How to make your out­door space ready for au­tumn

Whitsunday Times - - REAL ESTATE -

NOD your head if, when spring rolls around, you go into a back­yard clean­ing frenzy: Weed­ing the gar­den beds within an inch of their life in prepa­ra­tion for the months of en­ter­tain­ing that lie ahead? Many of us are guilty. Now, try to re­mem­ber how good your gar­den looked af­ter­wards and how much time you spent out­side in the weeks that fol­lowed. Okay, so the weather was lush – but with a few sum­mer-to-au­tumn gar­den tricks, you’ll have your out­door spa­ces look­ing cosy and use­able for the au­tum­nal nights ahead.

DIY fire pit

The cold can hold us back from do­ing a lot of things we love and it’s the ob­vi­ous road­block to spend­ing time out­doors in au­tumn. But there’s no need to send your guests pack­ing when dark­ness falls. Why not gather ev­ery­one around your brand-new fire pit for some good old-fash­ioned camp­fire bond­ing? You can pick up an af­ford­able fire pit from your lo­cal hard­ward store, but they’re also easy to make your­self from re­claimed ren­o­va­tion ma­te­ri­als.

Opt for win­ter pots

To up your out­door green­ery ante in au­tumn, opt for pot plants so that when the cool weather comes you can eas­ily move the pots around – which will pro­tect them from the el­e­ments. Gavin Cole, hor­ti­cul­tur­ist with ACS Digital Ed­u­ca­tion, says keep­ing your plants mobile al­lows you to keep them out of tor­ren­tial rain or place them in the sun when re­quired. Gavin says pot plants do need to be wa­tered more fre­quently than gar­den plants, so it’s im­por­tant you don’t ne­glect them. If it’s rain­ing? That doesn’t mean you should stop wa­ter­ing the plants: “You should ease off wa­ter­ing over win­ter but shouldn’t ne­glect it al­to­gether,” he says. “Very of­ten rain ac­tu­ally bounces off the leaves – so if you’ve got a plant with a full canopy you’ve got to be vig­i­lant about wa­ter­ing once or twice a week.” Gavin’s top au­tumn picks for pots, win­dow boxes and hang­ing bas­kets: Bulbs for colour: Snow­drops, hy­acinths, daf­fodils (these will flower late win­ter), snowflakes, cy­cla­men, amaryl­lis, anemone. An­nu­als and peren­ni­als: Marigolds, wall­flow­ers, prim­u­las, pan­sies, vi­o­lets, sweet peas, cineraria.

Find the blooms in win­ter shrubs & trees

Many Euro­pean trees lose their leaves and fo­liage in win­ter, but Aus­tralia is quite lucky to have many na­tives that also pro­duce win­ter flow­ers. “Among the best ones would be wat­tles, gre­vil­lea, banksia and some tea trees,” Gavin says. If you want to add a bit of colour in your gar­den, Gavin sug­gests get­ting ac­quainted with the win­ter berry fam­ily (holly trees, co­toneaster), de­cid­u­ous mag­no­lias, camel­lia, daphnes, hibis­cus, rhodo­den­dron and aza­leas. Cherry trees also pro­duce a beau­ti­ful bloom in win­ter.

Re­plant your veg­gie patch

Get rid of your toma­toes and cu­cum­bers, be­cause we’re near­ing the mid­dle of au­tumn and those sum­mer crops will be look­ing a bit tired. It’s time to tran­si­tion to cool sea­son crops. The types of veg­gies you should plant de­pends on where you are in Aus­tralia, with top-end gar­den­ers the most re­stricted in terms of va­ri­ety. Milder win­ters (tem­per­a­tures above 4 de­grees): ■ Beet­root ■ Car­rots ■ Cau­li­flower ■ Chi­nese cab­bage ■ Pota­toes ■ Parsnip ■ Cel­ery ■ Let­tuce Colder win­ters (tem­per­a­tures below 4 de­grees): ■ Broc­coli ■ Brus­sel sprouts ■ Onions, gar­lic, leeks, shal­lots ■ Swedes, turnips ■ Spinach, kale Be­fore plant­ing cool-cli­mate crops, it’s im­por­tant to re­plen­ish the soil, putting in some well-rot­ted or­ganic mat­ter, such as food scrap com­post, and fin­ish with a layer of mulch. “The mulch will keep the soil warmer around the roots, giv­ing your crops the best chance to con­tinue grow­ing,” says Gavin. It’s also good gar­den hy­giene to get rid of all de­cay­ing left­over mat­ter from sum­mer. “If you don’t there’s a risk that you en­cour­age things like fun­gal spores,” he says. TIP: Most win­ter veg­eta­bles take be­tween three to six months to grow from seeds, so if you’re go­ing down this path, plant them now! If you’re get­ting started a bit later, make sure you pick seedlings so they reach ma­tu­rity in time for win­ter.

Cover up your dining set­ting

In larger gar­dens, try hav­ing a few dif­fer­ent set­tings to es­cape the in­doors – and not all need to be cov­ered. For the main en­ter­tain­ing space, how­ever, it pays to in­vest in some sort of cover. Or if you’re ren­o­vat­ing, work this into the de­sign. With a fire pit or out­door heater to take care of the cold, there’s noth­ing nicer than watch­ing rain pelt down from your com­pletely dry, front-row seat.

Cosy up your out­door vibe

Gone are the days of cold, hard plas­tic out­door fur­ni­ture – of­ten left drip­ping and forgotten in the rain. Once you’ve got your cov­ered pa­tio sorted, the op­tions are end­less. You can in­tro­duce cush­ions, throws, soft fur­nish­ings and even rugs into your out­door space. Think of it as turn­ing the out­door area into an­other liv­ing room, with com­fort­ing tex­tures and warm tones for au­tumn.

Maximise in­door-out­door flow

Okay, so you’re not go­ing to be leav­ing the doors wide open let­ting all the chilly air into the house, but in­door-out­door flow is im­por­tant to avoid for­get­ting about your out­door spa­ces com­pletely. In­vest in big open­ings be­tween your in­door and out­door liv­ing spa­ces to con­nect the two ar­eas, blur­ring the vis­ual bar­ri­ers. Floor-to-ceil­ing glass pocket or ac­cor­dion doors will do the trick – then even if it’s too cold to be out­side, you can still en­joy the out­look the space of­fers. —

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