You may be ready for winter, but what about your outdoor spaces? Your garden and patio furniture deserve some TLC, too, before leaving them to the vicissitudes of the cold months. Don’t fret; there’s plenty you can do now to make maintaining your outdoor areas easier later.
Washing and Tidying
First, step back and look at the big picture. How many larger items do you have in your backyard, garden or patio
area? To ensure a long lifespan for your retractable deck awnings, summer pool covers and sun umbrellas, make sure you wash them well with a garden hose and biodegradable detergent. Allow them to thoroughly dry before folding them up for the winter. When you do this, check to see how well these items are holding up to normal wear and tear. Evaluate whether any of them will need a replacement before next spring’s outdoor season begins again.
If you have a wooden deck or porch, check it as well. Wash any debris off and add protective coatings of paint or varnish if necessary. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snowfall, make sure all clutter, such as grills, are out of the way so you’ll be able to get to the porch for snow removal.
Tidy up the open areas next. If you, again, live in an area that gets a lot of snowfall or if you have many trees that are about to drop their leaves all over your grass, move the garden gnomes, decorative flamingoes and whatever else you have in the open spaces off to the sides. This will make shoveling snow, raking leaves and dealing with springtime weeds easier. That’s not to say that you should get rid of anything whimsical in your outdoor spaces; simply make sure any nonessential items are placed out of the way.
Touch Up Scratches and Weathering
Outdoor tables, benches and birdfeeders should also be thoroughly cleaned and inspected for sun damage, even if you don’t plan on storing them inside for the winter. This is a golden opportunity to do any preventative maintenance on these big-ticket, useful items. If you notice any warping on wooden furniture, see if you can stop the deterioration in its tracks with a well-timed coat of primer, oil or varnish. If anything will need to be refinished, bring it in out of the elements now, rather than leaving it in place until you get around to it. What may be a simple sand-and-paint job in December may turn into a total overhaul by March, especially if you live in a wet climate.
It can be tempting to leave metal and plastic outdoor furniture to its own devices, figuring that it’s built well enough to withstand a mild winter. However, you’ll save a lot of money on replacing your outdoor furniture later if you take care of it now. Look for scratches on metal furniture or garden decorations, and see if you can touch them up with a simple coat of anti-rust spray from the local hardware store. Be especially vigilant of chair and table legs and the frames of doors where quick-moving adults and playing kids may have scuffed with their shoes. Plastic garden furniture and accouterments, on the other hand, may need to be oiled or given a quick coat of paint, depending on how porous the surface is. If you find that your plastic outdoor furniture’s color is fading from seasons in the sun, you’ll want to be extra sure to halt the deterioration before it becomes brittle from extended exposure to UV rays.
Double-Check Windows and Doors
Keep the winter weather outdoors by double-checking that your screen doors and windows have appropriate seals around the edges, and that your doors haven’t developed any drafts or chinks in the weather-stripping since the last cold season. Go around the outside of the house making a list of chores for next spring. Luckily, you’ll have the winter ahead of you to plan.
Image by Matt Buck from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author:Sheila Nelson divides her time between her homes in Iowa and Florida. She enjoys celebrating the change of every season, despite the extra work it takes.