Don’t let the cooler temperatures of winter freeze you out of the garden. Jody Rigby shares her tips on how to keep busy in the backyard

Warming up winter

Winter temperatures are no excuse to stay indoors. When the evening chill starts to bite there are plenty of chic heating solutions to warm the backyard. Café-style patio heaters have been around for a while but have been superseded in the style stakes by the growing popularity of fire pits and eco fires. As the name suggests, eco fires are fuelled by ‘denatured ethanol’ produced from agricultural products such as sugarcane, potatoes, wheat, barley and corn, and they don’t produce smoke or fumes while burning.

According to Gerard Buckett of Kenmore-based distributor Ambience Eco Fires, they are also economical to operate as a 1.7 litre fuel box can burn up to seven hours at a cost of approximately $3.50 per litre. They also look fantastic in the landscape without taking up too much room.

There are many great ways to bring some warmth into the garden as eco fire units can be mounted on tables or pedestals, or set in an outdoor chimney, corner or wall. German-designed Ambience tabletop flames start at about $1300 (plus fuel) while stand-alone floor units start at about $2295 and fire plates (or dishes) are available from $1295 (see their website). EcoSmart Fire has designs suitable for balconies and courtyards, including the contemporary and portable steel wire Bulb design (RRP$895), Stix (from RRP$1195) or the Dish (RRP$595). See www.ecosmartfire.com. Bunnings also has fire pits available from RRP$39.

 

Winter vegetables

It’s not too late to plant kale, cabbage and cauliflower but make sure the bed is prepped with lots of compost and organic fertilisers.

Plant root vegetables such as turnips, carrots or radish directly into the garden bed to avoid root disturbance and possible damage in transplanting; you’ll be saving the precious roots that will eventually turn into your crop.

If space is limited, plant vertically with climbing plants such as broad beans. Oasis Horticulture supplies an Early Crop broad bean which is perfect for growing up a simple tripod in planter boxes and, as they are nitrogen fixers, are good to use in your crop rotation plan for next season.

Plant citrus and other fruit trees and shrubs now, such as blood oranges, blueberries, dragon fruit or grumichama (the warm climate equivalent of a cherry).

 

Build a pool

It may be too cool for swimming but now is the time to look ahead to summer if you want a pool. David Crossen from Mainstream Pools in Loganholme says it’s better to build in winter to beat the ‘Christmas rush’ – that time just before the holidays when everyone wants their pool finished.

Do your research and select a reputable builder. For example, a pool builder should ask for a soil test to be done to help predict excavation costs. Find out more tips and information before you start from the Swimming Pool and Spa Alliance (SPASA), which even provides a contract checklist. See www.spasa.org.au.

Pool shapes range from ultra-modern to the free-form lagoon style that brings the resort look into the backyard. According to Crossen, viewing windows in the pool wall are particularly popular as they make a good talking point and can have practical purposes, for example throwing light onto an area adjacent to the window. Glass beads can be used at the water’s edge instead of a more traditional pebble finish, adding stronger colours and a smoother touch to the poolside surface.

 

Floral display

Red hot pokers, hibiscus, the heady blooms of wattle, colourful bracts of poinsettia and the vigorous climber orange trumpet put on a brilliant display of colour throughout winter. Natives like grevilleas, paper daisies and the strong purple flowers of the creeping hardenbergia brighten up a native garden. But if you want to add some quick colour to a winter garden, annuals including pretty Pansy Plentifall Trailing Violet Wing or Natural Beauty Viola in Blackberry Cream by Floriana flower six to eight weeks after planting (available from Bunnings).

 

As seen in bmag issue 259