PRE­PARE FOR SPRING

Eastern Reporter - - Lifestyle -

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.

RE­MOVE WEEDS

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.

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