While the temperature is dropping and cooler weather is right around the corner, you don't need to stop using your backyard or patio. With a few adjustments, the outside can be hospitable for any outdoor activity and easily turned into a comfortable oasis, despite the cooler weather. From choosing the right outdoor plants to protecting your patio furniture, your backyard can be used year round. The following tips will get your outdoor area ready for winter entertaining.
Winterize patio furniture to ensure durability. Having a set of outdoor patio furniture is crucial if you want to entertain guests or just enjoy a book outdoors. But before the temperatures drop, take care of some basic maintenance to ensure your furniture lasts into spring. For starters, wash off any outdoor cushions on a warm, sunny day. Then let them air dry completely. Keep your cushions indoors in a shed or basement when not in use, setting them out only when you want to use them. Indoor storage prevents mold growth.
What else can you do to get your patio furniture ready for winter? Power-wash plastic furniture, then towel dry and store inside when it's not in use. Store all other patio furniture indoors when not in use or use special heavy covers to protect it from the elements.
Keep your pond open through the winter. With cold temperatures, a new pond owner might not know how to continue maintaining the pond. According ot Richard Ross, the "Pondmeister" and owner of ThePondOutlet.com in Los Angeles, California, ponds can run all year in warm locations such as Los Angeles. Ross advises that in order to keep your pond running in cooler temperatures, "Use an aerator pump that pumps air into the water. The bubbles prevent the water from freezing."
Go under a cover. If you have a gazebo or porch, make it a four-season structure by adding canvas or vinyl covers. The covers can snap in place, keeping the structure warm, airtight and dry, even on a cold night or during a rainstorm. In addition, many of the covers include see-through panels, allowing you and your guests to still enjoy the scenery while staying warm. A vinyl or canvas panel also allows for a temporary change to your backyard structure; simply remove the panels and clean them when warm weather returns.
Turn up the heat. If you want to read, dine al fresco or simply want a warm spot on your patio, consider raising the temperature. An outdoor heat lamp can keep your patio warm while also providing much-needed light after sunset. If you want a more natural heat source, consider using a fire pit. Either build a fire pit directly in your yard or purchase a portable pit that can be moved.
Brighten the landscape with potted plants. Although the calendar might say it's winter, you can still plant flowers for a splash of color in your backyard or patio. Jim Hubbard, a staff member of Pine Lake Nursery in Tampa, Florida, suggests planting hardy annuals like petunias, pansies and violas for winter. These plants can be grown in pots to take advantage of the best sunny spots in your yard. "If you are planting these in a pot, you will need to water them on a regular basis because potted plants tend to dry out faster than flowers planted in the soil," he said.
Give your trees a quick makeover. When turning your backyard into a winter oasis, don't forget about your trees. After all, a tree with numerous dead, bare branches can look scraggly. Prune back dead, broken or crossing branches during the winter months to keep your trees in good condition. But don't get overzealous with the pruning shears. According to the Sacramento Tree Foundation, you should not remove more than 25 percent of a tree's live branches at any time.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I'm a Trader Joe's Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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