4 ways to make the most of your winter garden
Spring may be a wonderful time for your garden to grow, with many plants and flowers blossoming during the spring months. But that doesn’t mean that your garden has to die over winter. So, if you want to enjoy the beautiful sight, smells and tastes of your garden year-round, here are a few items and tasks you can perform during the winter months.
Protect your garden and get yourself ready for spring
If you haven’t been already, there are a few ways you can protect your plants in the colder weather. Adding a layer of mulch around 5cm thick around your plants will help protect them from the cold, conserve moisture, and also add valuable nitrogen back to the soil in winter. It can also help prevent weed growth. Having a frost cloth on hand is also a great idea to protect those frost sensitive plants.
As you’ll be working less in the garden, winter is also the perfect time to check on your tool cupboard and see what condition everything is in. Some tools might need a bit of TLC, sharpening, cleaning, or oiling. Or, you might find that some of your tools are a bit beyond repair, and need replacing instead. If you prepare these during winter when you’re less likely to need to use them, it means you’ll be ready and raring to go come spring.
While you’re at the hardware store, consider visiting the garden centre as well! Start thinking about what you want to plant for winter, what crops you may want to grow and harvest, what you need to do early to prepare for spring, along with flowers you would like to pick. Applying liquid fertiliser to your gardens once a month will ensure your soil will be in prime position to support growth when it is time to get your garden ready.
Plant and grow your own fresh produce
Despite the colder weather, there are plenty of plants and crops that grow during the winter months. For root crops, dig over garden beds. You can also dig in compost before planting to replenish nutrients used by previous crops.
Then it’s time to plant your winter produce, like broad beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, celery, garlic, kale, mizuna, onions, peas, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, and coriander. If you’re sowing winter seeds in warmer parts of New Zealand, use sheltered areas of your garden to sow broccoli, broad beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and peas. Lettuce seeds can be sown too, if you choose hardy winter varieties.
If frosts are a concern, plant crops into containers that you can move around to catch the midday sun and keep a cloche or growing tunnel handy.
Grow fruit in winter and prepare fruit for spring
Winter is a great time to harvest fruits like grapefruit, lemons, kiwifruit, mandarins, tamarillos, and oranges. It’s also the best time for planting new season deciduous fruit trees. Select the healthiest specimens from your garden centre with straight stems and stake newly planted fruit trees. Most deciduous fruit trees can be pruned during this time, except peaches, plums, and nectarines. Prune grapes and kiwifruit vines, and prune autumn cropping raspberries back to ground level to get them ready for their own fruiting season.
You might find that your fruit trees suffer from leaf curl during winter, in the buds of infected trees. If this is the case, a copper-based spray is the most effective way of controlling leaf curl. Winter clean-up sprays are recommended; use a copper fungicide and oil just after pruning until bud burst in spring at 10–14-day intervals.
Oddly enough, strawberries can also be planted in winter. Research shows that planting strawberries in New Zealand’s winter temperatures will produce a higher yield in summer. The delicate flowers can’t handle frost so maybe leave them until the final weeks of the season during August.
It’s also important to maintain vigilant weed control in winter. Weeds compete for valuable nutrients, and with less growth during winter, it’s important your trees get as many nutrients to themselves as they can.
Get ready to enjoy flowers for the spring months
Winter is an optimal time to plant calendula, nemesia, pansies, polyanthus, poppy, snapdragon, stock, viola. It’s also the best time to plant new season roses as planting stress is reduced as the plants lie dormant. Garden centres will have the best range available now, as the plants are dormant planting stress is reduced.
To prepare your flowers, it’s time to prune your roses, shrubs and any perennials that are looking untidy, or have finished flowering for the season. You can also fertilise garden beds ready for new season’s planting by adding compost, deadhead any plants that have finished flower for the season to encourage new foliage and flowers, bring frost tender patio plants into a sheltered position, and keep on top of weeding as mentioned above
Winter is a great time to step back and give your garden some TLC coming into spring. So, if you still have some winter gardening tasks that need doing, call our team of professional gardeners on 0800 454 654 or contact us online to get your garden in its best shape for winter and beyond.