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May to July is the best time to plant strawberries in temperate regions.
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Winter gardening tips

Winter can be a difficult time for plants and lawns, especially in particularly cold and wet regions. Waterlogged lawns, pest-riddled plants and frost-bitten leaves are just some of the consequences that come with neglecting our gardens, which not only look unsightly but can mean more work down the track.

Heading outside might be the last thing you want to do when it’s cold and grey, but a little bit of prevention now can save you lots of hard work when the weather starts warming up and the garden springs back to life.

 

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Loved by bees, birds and people, ‘Little Penda’ (Xanthostemon), is a native to Northern Queensland rainforests that flowers for most of the year – even in areas of periodic flooding. It favours warmer climates and prefers a frost-free environment. Photo courtesy of Veda Dante.

Winter gardening tips

Yates gardening expert Angie Thomas shares her winter gardening tips with HomeHub:

  • If you haven’t already, move potted tropical plants and other warmth lovers into more protected spots – perhaps onto a verandah or porch. If cold-sensitive plants are growing in the garden or are too heavy to move, spray them with a layer of Yates Stressguard to provide a few degrees of frost protection.
  • Reduce watering of potted plants. They require much less water when the weather’s cooler. Take the chill off tap water by mixing in a small amount of hot water. It shouldn’t feel warm – just slightly tepid to the touch. This means it won’t shock the roots so much.
  • Prepare planting holes for new roses and fruit trees by digging compost and well-aged manure into the soil.
  • If the soil has any drainage problems, winter is the season when they’ll expose themselves. Use a garden fork to push vertical holes into heavy soils. Create surface drains to carry away excess moisture. Dig gypsum where possible into clay. Gypsum has a miraculous effect on most clay soils. It binds particles together, allowing air to get into the spaces between the particles and helping excess water to drain away. Deep layers of mulch on the soil can ensure that it remains cold and damp for three months or more. Hence, it can be a good idea to remove some of the thickness of mulch so that the sun can penetrate to warm up the soil.
  • Construct frames around the plants that are likely to be damaged by the cold or frosts. If supports are already in place it only takes an instant to throw a piece of cloth or plastic over them in the evening. Don’t forget to remove the covering in the morning though, or the plants might cook in the midday sun.
  • Winter doesn’t have to be bereft of colour – you can choose plenty of suitable varieties for planting like pretty winter-flowering polyanthus. They bloom in a wide range of colours – blues, pinks, yellows, cream and white – often with a contrasting central eye. They’ll grow in light shade or full sun and, if the following summer doesn’t get too hot, they’ll produce an encore performance next year.
  • Winter is the wettest season in Mediterranean-type climates, so don’t let that precious water go to waste. Install a tank now so that you can store water for the future.
  • Feed plants with high-potash Thrive Flower and Fruit to build up their strength before winter.

 

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Although citrus are evergreen in winter, a little bit of care at this time of the year will ensure they stay healthy once the weather starts warming up. Photo courtesy of Veda Dante.

Winter action plan

Whether you have a few potted plants on a balcony deck, or a big backyard with lots of lawn, here are a few thing you can do to ensure your garden stays looking good during winter.

  1. Cut roses back and feed with a mix of cow manure and mulch
  2. Mulch pots and garden beds to remove weeds, pulling them out as soon as they appear
  3. Wait till after it’s rained when the soil is softer to remove weeds from beds and between pavers
  4. Adjust automatic sprinklers or irrigation systems to reduce the watering time to half or less of what you use in summer
  5. Feed indoor plants to reduce stress during the colder months
  6. Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous and semi-deciduous trees
  7. Avoid walking on garden beds or driving/parking on the lawn after heavy rain to avoid compacting the soil
  8. Carry out general maintenance while the ground is soft and easy to work with
  9. Sharpen gardening tools and service your mower
  10. Catch up on your favourite gardening books

 

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Switch to catch rather than mulch mode because clippings left on the lawn may cause fungal problems.

Lawn care

Winter means your lawn’s growth slows dramatically and it has to tolerate cooler conditions along with less sunlight and increased shade. According to the lawn care specialists at Scotts Australia, switching your mower from mulch to catch mode and raising the height of the blades are just two things you need to do to ensure your lawn stays lush and green throughout winter.

In fact, a little bit of maintenance can reduce your list of lawn problems come spring. Here are a few more tips from Scotts Australia:

Fertilising the lawn during the colder months is not generally recommended because growth has slowed and the lawn is less likely to absorb the nutrients.

Watering is still required during dry spells, so keep an eye on the moisture levels by feeling deep into the thatch. If it feels moist, don’t water. In winter, it’s best to water in the morning and don’t over water because a lawn that stays wet can rot when it’s cold. Watch out for signs of waterlogging, especially after heavy rain. If required, aerate to allow excess water to soak into the soil.

Mowing, depending on where you live, may only need to be done two or three times during winter. Switch to catch rather than mulch mode because clippings left on the lawn may cause fungal problems. Keep the lawn clear of fallen leaves and trim back overhanging branches that may be restricting light.

Weeding slows down in winter but there are a few to look out for including bindii, broadleaf weeds, thistles and oxalis (clovers). The most conspicuous weed is likely to be Winter Grass, which is best removed by hand. Use an old fashioned forked ‘daisy grubber‘ then dispose of them in your green waste bin.

 

Next generation of gardeners

Junior Landcare is about encouraging young people to play an active role in ensuring the safe future of their environment. Yates is a long-term partner of Landcare Australia, and key supporter of this initiative. Proceeds from the sale of Yates’ Nature’s Way products with the Landcare Australia logo fund Junior Landcare projects. Support includes growing challenges and grants programs and aims to help young people, schools and youth groups connect with the land and how plants grow, as part of an outdoor learning experience.

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Veda Dante

Veda Dante is an accomplished journalist, consultant and content creator who has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about everything from tourism, hospitality and health to architecture, pools and luxury goods. When she’s not producing copy for clients, this self-confessed word nerd is usually writing and photographing the Byron Bay region for her blog www.livebyron.com.au

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.