You use your garden most during the summer, but a few investments and additions mean that you can use the space to cook, eat, relax and entertain in all year round.
Garden lights and heaters make your garden welcoming at night; add a hot tub and a Bluetooth speaker and you’ve got a spot to relax; buy a pizza oven and you can take a break from the kitchen and cook dinner outside.
Smart garden lights
When it comes to smart outdoor lighting, there’s a wealth of choice. Depending upon whether you have outdoor sockets or existing lights that are controlled via a switch inside your home, there are different options.
For those with conveniently placed sockets, you could install the Philips Outdoor Lily Spotlight kit. It comprises three colour & white spotlights that have their own mains power supply.
They require a Hue bridge within range (around 10-20m depending on obstacles) and you can then control them from the Hue app or using Alexa or Google Assistant. Ground spikes make it easy to install the spots at ground level.
If the Hue lights are too expensive, a cheaper option is the Innr Outdoor Spot Light kit. It’s less than half the price but is very similar overall, with three LED colour and white lights, and ground spikes for easy placement.
All wiring is waterproof and you just need a Hue Bridge (or another Zigbee hub such as Innr’s own, or an Amazon Echo Show that has a smart hub built in) in order to control the lights.
If you don’t have any outdoor sockets, but do have outdoor mains-powered lights, you could look at replacing the bulbs with smart lights. Again, you could go for Zigbee-based bulbs from Philips or Innr, but if you’d rather stick with Wi-Fi – and therefore need no additional Zigbee bridge – then the options are almost endless.
We recommend LIFX, though, as these are the highest quality, brightest Wi-Fi bulbs out there. The latest addition to the range is the BR30 (currently available from Amazon for £56.20).
Like LIFX’s other colour bulbs, you can use the brilliant app for Android or iOS to choose what shade of colour or white you want and even get the lamp to turn on and off at certain times (such as dusk).
Better still, the BR30 is water resistant and has built-in infrared LEDs which will help any outdoor security cameras to ‘see’ at night when the regular LEDs are turned off.
If the BR30 is too large for your lamp, LIFX also sells the smaller, non-water-resistant A60 Nightvision (from £46.16 on Amazon), as well as the even smaller LIFX Mini (£34.97), both of which come in E27 and bayonet fittings.
If you don’t need colour, go for the LIFX Mini white (from £15.49) or Mini Day & Dusk, which can be set from warm to cool white (from £23.82).
Finally, don’t forget that you can combine outdoor lighting with security. It’s relatively simple to replace any outdoor mains-powered light with a security camera that also has floodlights. Those we recommend are the Ring Floodlight Cam (£161, refurbished from Amazon) and the similarly priced Netatmo Outdoor Camera (currently £245.91 from Amazon). The beauty of the Netatmo is that no subscription is required.
Glow Warm gas patio heater – £159.99 (from Amazon)
ElectriQ infrared patio heater – £99.97 (from Appliances Direct)
To spend time in your garden in the cooler months, or to keep the party going after dark, patio heaters are a good investment. If you buy now, it’ll be cheaper than in summer, when the prices will jump.
You can either buy electric or propane-fuelled outdoor heaters. The advantage of propane is that you don’t need to run a cord outside and you can stand your heater wherever you like. But remember to budget for gas canisters.
A 13kg gas cylinder costs about £50 and will last you for 10 hours.
The mushroom-style Glow Warm 13kw gas patio heater is currently available from Amazon for £159.99.
It’s 224cm high and is a really powerful heater. It also has wheels, so you can easily move it around. It doesn’t come with a cover, however, so you’ll probably need a spot in the garage to store it during the worst of the winter weather.
Bear in mind that when it arrives, you’ll need to assemble it yourself. It’s straightforward to do but can take an hour to put together, so prepare to build it in advance of your guests arriving. And if you buy this model, you’ll also need a set of AA batteries for the ignition.
Electric heaters require less organisation in advance. You just plug them in and you’re ready to go. But bear in mind that where you can place them depends on where your sockets are and that an extension lead can be a trip hazard.
If you’re going to go with an electric heater, we’d suggest you invest in a weatherproof extension lead (15m, £28) at the same time.
The ElectriQ mushroom-style infrared patio heater (£99.97, Appliances Direct) stands 205cm tall and has three settings: 900W, 1200W and 2100W. It will heat up a radius of 15sqm, so it can keep a whole group warm.
Steel fire pit – from £27.99 (from Wayfair)
Hoole cast iron fire pit bowl – from £79.99 (from Gardenesque)
A fire pit might be pushing the definition of tech, as it was cutting edge about 2 million years ago – but if you’d like to enjoy the garden on a chillier night, it makes a huge difference, as well as an excellent focal point for an outdoor gathering. Even better, you don’t have to invest a lot of cash to get one.
