Tips for Gardening in the Winter Months
In the Vegetable Patch
By now, your winter veggie gardens should be planted to take advantage of the remaining higher soil temperatures that will help quickly establish your main winter crops. Delaying planting will mean your harvesting time will be pushed backwards considerably. If you have not planted out yet, purchase seedlings from you local garden centre and get them into the garden this weekend!
June or July are the ideal months to plant, relocate and prune roses. When the final leaves fall you can begin pruning bush and climbing roses. For more information on pruning, check out Daltons How to Grow Roses guide. Most cities also provide demonstrations on how to prune roses at a local botanic garden or even your local garden centre.
Early winter is of course the best time for planting your deciduous trees; for example, cherries (ornamental) and fruit trees like apples, pears, plums, peaches and apricots. It’s this time of the year when healthy new season fruit trees are available from garden centres, and the plants will be in their best state.
When choosing your tree, it’s important to select vigorous young trees, avoiding any older ones that look root bound or may have been in a planter bag or pot for some time. It is very important to choose fruit tree varieties that will grow and fruit the best in your climate. For instance, some varieties such as citrus are frost sensitive, and others like stone fruit need winter chilling for fruit to set.
For existing deciduous fruit trees, you can begin pruning once their leaves have dropped. Always ensure that your secateurs are clean before you start pruning. Try to keep the tree height under three metres to allow for easier harvesting and netting of trees where birds are a problem.
Check Your Drainage
A common cause of plant death during winter months is excessive moisture in the root zone. When planting traditional trees, shrubs, bulbs or veggies, ensure that plants are raised above areas that may be prone to flooding. Ensure there is enough drainage so plants will not be bogged down by the impending rain that winter brings.
Winter is an excellent time to plan new gardens in your property in preparation for spring planting. It is a good idea to monitor future garden areas for cold winds and excessive moisture, as both conditions will influence what you can plant in that area.
Plant new shelter belts and/or hedges where they are required. These can radically change how you can use parts of your garden, removing or at least reducing cold winds. It is possible to create an edible hedge using feijoas, guavas and bay trees which provide food and function.
Look After Empty Beds
Protect empty garden beds by sowing green manure crops eg lupins. They protect the top soil from wind and water erosion, and add organic matter back to the soil when dug in. Wait till they are about 15-20cm high then chop up with a spade as you dig them back into the soil. Alternatively “blanket cover” beds by applying a thick layer of mulch, such as Daltons Garden Mulch and Grow or other forms of mulch like manure, autumn leaves, or wood chip.