yards, as well. Due to our largely temperate climate, we have the opportunity to enjoy this space virtually all year long, which is a rare experience for many Americans who live in places where they experience distinct seasons. While we don’t need to close up shop for the year just because winter has come, many of us still do — and that’s fine! — but, if you have the time and energy, we’d encourage you to reconsider.
Look for the silver linings in your winter yard
2020 has been a year filled with challenges, but with those challenges have also come a silver lining or two. One of those positives is seeing the increase in outdoor activities. When people weren’t tending to their sourdough starters, they were walking, biking, hiking, and, of course, gardening. People did so much gardening this year that it created a seed shortage for certain types of plants and flowers.
As landscapers, seeing people embrace the outdoors in such a way truly made us happy, and we don’t want that to end just because the rainy season is upon us. Spending time outdoors is scientifically proven to be good for your mental and physical health, and, what’s more, spending time outdoors in your yard can be good for the health of your landscape. And, with the right plan and a little effort on your part, you’re more than likely to be very pleased with your results.
Start with cleaning up your winter yard
It’s time to decide what you want out of your yard in the winter. If you just want things neat and tidy, then that’s great! It’s a simple plan, but it’s not one without effort. No matter what your goals are for your yard in the winter, clean up is going to be key to you enjoying your yard.
Take the time to go through your yard, collect all of your gardening and lawn tools that you might have left outside for the season — the shovels, hoes, loppers, trowels, and weeders — and give them a good rinse, dry them off, and find a dry space to store them until you need to use them next.
A Pacific Northwest winter might be milder than some, but it can still wreak havoc on your tools. Don’t forget the hoses or any outdoor irrigation timers you might be using! Hoses can also fall victim to the weather, crack, and break. Drain their excess water, wind them up, and give them some shelter. They’ll serve you well for many seasons to come.
Have garden beds you aren’t using this winter and want to preserve for spring? Then you need to tend to the soil. The consistent rain can make the soil quite compact and difficult to grow in once the warmer weather comes. Covering it, with either a low-effort coverage crop (think clover or cilantro), mulch, or even compostables like leaves or grass clippings is a great way to create insulation for your garden’s soil. Might even give it some well earned nutrients, too!
Your winter yard is more than maintenance
Now it’s time to think about how you can bring what you love about being indoors outdoors. If your backyard already has a patio space, then great! If it doesn’t, then we’d encourage you to consider a patio, deck, or other space that can be built on. It’s raised off of the ground, is less susceptible to the wet weather, and you and your loved ones will feel comfortable being on.
This will also make you feel like you’re in a distinct space that is connected to both the house and the yard. It’s a transitional space that features the best elements of each. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete for the purposes of enjoying it in the winter if it wasn’t covered. Not only is this the ideal way to protect yourself from the rain in the winter, but a covered patio space will provide just the shade you’re looking for during peak summer weather.
Create a cozy winter outdoor space
Well, now that our feet and heads are dry, we should probably consider how we can make things warm and cozy, right? How about some heaters? Many of the patio heaters you’ll see today are propane heaters. They come in a variety of configurations, including the tower formats you’ll often see at restaurants, those that attach to the underside of umbrellas, and even ceiling mounted and portable models. Radiant electric heaters are another nice option, too, and while some models require more effort than the plug and play options, their energy efficiency just might be worth it. If you’re looking for something even more dramatic?
Bring together all the details for the perfect winter yard
Have you thought about how you want to light your space? What about furnishings? You have the opportunity to create an outdoor environment that is rich and inviting no matter what time of year, so focus on comfort and functionality. Look for furniture that is weather resistant and easy to clean so you can focus more on enjoying your space vs. maintenance.
We encourage you to really consider how you want to use this space long-term. Is it for entertainment? Hosting family and friends for great meals, good conversations and even game or movie nights? Or is it intended to be a more solitary, meditative space where you can rejuvenate your inner and outer self? Imagine how you’ll be using your outdoor space to light and furnish accordingly. The possibilities are truly endless. Aren’t you excited to get started?