Your guide to winter-proofing outdoor spaces

There’s no need to batten down the hatches and retreat entirely indoors this winter. Landart Landscapes’ Matt Leacy has a range of tips to ensure your outdoor spaces continue to flourish throughout the cooler months

Design advice from Matt Leacy, Landart Landscapes

Garden maintenance essentials

As temperatures drop, it’s important to increase focus on lawn maintenance.

The quality of lawns can severely and quickly degrade in winter if you aren’t taking the right steps – and it can take a lot longer to fix lawns than it did for them to end up in bad shape.

In winter, it’s critical to increase aeration of the turf zone to prevent it drying out.

For large lawns, a motorised aerator can be useful – but a garden fork or a pair of spiked aerator shoes should also do the job if the lawn isn’t huge.

You’ve just got to be careful not to cut into any irrigation lines running underneath the lawn as this can be a very annoying mistake to rectify, and potentially expensive if you can’t fix it yourself.

I’d also recommend fertilising the lawn in August as this will help to get everything in tip-top condition moving into spring.

Aeration and growth of the lawn will also be assisted by mowing a little higher during the cooler months. Doing so will help to maximise natural sunlight and photosynthesis to the lawn.”

Maintenance and aeration will also be important in the garden beds.

To this end, I recommend covering all garden beds with a thick layer of mulch – around 70-100 millimetres deep as a general rule-of-thumb.

Mulching will help to suppress weed-growth, as well as insulating the soil, in turn delivering nutrients and minimising water loss.

Mulching can actually reduce the need for watering by up to 60 per cent, depending on how dry the conditions are.

Winter also brings with it a need for fine pruning.

Warming features

There are plenty of ways to boost warmth in outdoor spaces as winter conditions set in.

Outdoor heating can be bolstered through outdoor heaters, fire pits and even outdoor fire places

The best choice will depend on your budget and outdoor aesthetic, but there is variety of options at both the top end and lower end of the market.

Fire pits create great ambience and inject a real sense of cosiness into any outdoor space – whether they’re in-built or the more basic iron or steel bowl.

Strip heating in a more confined outdoor space can also help to boost temperature, as can creating wind blocks through screening on porches and around other key entertaining areas.

You can also introduce cover from the elements through pergolas, retractable awnings and gazebos.

Add to these some cosy blankets, rugs and cushions, and you’ve got no reason to stay outdoors during winter.

When it comes to outdoor seating and the like, try to opt for mildew-resistant materials for linens and pillows, and choose colours that will create warmth and cosiness, and encourage you to spend time outdoors.

It’s also important to recognise that you may get less natural light in winter, so it might be worthwhile investing in some outdoor lighting so you can continue to maximise time spent outdoors as the sun sets earlier.

There are plenty of options to choose from depending on your budget and the look you’re trying to achieve – from LED lighting and festoon lights to overhead pendant lights, strip lights and even more basic mood and up-lights.

Winter pool-heating

The cooling of the seasons doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stop using a focal point of the backyard – the family pool.

By introducing some pool-heating, you can significantly extend the time that you and your family enjoy the pool.

There are electric, gas and solar heaters on the market, all of which have pros and cons depending on the natural temperature of your pool and how much you intend to use it.

If you want to swim comfortably all winter and be able to heat the pool up quickly, as well as have tight control over the temperature, gas will be the best option for you.

Gas will, however, make the biggest dent in your electricity bill and the environment.

Alternatively, you might consider solar and electric heat pumps, but these won’t keep most people swimming all winter.

Solar heaters use the sun to naturally warm the pool up, and they can increase your swim-season by up to two months.

With solar heaters, water temperature will depend largely on weather conditions, but in general, you’ll achieve quite a comfortable temperature. Solar is also the best option in terms of cost and environmental efficiency.”

You’ve also got electric heat pumps, which have improved a lot over the years. They will help your pool maintain a consistent temperature, but they’ll also need a bit of time to generate heat. They’re not the ideal option if you want a pool heated overnight.

In addition to pool heaters, I’d recommend using a pool cover to insulate the water and retain heat overnight.

Pool covers also help to reduce your chemical requirements over winter – as well as the amount of evaporation your pool experiences.

About the author

Co-founder of the award-winning Willoughby-based Landart Landscapes, Matt Leacy has more than 20 years’ experience in design, construction and maintenance services across landscaping and pool installation for both residential and commercial properties.

Matt is a qualified structural landscaper, designer, horticulturalist and current board member – and former president – of the LNA Master Landscapers Association, which isthe equivalent of the Master Builders Association for the landscaping industry.

Matt has also worked with City of Sydney in recent years, spearheading their Living Colour installations to bring life and colour to inner-city streets.

Matt is a regular media commentator and column writer and also co-hosted Channel Nine’s Garden Gurus and three seasons of Domestic Blitz, as well as recently featuring in ABC TV’sDream Gardens.

A selection of Matt’s work can be found at the newly rebranded www.landart.com.au

Story by: Matt Leacy

Photography by: Jason Busch

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