Winter Outdoor Check-list
It’s not just about the plants
There is always plenty of work to be done preparing your plants, trees and shrubs for the winter weather. After all, proper care in the colder months not only protects the landscape we’ve worked hard to create, but promotes increased health in the next growing season. Much as we love our gardens, plants don’t water or deadhead themselves and weeds seem to grow by moonlight. So for many gardeners, the dormant season is a welcome break in the daily, weekly and monthly routine we know so well. But, before you settle in with a book and a warm cup of tea, be sure your winter garden checklist is completed. Beyond the list of permanent items such as plants, trees, hose bibs, furnaces and gutters, another list includes those wonderful investments you’ve made in improving your outdoor spaces like: fountains, containers and pots, and outdoor furniture.
Proper care is key to getting the most out of your outdoor living investments. Remember the puppy that was so cute, who now lives alone in the backyard? Outdoor furniture can suffer the same fate. Summers we are attentive to patio furniture, spending time and regular care as we entertain and enjoy the warmer weather. Fall seems to come overnight, and what once was a comfortable spot to relax, is no more.
Here are a few tips for optimum care of your outdoor living investments.
It’s all about the material, so be sure you know what your furniture is made of. And that includes the frame and any hardware. Best case scenario for all furniture is to store it in a warm dry place. However this extra space is a luxury for many of us. Next best is undercover outside, in a shed or under an eave. Covers are recommended for outdoor winter storage. Not only do they protect the pieces from the elements, but those unforeseen hazards like for the customer whose beautiful outdoor furniture became a winter home for the neighborhood stray cats. If you must leave your outdoor furniture outside choose a good quality cover and be sure it fits your piece properly; covers which sag with pooling water will not provide the best protection.
Cushions and umbrellas. Depending on what they are made of, most cushions are water resistant and can be stored with your furniture. Check the tag for care instructions. Or store them in a plastic bag indoors. Umbrellas should be covered and stored in a dry place.
Wrought iron or metal. Check your pieces carefully for rust. If you find any, use a wire brush or soft steel wool pad to clean the surface. Apply a rust-preventing outdoor paint. Cover or store in a covered area preferably indoors.
Aluminum Furniture will not rust, so covering it to avoid rust is not needed. However the protection a good cover provides is always preferable to being exposed to the elements. If you leave aluminum furniture out uncovered, more care will be required in the spring to remove mold, dirt or/and natural debris like pine needles and leaves.
All-weather-wicker, will not rust and is weather resistant (check to see if the frame or core is aluminum or other metal). The best quality all weather wicker is made of durable Poly-Ethylene and will not rust or fade. Nevertheless, a cover will protect the pieces through the winter months.
Wood furniture. Wood is naturally beautiful, yet does require care to keep it looking good. Many are susceptible to molds and mildews if exposed to wetness for extended periods. It’s advised to sand and re-seal the finish every couple years unless you prefer a weathered look. Hard woods like eucalyptus should be treated with a clear coat lacquer specifically formulated for these woods. Soft woods, like oak or cedar require a general weather sealant design to treat wood. This care also applies to wood planters.
Drain and cover fountains at first frost. Remember freezing water can damage both your fountain and the pump. Pull the plug in the central bowl and drain or use wet-dry vac to remove water. By no means use anti-freeze as it will ruin the finish, damage the pump and endanger domestic animals and resident wildlife!
Statuary: Concrete is very low care aside from a bit of mildew from time to time. Leave it out in the weather. Clean with a mild cleanser and water (no bleach) and a soft bristle brush.
Pots: Frost resistant pots are fine to be left outdoors in our area as long as there’s no standing water inside. Non frost resistant pots should be wrapped in an insulating material like old blanket or bubble wrap. If possible store in a covered area or if size prohibits moving the pot, wrap it and leave it in place. Remember to water planted pots that are stored out of rainfall.