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A guide to getting your outdoor area ready for summer

By Shaye Williams

A change in season is always welcomed, especially when it’s summer. We lather on sunscreen. We walk to the service station for an impromptu ice cream. We then recline in our backyard in the sun while watching the bed sheets dry on the clothesline in record time.

While the beach and day trips down the coast offer a supreme taste of summer, you can experience the same joys at home by sprucing up your outdoor area ahead of the warmer months arriving.

Landscape designer Penny Starr of Penny Starr Design says one of the simplest and low-maintenance ways to prep your garden for summer is to add fresh mulch to your plants.

“Mulch helps suppress weeds, retain moisture in the soil while also keeping it cool, and will make your garden look neater,” she says.

Starr prefers to use organic mulch in her garden designs, as when it breaks down it adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

When incorporating the mulch to your garden she says, “Make sure the area is weeded, then wet the soil first and apply the mulch at 75-millimetre depth, there’s no need to dig it in like you would if adding compost.”

Starr recommends replacing with fresh mulch every 12 to 18 months.

Home gardener Genevieve Kulesza comes from a long line of gardeners and takes great pride in her Collingwood garden, which she is mid-DIY renovating ahead of summer.

“I think starting small and focusing on one area at a time can really help when gardening,” she says.

Kulesza’s personal rule when gardening is to “plant what you want to eat, see and smell”.

It’s a system that’s worked for her, where she’s integrated gardenias for fragrance, a Japanese maple for shade and a variety of herbs.

“I tend to plant a lot of herbs because they grow really quickly and transition nicely from a summer salad to a cocktail garnish.”

If you’re looking to add some al fresco vibes to your outdoor area, whether that be a backyard or apartment balcony, Starr wants you to think about how you intend to use it first.

“Do you want to just have people around for coffee and drinks or do you want to host a larger group for dinner?” she says.

For smaller gatherings, Starr suggests lounge seating and a coffee table.

“I think stackable furniture is also really great if you need to store it elsewhere, and I really like timber stools that can double as side tables and coffee tables,” she says.

For more bang for your buck, opt for stools that have indoor-outdoor applications and are weather-tolerant, so you can move them across both living zones at your discretion.

Besides your guests hanging around the outdoor table, you might have a few unwanted guests hovering too: mosquitoes.

To remedy this, Starr’s preferred repellents include “citronella candles or throwing a few sprigs of rosemary on the barbecue”.

The herb’s woody scent keeps mosquitoes at bay.

When styling her garden, Kulesza opts for clusters of pots at various sizes and heights, and even some that are hanging or affixed to the wall with cascading foliage, in odd numbers.

“I think pots are especially good for renters as you can take your hard gardening work with you if you move,” she says.

“You can also be really inventive with what you use for pots and use lots of found objects, as long as it has drainage holes, and if it doesn’t you can drill a small hole in its base.”

Kulesza also advises “heading into summer it’s better to grow in bigger pots because the smaller pots will dry out really quickly”.

While we’re still in spring though, Starr suggests giving your garden a spring clean ahead of the warmer months with some maintenance.

“It’s a good time to give the paved areas a wash with a high-pressure hose or sugar soap. You can even consider sealing your paving areas, which will prevent them from staining.”

Timber decks require a little more maintenance.

“There’s some good natural decking oils on the market and most of the application is DIY.”

Integrating a lighting option into your outdoor area is also crucial for those times when afternoon drinks segues into an evening barbecue.

“Outdoor lamps, floor lamps, and hanging and strand lamps are a good option and available at lots of different price points, from LED lights from hardware stores to designer pieces that can be used for both task and ambient lighting,” Starr says.


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