Winter can be a hard time for plants, especially in cold areas. And even in the warmer parts, plants can find the winter months hard going. Growth slows right down and problems become more evident when a plant’s in its cold- weakened state.
There are many things you can do to help your garden cope with the cooler months, so here’s a timely checklist for preparing your garden for winter:
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 Droughtshield. This see-through polymer will 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.
Fortunately, in our climate, winter doesn’t have to be bereft of colour. You can choose plenty of suitable varieties for planting now. Polyanthus, for example, are some of the prettiest winter-flowering plants. 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.