Winter is just over the horizon and will be here before we know it. Melbourne is blessed with relatively mild winters, but it is none the less essential to make some basic preparations. We can carry out any and all garden maintenance tasks for you, but for those of you who like to keep their hands close to the soil we’ve made an autumn preparations checklist.
First things first. Clearing your garden of dead plants and debris is not only a way to deter pests from overwintering in it, but also a good way to gather composting materials.
- Start by removing all annual plants that have perished or are unwanted and throw them in the compost heap. Tidy the borders of your garden and check your other plants for branches or stalks that should be removed. Be careful with those. If they’ve died out due to a disease or pests don’t add them to the compost. Same goes for any weeds and parasitic plants you’ve gathered during the clean up. That’s asking for trouble, since you can potentially spread unwanted seeds in your garden with the compost.
- Next rake all the leaves in your yard. You can either just throw them straight into the composter or keep them separate to make leaf mould which adds rich organic matter to the soil. The easiest way is to use rubbish bags with some holes poked in the sides. Fill them with leaves sprinkled with water to provide the needed moisture. Next tie the bags and store them. The process will take around 2 years but after that you will be left with a wonderful organic mulch that will enrich your soil.
- Autumn is the perfect time to spread your stored compost to keep your garden fed throughout the winter. If it isn’t ready you should turn the pile to aerate it thus speeding up the process. This is why usually it’s a good idea to have 3 compost bins. One for freshly started compost, one with maturing compost, and one with compost that is ready for use. For more info check out this post about compost.
- If you have a greenhouse, then you can be sure that’s prime real estate for insects looking for a place to overwinter. That is why you should thoroughly disinfect it before autumn is halved. Take care of the paths, shelving, and inside of the glass. Leave it open for a few days or as long as it takes for it to be completely dried. Don’t forget to take care of the greenhouse gutters as they can get clogged and prevent water drainage from the roof.
- Ponds should be cleaned of any debris and leaves, since they can clog up filters or pumps. Additionally decomposing leaves in the water can turn it foul. You can save effort by stretching a fine net over the pond.
Now that you’ve cleared up your garden, there are some things that you can do to make the winter lighter on your yard. Autumn preparations are also essential if you want to revitalise your garden more effortlessly as soon as the temperatures start climbing again.
- A good place to start is your lawn. Cutting it lower than usual right before winter will help the soil dry quicker in spring. Use a spring tined rake to clean any thatch and moss from your lawn. More material for the composter. In high traffic places and play areas the soil usually gets compacted preventing aeration and drainage. The simplest method of prevention for this is stabbing holes in the soil deeply around 10cm apart from each other to make it looser. Your garden fork will get the job done nicely. Lastly a sandy top dressing can be applied to further protect your lawn.
- Prepare the soil of your garden beds for next years planting or the bulbs you are about to plant in autumn by tilling it. After you’ve cleaned up the beds, tidied up the borders, and tilled the soil a good idea is to lay a generous layer of compost or well aged manure over it.
- Mulching can keep your overwintering plants from freezing and is downright essential for plants that have exposed roots. You can use the thatch you’ve gathered from your lawn to this extent or any other dry organic material.
- If you have any gentle potted plants outside, you should naturally find them a warmer spot for the winter. Some species of plants will need more than mulch to protect them from the lower temperatures. Plants that have rhizomes/tubers/bulbs can be lifted and stored to be replanted in spring. Cut back their stalks and bury them in trays of dry sand with just the top visible.
- Take care of your tools and watering equipment. Hoses and drip-feed irrigation should have no water inside of them and be stored in a dry spot. Send your lawnmower for maintenance before putting it away, sharpen shears and cutting tools, and give your shovels a good wash. It’s always worth coating your tools with anti-rust agents when they are about to sit for extended periods of time. All of this will give you a leg up when starting back up in spring.
Autumn is actually the perfect time to make rearrangements in your garden, because of the still warm soil. Go over the beds and think about moving plants that were previously poorly positioned. Warm soil and cooler air are also the perfect conditions for putting down evergreens, so if you wanted to introduce them in your garden – Now is the perfect time! There are also some decorative species the bulbs of which can be planted before winter. If you want color as soon as spring hits, it’s worth researching those.