Handy hints to prepare your garden for winter
Winter is a fabulous time to be outdoors if you’re a gardener – but for plants it can be a time when they need a bit if extra TLC from their human friends. It’s a time of year when growth slows down and plants become weaker and therefore more vulnerable. That means there’s plenty of jobs to be done before the cold really hits.
Pots on the move
If you have potted tropical plants, but don’t live in a tropical area, now is the time to move them into more protected spots like a verandah. The same goes for other cold-sensitive plants. It’s also time to taper off on the water of your potted plants as they don’t require anywhere near as much to drink as they do during the hot dry summer months when evaporation is a major concern. And just as you probably don’t want to drink water from the fridge in winter, take the chill off for your plants by mixing a small amount of hot with the tap water.
Frost and cold sensitive plants in garden beds don’t need to suffer just because they can’t be moved under shelter. Now is the time to build frames around those plants that are most at risk then place a piece of cloth or plastic over them in the evening. Just remember to remove it in the morning so they can enjoy the sun’s warming rays during the day.
Down and dirty
Remember all that lovely compost you’ve (hopefully) been making? This is the time to put it to use, along with some well rotted manure, as you prepare planting holes for the new roses and fruit trees it’s time to plant.
If the soil has any drainage problems, now is the time that rain will make them become apparent. Once you see where the boggy sections of the garden are, it’s time to take action. Use a garden fork to push vertical holes into heavy soils to help water drain downwards or dig drains along the surface to carry excess water away. If you have clay soil, then dig in some gypsum. This marvelous product binds particles together, which enables air to get into the spaces between the particles thus allowing water to drain away.
Mulch is great for keeping the roots of your plants cool and damp in summer, but that’s the last thing they need in winter. (Imagine if you were kept wet and cold in winter?) Thin out the mulch layers on the garden beds so the sun can warm the soil around your plants’ roots.
Tanks a lot
Winter is the season when we hopefully get plenty of rain, which make it the ideal time to install a rainwater tank in the garden so it’ll be nice and full come spring. While the traditional round corrugated tank may have an air of nostalgia, there are a variety of designs and sizes available to help fit tanks into the tight spaces of smaller blocks in new housing estates. Most tank manufacturers have round and slimline designs, and some also have square ones. The most common materials are corrugated steel and moulded polyethylene, while concrete ones are used underground. Modern steel tanks are coated on the inside with a food grade polymer film that gives tanks a 20-year warranty against corrosion. Tankworks Australia has a great range of rainwater tanks and raised garden beds.
Long-flowering summer shrubs that are best pruned in winter include fuchsias, crepe myrtles and roses. Prune the hydrangea shoots that flowered last season. Prune tibouchinas that have finished flowering. This can be done in early winter in frost-free areas, but it’s best to wait until late winter in cooler parts. Prune deciduous fruit trees and grapes that weren’t cut back after fruiting. Trim natives as they finish flowering. Prune all the long-blooming roses and spray with Lime Sulphur to clean up pests and diseases. Towards the end of winter give photinias, viburnums, murrayas and other hedging plants a trim.
Many garden pests take shelter during winter, so this is the perfect time to seek out their hiding places and try to get rid of them. If you leave them alone, they’ll start breeding again in spring, which makes it harder to get rid of them.
Loquat trees, which continue maturing their fruit right through winter, are renowned for maintaining the fruit fly population through the colder weather. Remove and destroy any infested fruit. Clean up loose bark and other winter hiding places near apple and pear trees to destroy hibernating codling moth cocoons. Deciduous fruit of all types should be given a clean up spray with Lime Sulfur after leaf fall and again before the new leaves come out in spring.