PREPARE FOR SPRING
WINTER gardening has the misconception of being a time for gardeners to down tools over the slow growth season.
However, as the temperature lowers, now is the time to prepare for the warmer months. Below are tips to maintaining a winter garden and giving it the best possible start to spring.
Broad-leafed weeds can take control of the weakened state of the lawn in winter. As rainfall increases, weeds will begin to appear across the lawn. It is best to remove the weeds before they mature and set seed. For small areas, hand weeding is an effective way to remove weeds. For larger areas, control the weeds using a herbicide.
ADJUST THE MOWING SCHEDULE
In winter, because grass grows slower, there’s no need to mow the lawn often. However, don’t allow the grass to overgrow as this provides an environment for mould and fungal diseases to spread. To avoid creating a lawn thatch layer, switch the lawn mower from mulch to catch mode. Control the growth of weeds by cutting no more than one third off the blades of grass, giving weeds less sunlight to thrive.
PRUNE AND TRIM
Winter is the ideal time to prune as most plants are finishing their flowering season. Prune deciduous plants to encourage regrowth in the spring. Begin by pruning dead and diseased branches, then remove overgrown foliage and smaller branches. This will increase light and air at the crown of the tree, as well as for any lawn underneath. In mid-winter prune large bush roses, leave only an open framework of three or four main stems. Also, prune shrubs that flower in mid to late summer, such as hydrangeas. Use a hedge trimmer to rejuvenate overgrown hedges and create space in the hedge for air and light.
LET THE LAWN BREATHE
During winter, after periods of rainfall the soil is often compacted, preventing the circulation of nutrients, oxygen and water. Preparing the soil for a stronger lawn can be achieved through aeration. It is best to aerate the lawn when the soil is moist for better penetration. Tools that can be used to aerate the lawn include a simple fork, spike boots or spike roller.
ADJUST FERTILISATION FREQUENCY
For most plants, the frequency of fertiliser application can be reduced by half in winter as they grow slower and therefore need fewer nutrients. However some plants, like bulbs, winter vegetables and spring flowering annuals, maintain their growth rate through winter, so will still require nutrients to thrive. Fertilise citrus plants in late July to promote crop growth moving into spring. For the lawn, it is best to use a slow-release lawn food to develop a strong root system and thicker grass.