Winter Gardening – The temperature has certainly dropped as winter rolls on but it’s no excuse to forget about the garden. Getting out now and ticking off some gardening tasks will make you feel better and put your outdoor space in a better place.
Plant growth has dramatically slowed; however, it seems weeds seem to carry on regardless. Be proactive and get on top of weeds this winter to prevent them from spreading seeds and taking over as soon as some warm weather arrives. Hand pulling is best as long as you can get the roots out too and for infestations, I use a herbicide spray however I’m very careful as to the dilution and application rates so to not overdo it. It is also very important to only use herbicide on a still day as wind will carry it onto your ornamental plants and lawns and being nonselective cause lots of damage.
For pathways and other hard surfaces, I like to pour boiling water on the pavers as this will get down into the cracks quickly and burn the roots of the weed getting rid of them in an environmentally safe way.
If you have a large empty garden bed filled with weeds you can get rid of them and improve the soil all in one go by laying a layer of cardboard over the entire surface and then covering this with 100mm of coarse aged wood chip mulch. This combination starves the weeds of sunlight and water, and they quickly die, as the cardboard and mulch break down it adds structure and organic matter to the soil helping to improve it so in six months you’ll have a rich, weed free garden soil to plant into with minimal backbreaking work being done!
Getting on top of your mulch throughout the whole garden is good to do in winter too as it will help to reduce and supress new weed growth as well as lock moisture into the soil. It also makes the garden look much tidier and neater too.
As the days are shorter the amount of light your lawn is receiving is much less so it’s like growing your lawn in the shade. To combat this, raise the height of your mower blades so each individual grass leaf grows longer and has greater ability to suck up valuable sunlight. You need to go further to help it out as well by raking off any leaves and debris to really maximise the time those leaf blades get sun.
Your perennial plants will be looking tatty right now as the cold weather really knocks the foliage about so cut this off to allow more light down to the ground where it will promote the new shoots to come through. Plants like Salvia will have finished flowering and you’ll notice new growth at ground level too – only remove the old growth leaving the new shoots to grow for next season. If you want to double the size of a plant like Salvia rub your fingernail over the end of each shoot as this will promote the leaf buds below to grow and give you a thicker bushier plant.
Feeding your plants right now is a waste of resources as it will simply leach away through the soil down to the water table so save yourself some money, but your citrus are fruiting and still growing so give them a liquid feed to boost the available nutrients to them.
A few other simple basic tips you can do in an afternoon is to check your irrigation system is running smoothly with no leaking joints or sprayers and if your timer is battery operated now is a good time to change it for a new one. Check your Brassicas (those in the broccoli and cabbage family) daily for tiny white eggs and camouflaged green caterpillars and remove them by hand as these can decimate a crop in no time. Clean and sharpen your tools with cutting blades such as secateurs, loppers, hedging shears, lawn mowers and chain saws – it can even be done inside on the coldest of days!