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.
If you’re a gardening enthusiast, you can always find something to do. The winter season is the best time for tidying up your garden, pruning the plants, and preparing for spring. Luckily, the cool winter in Australia is not too cold and frosty, so nothing is stopping you from doing some work in the backyard. Specialists at Fantastic Gardeners have put together a list with winter gardening jobs and some tips to give you a head start.
Clean and check your gardening equipment
Cleaning your gutters is a good winter gardening job to begin with. 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.
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.
Check all the chemicals’ expiration dates. Get rid of any products with damaged packaging. And don’t forget to do it safely!
As for your lawnmower, it’s best to send it in for maintenance.
Protect plants from the cold
Some potted plants are more susceptible to the cold weather than others. Move the ones, which prefer warmer conditions to a more protected spot, whether outside or into your home where they can get plenty of sun.
You can also 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 keep them isolated.
Check up on the compost
Do not forget to pay attention to the compost in the winter. You can do this by tracking 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.
You can add compost to the garden if you are worried about the health of your plants through the winter, as it can supply the soil with nutrients. Mulch, on the other hand, can serve as protection for the roots and can also prevent weeds from growing and spreading.
Continue planting in winter
Who said you can’t plant flowers, herbs or veggies in the winter period? Depending on which state of Australia you’re located in, you have a variety of flowers to grow in your winter garden:
- 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.
On the other hand, if you are wondering what vegetables to grow in Australia this winter, here they are:
- 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.
In case you’ve never tried container gardening before, there is no time like winter. If you like fruits like strawberries, for instance, you can try planting and growing them indoors. Learn more about the Easy fruits you can grow in containers.
An important winter gardening tip to remember is to keep spring bulbs, flowering hedges, and winter-flowering natives well-watered and fertilised. Those grow actively during the cooler months.
Also, 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.
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.
Here is a list with the plants that need pruning in winter and when exactly to do it:
- Roses – 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.
- Gardenias, hydrangeas, and wisteria – These are best to be pruned in early August.
- Herbaceous perennials, deciduous trees, shrubs and grapevines – These should definitely be pruned in winter, so make sure you take good care of them.
- Fruit trees – They should also be pruned in the colder months 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.
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.
Water less and provide more sun for the lawn
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.