Winter can be a testing time for even the most resilient of gardens. From morning frosts to torrential rains and everything in between, the chilly season brings a whole host of garden woes that even the finest green thumb can find hard to tackle.
Common complaints in winter are slow growth and cold-weakened plants, even in the warmer parts of Australia. Matt Leacy is the co-founder and creative director of Landart Landscapes, and has more than 20 years’ experience in design, construction and maintenance services across landscaping and pool installation. A qualified structural landscaper, designer and horticulturalist, Matt has some expert advice on seeing your garden through winter with as few problems as possible.
Weed and tidy
The first key step is to remove weeds and tidy up garden beds. Weeds are your worst enemy, as they fight with plants for water and nutrition in the soil, leaving them more susceptible to diseases and insects.
It’s also important to dispose of wilted plants and pull out any weeds right from their roots. If weeds are flowering or are going to seed, make sure you put them in a garbage bin rather than your compost bin or vegetation recycle bin to prevent them growing and spreading further.
And if you haven’t gotten out in the garden much since autumn, you’ll need to make sure you remove fallen leaves and branches to avoid smothering any plants. At the very least, pull the leftover leaves away from the stem/trunk of the plant.
it’s important to properly insulate your garden beds during the cold months by mulching. It will not only help the soil to retain warmth, but it’ll also trap in moisture, suppress weed-growth and deliver nutrients to the roots of plants, bulbs, trees and shrubs. Depending on weather conditions during the cooler months, mulching can reduce the need for watering by up to 60 per cent. I always recommend spreading a thick layer of organic mulch across all garden beds. In general, 75mm-100mm deep will do the job.
Fertilise and compost
Inject veggie gardens with lots of rich manure and compost to prepare it for planting in spring. Just before spring you should fertilise the entire garden - including the lawn! Water it in well so it’s ready to feed the garden when everything starts growing again in spring.
Follow the application instructions as to the ratio you should be adding. If you add too much fertilizer you can end up burning the roots of the plants and cause more damage than good.
Check the PH levels of your soil
Keep in mind that fertilising garden beds will change the pH levels in the soil overtime, making them more acidic. It’s therefore often worthwhile checking the pH levels with a test kit every other season.
If the soil does become acidic, add some dolomite lime as this will assist in getting the pH towards a neutral reading.
Winter is not the time to become short-sighted when it comes to your garden beds. It’s not all about maintenance, you can still grow and enhance the garden as the temperatures drop.
There are a variety of beautiful plants that can be added to garden beds now that will flower well and keep their colour throughout winter. Viburnums, Salvias, Plectranthus, dipladenias, Bird of Paradise, lavenders, Raphiolepis and Daphnes are all great options.
Winter is also the time to introduce plantings that will flower in time for spring – for example, gardenias, jasmine and fast-growing plants like Dichondra, convolvulus and Euphorbia ‘Diamond frost’. By planning for spring now, your garden beds will look lush and vibrant come spring.
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