8 tips for gardening in winter
The onset of winter brings the story of the seasons full circle, as temperatures drop and the winds swing back to the south and west.
Winter in the garden is a time of reflection; time to contain errant growth, mulch bare gardens and prepare the soil for spring flowering bulbs, annuals and perennials.
While it may be cold outside, don’t let that deter you from getting stuck into the garden. In order to get the best out of your garden this winter, we have compiled eight tips to help your garden look in tip top shape.
Help your soil get a drink
Long hours of sunshine and sweltering hot days of summertime can play havoc with your garden soil. If your soil has dried out over summer this can result in your soil becoming hydrophobic or water-repellent. When soil becomes hydrophobic, it will repel water rather than absorb, limiting moisture needed for plant growth. If your aim is to re-wet your soil as soon as possible, a soil wetting agent can help water penetrate the soil.
If you have large trees hanging over your garden, make sure to remove excess leaves lying on the ground which can stop rain reaching your soil.
Keeping up your mulch
As winter sets in, it may look like all activity in your garden has ceased, however there is still plenty of action happening underground. Your plants, trees, shrubs and vegetables are still drawing nutrients from the soil. In order to keep your garden healthy, it is a good idea to replenish the mulch you may have applied over the warmer months. While mulch keeps your soil warm throughout winter, it also assists in keeping temperatures even.
Time to prune
Winter is pruning time, when overzealous plants can be reduced in size or replaced where desired. Pruning throughout winter can promote new growth come spring whilst preventing fungus and infestation which can be harmful for your garden.
When you think of pruning in winter, Roses are usually the first flower that comes to mind. Love them or loathe them, roses deserve respect for their floral display and ability to survive drought, humidity and neglect. In order to keep them healthy, it is a good idea to keep them pruned and sprayed with lime sulphur to contain fungal disease and insect attack.
Prepare your soil
While adding fertiliser and nutrients to your soil can lead to larger and healthier plants, it’s worth giving your garden a rest every once in a while. Winter is the perfect time to move away from a high nitrogen feed, and instead move towards a low nitrogen feed such as Nitrosol. By doing so, it promotes robust growth and a reduced risk of fungal diseases.
Another great way to prepare your soil for spring, is to dig in a number of soil conditioners or ‘improvers’ such as manure, compost, kelp and blood and bone into your soil. These additions slowly break down over time and naturally enrich the soil.
Maintain your equipment
There is a good chance your lawn mower and garden tools got a big workout over summer leaving them worse for wear. Before you pack them away for winter, it is a great opportunity to give them a ‘spring clean’, ready for the warmer months.
Take your mower for an annual service, sharpen your secateurs, clean your shovels and garden forks. Make sure you thoroughly dry your garden tools and store them in a suitable place in order to prevent rust.
Think about sunlight
Sunlight is very important for your flowers, plants, vegetables or shrubs. During winter, the sun travels lower in its path across the sky meaning an increased amount of shade for your garden throughout the cooler months. If possible, look to move your winter garden into a sunny section of your overall garden.
If you are looking at growing vegetables in an area with little winter sunlight, look to plant leafy vegetables such as lettuce or cabbage, or root vegetables such as onions and leeks.
Add colour to your garden
Winter isn’t all doom and gloom when it comes to your garden, while the structural plants that make up most of our urban landscape are in a state or near dormancy such as murrayas, lilly pillies, abelias, and magonlias, for other plants, it is their time to shine.
The star performers are the camellias. The smaller leafed and more sun hardy camellia sasanqua and the large leafed but more shade demanding camellia japonica are covered with flowers in white, shades of pink and red. Early azaleas are in bud and flowering ahead of their spring peak. Joining in are gardenias, French lavender, grevilleas, pentas, jonquils, clivia and federation daisies.
Take advantage of winter herbs and vegetables
Although the large majority of your garden is dormant, winter is the perfect time to grow a number of delicious herbs and vegetables. Cool climate areas including parts of Victoria and Tasmania are perfect for growing a wide variety of herbs and winter vegetables including coriander, mint, carrots, cabbage and onions.
If you live in more temperate areas such as coastal NSW, broad beans, English spinach, garlic and thyme thrive in these conditions. In most parts of Australia, whether you live in a cool, dry or tropical region there will be a winter vegetable for your garden.