Prepare the back yard for the long, cold winter
Appearance-wise, Hank Stefanetti is still in summer mode—evenly tanned and sporting a light, button-up Tommy Bahama shirt, shorts and flip flops. But as he surveys his large back yard, which takes up about a quarter-acre of his lot in the southeast corner of Chico, Stefanetti is already beginning to think about the coming winter.
As the summer heat gradually loosens its grip and gives way to shorter days and cool breezes, it’s probably as good a time as any to start thinking about winterizing your back yard.
Stefanetti moved to Chico from the Bay Area in 2002 and enlisted Hanson & Hanson Landscape Consultants to set up his backyard, which includes 22 varieties of plants, two ponds, a small waterfall and a stream.
Since then he has developed his own routine for maintaining his yard and protecting his outdoor furniture against the elements.
“The Internet is a wonderful source for amateurs like me,” Stefanetti confides with a smile.
Stefanetti says the first line of business is giving everything a good trim—cutting the grass extra short before it goes into its dormant state. Trees and plants, on the other hand, shouldn’t be trimmed too far back. Doing so, Stefanetti said, will expose the root ball and kill the greenery.
When things get really cold, Stefanetti said it’s essential to wrap up water lines and that he even will wrap sensitive shrubs in dish towels to protect them from a hard freeze.
While extreme cold can damage vegetation, it doesn’t take much to wreak havoc on outdoor furniture either, says Carol Kayser, who owns Backyard Living with her husband Warren.
“Dust that builds up on furniture will even cause mildew,” Kayser explains, adding that there are some simple ways to extend the life of expensive outdoor furniture.
She notes that before storing it for the winter, furniture such as tables, chairs and even umbrellas should be scrubbed with dishwashing soap and water. If mildew has already crept on to furniture, add a quarter-cup of bleach to the mix. And when storing furniture, Kayser says, everything should be kept upright to ensure proper drainage.
Caring for bigger, more expensive outdoor equipment, namely pools and spas, takes a little more work.
If a spa has a wood cabinet, Kayser says, an oil-based stain like Duck Back is perfect. For vinyl spas, an alcohol-free protectant will do. She recommends 303 Vinyl Protectant for the job. Kayser notes that it’s a good idea to replace the spa’s filter or give it a thorough cleaning to get rid of invisible body oils, hair products and skin.
An easier way of protecting spas is putting a gazebo around them—something Stefanetti has done himself, allowing him the luxury of soaking year-round.
“It’s storming like a mad-dog out there and you can still relax in the hot tub,” he says.
A little elbow grease early on makes for a long winter of kicking back in the spa with a glass of wine and the piece of mind that everything will be ready to go when the sun returns.