Who said there’s no such thing as winter gardening? Yes, winter days are much shorter and the nights are much colder, but that doesn’t mean you should stay snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of hot cocoa in hand, although it might be tempting.
But if you’re a gardening enthusiast, you can always find something to do. After all, gardening jobs never end. Winter, for example, is the best time for tidying up your garden, pruning the plants, and preparing for spring. Luckily, the cool season in Australia is not too cold and frosty. Technically, the one thing keeping you from accessing your garden is the mental barrier, not the physical one. So, we’ve prepared some winter gardening tips to destroy your mental block and give you a head start.
Winter gardening jobs
Start by cleaning your gutters. Leaves, branches, and other debris can clog even the widest gutters. And when they become wet, they will block the flow of water. Thus, they might cause overflowing into the roofline and possibly cause damage to your ceilings and walls.
Some potted plants are more susceptible to the cold weather than others. Move the ones, which prefer warmer conditions to a more protected spot.
Build a frame around garden plants that don’t tolerate frost. At night, put a piece of cloth or an old blanket over the frame to protect them.
Take care of your garden tools. Now is the perfect time to clean and sharpen your tools. Also, wash the gardening gloves and check if any of your personal protective equipment needs replacing. As for your lawnmower, it’s best to send it in for maintenance.
Track the moisture and temperature of your compost pile. Check the compost heap to see if it’s not getting too wet. If so, put an old cloth over it. In addition, check its temperature. If the temperature gets too low, you can increase decomposing activity by adding nitrogen-rich material.
Check all the chemicals’ expiration dates. Get rid of any products with damaged packaging. And don’t forget to do it safely.
Winter planting and plant care
Keep spring bulbs, flowering hedges, and winter-flowering natives well-watered and fertilised. Those actively grow during winter.
Already established plants whose leaves have turned brown need to be cut back to ground level. You can also prepare planting holes for new fruit trees and roses. Do this by digging compost and manure into the soil.
Depending on which state of Australia you’re located in, you have a variety of flowers to plant to choose from:
- North QLD, NT and WA (wet and dry tropical climate) – roses, gerberas, grevillea, begonia, dahlia, daisy, geranium, impatiens, and marigold.
- Sydney, coastal NSW, parts of Victoria (temperate climate) – spring-flowering annuals, banksias, and grevillea.
- Parts of Melbourne and Tasmania (cool climate) – citrus trees, pansies, poppies, salvia, begonias, bare-rooted roses, and violas.
- Adelaide and Perth (Mediterranean climate) – euphorbia, alyssum, dianthus, geranium, and viola.
Of course, the same goes for the edibles:
- North QLD, NT and WA (wet and dry tropical climate) – lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, cabbage, spinach, carrot, cucumber, and corn.
- Sydney, coastal NSW, parts of Victoria (temperate climate) – broccoli, Chinese greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas, spinach, and cabbage.
- Parts of Melbourne and Tasmania (cool climate) – spring onions, parsley, chives, stone fruit, and fennel.
- Adelaide and Perth (Mediterranean climate) – curry, dill, mint, parsley, sage, thyme, radishes, asparagus, and onions.
First and foremost, remember that in winter you should be pruning most trees and shrubs, except the ones producing spring blossoms. The latter should be cut back after they’ve flowered.
You should’ve pruned your roses by now but if you haven’t done so, don’t delay it further. Roses usually need to be pruned in mid-to-late July.
On the other hand, early August is the best time to prune gardenias, hydrangeas, and wisteria.
Herbaceous perennials, deciduous trees, and shrubs and grapevines should be pruned in winter.
Fruit trees should also be pruned now to correct structural problems. Make sure, however, to prune according to the variety’s needs. Also, don’t prune until late September in areas with early spring frost.
In winter, plants grow more slowly and they don’t need as many nutrients as usual. So, the most important rule about fertilising in winter you need to remember is – reduce the frequency of feeding by half. However, some plants, like winter vegetables and spring-flowering annuals, are still actively growing. These, you should feed as usual.
Blood and bone will break down too slowly in winter, due to the colder temperatures. That is why when you’re planting young seedlings it’s better to use a liquid fertiliser. Thus, you will give them the boost they need.
All-purpose plant food is good for leafy winter vegetables. As for kangaroo paws, liquid fertiliser is best.
You can start fertilising winter flowering bulbs when the first buds appear and continue till flowering ends. Thus, you will ensure a good display next year.
Winter lawn care
The most important thing you can do for your lawn in winter is to limit watering. Turn off the sprinklers and only water on an as-needed basis. When you notice the leaves curling up, you’ll know it’s time to water it. Keep in mind that excess moisture might encourage compaction.
One thing you should consider is pruning the nearby trees, as they don’t allow enough light to reach the lawn. Also, it’s important to control weeds. They still thrive during winter and you need to remove them regularly. It’s best to remove them by hand.
Usually, the very best time to aerate the lawn is in autumn, but if you haven’t done it in a while and you can pull a good plug, at least a 3 inches long, now is a great time to do so, too. Also, prepare for dethatching the lawn in early spring. Read more about aerating and dethatching your lawn.