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How to keep warm while out in the garden

Common sense advice we all need reminding of occasionally!

Whether you’re trying to get your plants through the colder months or giving chilly wildlife a helping hand, you may find yourself heading to the garden. When you do, make sure to keep warm and safe with a good mix of common sense, hot drinks and our winter warmth tips!

The sheds and gardens of Britain won’t have seen much pottering recently- most of us will have been safely hunkering down indoors. But the outdoors sometimes has other plans. From looking after local wildlife to broken guttering to clearing away snow, bad weather sometimes can’t be avoided. When you do venture out, make sure you keep warm to avoid illness or injury as a result of the freezing temperatures.


1.Be warm before you go out

Keeping warm is all about preventing your body’s core temperature from falling too far- it will fall, but the higher it is when you set out, and better you’re insulated against heat loss, the longer before you begin to feel the chill. Before you head outside make sure you’re nice and warm to avoid the chilling effects of cold wind. Keeping warm is actually about retaining heat, so put your jumper, coat and shoes near a radiator. Have a hot cup of tea before heading out. Make sure your coat is done up and your hat’s on before leaving the door. These small things all help retain the heat you built up indoors.


2.Layer up

Without getting too scientific, it’s not the clothes themselves that keep you warm: it’s the warm air they trap. Therefore the idea of creating as many pockets of warm air as possible, by layering clothes on top of one another, is now widely seen as better for warmth than one very thick outer layer. In addition, it allows flexibility, taking off one layer without removing too large a part of your own protection from the cold. Advanced modern fabrics are excellent for this sort of careful layering, however wool is an excellent choice, warm but breathable. This reduces sweating, which helps keep you warm but dry- very important in cold weather.


3. Put the kettle on

Regular hot drinks are a great (and delicious) way to boost your body’s temperature. Just holding a warm cup of tea, coffee or cocoa can make a big difference- as well as being a morale booster when working hard in the frost! Of course- most of us won't need reminding of this fact! Regularly topping up from a thermos is a must for everyone outdoors for longer than a few hours.


4. Avoid moisture

There’s nothing worse than being cold…except being cold and wet. Moisture permeates fabric and drops the temperature right down to freezing. Water is far more effective at causing heat loss from the body than air. Warm, waterproof gloves, such as ski gloves, are far better than simple fabric ones that, once wet, will lose all their thermal qualities. Take care as ice may cover puddles which, once disturbed and cracked, might leave an unsuspecting gardener soggy and freezing! If you clothing gets wet, make sure to change it. Similarly, while keeping moving is, of course, a sure way to warm up, building up too much of a sweat can cause your body temperature to drop, as the moisture loses its heat and quickly becomes very cold.


5. Try not to get dirty

This might sound like strange advice for gardening- but contact with soil is by far the fastest way to sap heat from your body. Cold soil is icy and very slow to warm up. Only dig, or handle earth with gloves on- otherwise you’ll quickly feel the nip. Wear suitable shoes that won’t pick up cold earth or freezing mud. And remember to clean any tools you've used, as icy mud can cling on and cause damage to metal or fabric.


6. Wear a hat

Have you heard that most heat leaves your body through the head? This has been debunked as a bit of a myth, however because of the amounts of blood present, it’s true that both the head, face and chest sense temperature changes more sensitively than other body parts, and, if uncovered, you will lose most heat through the head- but only because it's uncovered when other parts are wrapped up warm. 


Common sense advice such as this can make a big difference, from preventing muscles & joints seizing up to reducing illness and, of course, helping maximise time spent keeping your garden from lapsing into frost-ravaged tundra come spring.