Set­tling in for win­ter



Cold weather is a tough time for the birds, lizards and in­sects that pol­li­nate our crops, eat pests and bring in­ter­est and move­ment to our gar­dens. Some in­sects avoid the is­sue by hi­ber­nat­ing or pass­ing the win­ter as an egg or a pupa. Oth­ers re­quire a cosy place to hun­ker down and also need food and wa­ter. Keep bird baths clean and re­fill them if the rain doesn’t do it for you. As you’d ex­pect, gar­dens with bird feed­ers re­port more species dur­ing the an­nual Gar­den Bird Sur­vey. This year’s sur­vey is on from June 24 to July 2. Visit Land­care Re­search for in­for­ma­tion about what’s been learned since the first sur­vey in 2007 and to take part this year.

Lure birds to your gar­den with sugar wa­ter for nec­tar feed­ers, plus fruit, suet and seeds that pro­vide bet­ter nu­tri­tion than bread.

Lizards are cold-blooded so need a cosy win­ter home and a place to bask in the sun. You can build a spe­cial lizard lounge or just leave a stack of fire­wood in a sunny cor­ner. Bum­ble­bee queens look for a cosy spot un­der leaf lit­ter, in old mouse holes, or a com­post bin to spend the win­ter shel­tered from frosts.

With the first hint of spring, the queen goes on the look­out for amore per­ma­nent po­si­tion for her nest, so get a bum­ble­bee ho­tel ready. And don’t for­get weta. They are gob­bled up by rats and hedge­hogs and need safe re­treats. For weta mo­tels, lizard lounges and bum­ble­bee ho­tels, visit

Bees and pol­li­na­tors are still about in win­ter. In­clude flow­er­ing trees and shrubs in your gar­den to sup­ply nec­tar. Tree fuch­sia, five-fin­ger, wat­tle and sasan­qua camel­lias cover the win­ter hunger gap.


Har­den your heart and nip off the first blooms of annuals, pinch­ing back leggy stems to a sprout­ing node fur­ther down. It’s hard to do this, es­pe­cially when the flow­ers are the only the colour show­ing in amass of weed seedlings. But it’s worth it in the long run as two new stems will grow from the node you cut back to and you will end up with a stur­dier, com­pact plant with more flow­ers.

Tidy up around win­ter annuals too. Lit­tle an­nual weed seedlings and self-sown cleome and cos­mos seedlings like those pic­tured don’t need to be com­pletely re­moved. Just pre­tend that they’re a green crop. Up­root with a hoe or wire weeder and leave them where they fall. They will soon dis­ap­pear. If the gar­den club is vis­it­ing or ap­pear­ances mat­ter, just cover with a sprin­kling of mulch. Hoe­ing around the flower bed and the veg­etable patch not only keeps the weeds down, it also pro­vides aer­a­tion and helps sat­u­rated soil dry out. Just be care­ful not to dam­age any del­i­cate feeder roots near the sur­face. Treat your win­ter bloomers to reg­u­lar doses of slightly-warmed, di­luted sea­weed fer­tiliser or worm tea. It’s not too late to plant more annuals for win­ter and spring flow­ers. Choose seedlings This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ rather than seeds for a faster re­sult. Have a look at the pot­ted colour and seedling dis­plays at your gar­den cen­tre as they should be sell­ing plants suit­able for the sea­son in your area. Try Ice­land pop­pies, cineraria, snap­drag­ons, stocks, sweet peas, sweet wil­liam, pan­sies, vi­o­las, Prim­ula mala­coides, prim­roses, polyan­thus, alyssum and neme­sia. Pro­tect from snails and slugs and pro­vide frost pro­tec­tion if needed.


Warm weather and lots of rain has led to amoss and al­gae pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion. Keep­ing out­door fur­ni­ture clean helps keeps the paint in good con­di­tion and pre­vents the wood from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Plus you won’t get green smears on your clothes when you take a seat. Scrub with soapy wa­ter and rinse with the hose. Spray or wipe down with a di­luted so­lu­tion of bleach to slow down the re­turn of this creep­ing green in­va­sion. Re­mem­ber to clean un­der­neath as well! This chair didn’t look too bad on the top, but there was a snail colony en­camped in the mossy fern­ery flour­ish­ing be­low. Put fur­ni­ture that won’t be used dur­ing win­ter un­der cover if you can so it won’t get dam­aged.

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