Wayfair is selling a simple steel fire pit for only £27.99. It measures 37cm x 54cm x 51cm but if you’d like something a little larger, you can get the same design but scaled up a bit for £34.99 (42cm x 64cm x 56cm).
If you have a little more to spend, the Hoole cast iron fire pit bowl comes in three sizes: 55cm (£79.99), 75cm (£154.99) and 100cm (£299.99).
Ooni Fyra wood pellet pizza oven – £249 (from Ooni)
Ooni Karu multi-fuel pizza oven – £299 (from Ooni)
A pizza oven is a great outdoor cooking alternative to a barbecue and you’re more likely to use it year-round. Buying one may be more affordable than you think.
Ooni is one of the most trusted names in the business and its 12 inch wood pellet pizza oven is available to buy for £249. It’s portable, although at 22lbs, you won’t be sticking it in your bag. It’s quick to cook on: it can reach a temperature of 500°C in 15 minutes, and, after that, it can cook a pizza in about one minute. We tested it out and loved it.
Wood pellets cost £18.99 for a 10kg bag and are widely available. But if you want something a bit more versatile, the Ooni Karu 12 inch multi-fuel pizza oven (£299) can be used with wood or charcoal. And, if you buy the compatible gas burner (£79.99), you can convert it to gas.
Waterproof Bluetooth speakers
EarFun Uboom Bluetooth speaker – £57.99 (from Amazon)
Creative Muvo Play – £33.99 (approx, from Creative)
It’s not a party without music, and your best option for spending time in the garden is a portable Bluetooth speaker. You can place it wherever you need to, and you’ll have the option of letting your guest play music from their phones.
If you plan to use it outside (especially if you’re near a hot tub), something rugged and splash-proof is the best option. Our pick would be the EarFun Uboom (£57.99, Amazon). It’s compact, gives 360-degree sound and has good battery life. And if you buy a pair, you can get stereo sound. You can find out more about it in our review.
If you want something even less expensive in case it gets soaked or damaged, we’d suggest going for the Creative Muvo Play, which you can pick up for around £33.99. It’s not as powerful or bassy as other options, but it is great value for its price point. You can find out what it’s like to use in our review.
You can see all of our top picks for cheap Bluetooth speakers in our round-up of the best we’ve tested.
HOMPOW mini projector – £89.99 (from Amazon)
Optoma UHD300X – £928.97 (from Amazon)
Want to have people over for a movie night? It’s more fun under the stars. Buy a projector and you can screen films and watch sporting events in your garden.
You can buy a screen to project your film on for as little as £14.99 but you can also make do by hanging up a white sheet between trees or using the side of a building.
Some projectors, such as the HOMPOW mini projector (£89.99, Amazon) even come with a screen. The HOMPOW has a brightness of 6000 Lux and a 16:9 aspect ratio and is a decent budget-friendly option.
If you want to invest in a high-quality device, we’d recommend the Optoma UHD300X (£928.97, Amazon). It’s a 4K projector with great colours and sharp detail. You can find out more about it in our review.
Inflatable pools and hot tubs
Lay-Z Spa St Lucia – £360 (from B&Q)
Duerer inflatable pool – £52.99 (from Amazon)
Many people are getting more use out of their gardens in the winter by investing in a hot tub. Grab a Bluetooth speaker and head out into the garden for some spa relaxation after work.
If you opt for a Lay-Z spa, you can control your hot tub remotely via the phone app. You can turn your spa on and off, set a schedule, adjust the water temperature, activate the filter and the AirJet massage system.
Lay-Z spas are designed for year-round use with high-quality insulation to minimise heat loss and technology to prevent water in the spa from freezing up.
The Lay-Z Spa St Lucia (£360, B&Q) can fit three adults comfortably. It has rapid heating, a timer and an air jet massage system. It even has cup holders. It comes with an insulating lid.
Okay, so you won’t be using it until the height of summer, but buy an inflatable pool now and you’ll be paying around a third less than if you wait until it gets hot.
Inflatable pools are now quite affordable but tearing and puncturing is a problem, especially with thinner, cheaper products. It’s better to spend a bit more at the start and have something that’ll last. The Duerer inflatable pool is still reasonably priced (£52.99) but is twice as thick as most on the market and comes with a repair patch. It’s 300 x 182 x 56cm. Come summer and you’ll be paying over £80 for the same product.
Still, we’d advise that before you set it up, check the ground underneath and remove anything the liner might catch on, like sharp stones and twigs. You’ll also want to invest in an electric pump to inflate it, but these can be bought for around £15.
Need to get your garden ready for an event? If you’re tired of mowing the lawn yourself, check out our review of the Sømløs G1 robot lawnmower, which is optimised for mowing big gardens.