Think you can forget about your garden come winter?
Wrong! A garden needs maintenance and TLC no matter the season, including winter. You will also reap the benefits and effort you put into your winter garden come spring and summer when it will thrive. The same applies to your lawn, which needs maintenance in winter so it can be lush and green in the growing season.
With this in mind Here are five maintenance tips for your winter garden.
1. Take care of your lawn
Lawn soil can become compacted in winter. Water can't reach the roots of the lawn and may even pool in places. A good way to maintain your lawn is to aerate the soil so water can reach the roots. If you have a small lawn, you can use a pitchfork, but if you have a large lawn, a garden maintenance service will have a lawn aerator that can do the job quickly and efficiently or you may be able to hire a lawn aerator from an equipment hire service. You can also top dress the lawn with coarse sand or loam. If you notice puddling even after you've aerated the lawn, try a hose-on wetting agent which can break down the soil but not harm the lawn. Weeds don't take a break in winter, so look for weeds in your lawn and remove them after a rain, when they will come out by the roots and won't return. For stubborn weeds like bindis, use a weed wand that will kill the bindis, but not harm the lawn.
Top tip: Limit feeding and fertilizing your lawn over winter as not much growth takes place, so your lawn doesn't actually need the extra nutrients.
2. Get mulching
Mulching in winter will help keep weeds from growing in your garden and mulching can help the soil. If you see weeds, remove them, but it may be best to mulch after a rain because you can pull weeds out by the roots rather than leaving roots in the ground that may make weeds appear again later. Also look for snails and slugs, which come out in wet weather. You can hand remove them, but don't leave them because they can devastate a garden. A good trick is to put beer in a shallow tray. Snails and slugs are attracted to the yeast in the beer, but will drown when they get into the beer. The top of the tray should not be more than 10mm above the soil or the snails and slugs won't be able to get into the tray.
Top tip: Look to use organic mulch as this can help feed your garden beds when it breaks down over time.
3. Time to prune shrubs and trees
Winter is pruning time for many trees and shrubs. The key is not to prune too early - August is a good month for pruning ornamental trees and shrubs. For any plants that flower in spring and summer you need to wait until after the flowers die (in spring or early summer) to prune those. Also don't prune flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring, but do prune dead branches back. You can prune roses in July, but make sure you don’t leave this till August. Winter flowering plants may need fertilising and watering between rains. This will help them flower and stay healthy. If you don't have winter flowering plants in your garden, then you need to plant these in the spring or early summer to have flowering plants in your garden next winter.
Top tip: Do some research before you start pruning a plant, otherwise you could do more harm than good.
4. Plant a winter veg garden
If you don’t have a winter veg garden you can plant veggies now that will be ready in late winter or early spring. Another great thing about growing your own veggies is that you can go organic, by avoiding chemical herbicides and pesticides. For temperate areas winter veg to try include snow peas, broad beans, English spinach, green beans and peas. For milder subtropical areas of the country you have a bigger choice, where most herbs will thrive throughout the year, as will broadbeans, broccoli, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, shallots, spinach, spring onions and turnips. Companion planting is a perfect way to ward off garden pests without using pesticides. Companion planting and organic pesticides are great to use on winter veggie gardens because you won't have harmful pesticides on your vegetables.
Top tip: Choose a spot that gets a decent amount of winter sun as winter veg still needs some warmth to germinate, grow and thrive.
5. Add some winter colour to your garden
Many plants flower in winter. You can find them at nurseries and plant them in pots to have winter colour in your garden. Get plants that are already flowering and plant them carefully and keep them watered. Try to find a sunny spot for them and keep them watered and fertilised.
A winter garden can be beautiful, but if you don't already have winter flowering plants or vegetables in your garden, get ready for next year and plant them in early autumn so they can give you more colour and fresh veggies in your winter garden. Don't think of winter as a time when plants go dormant. Many plants thrive in winter and you just need to know which ones will thrive in your area. You may also want to go to a local nursery and ask about plants that thrive in winter. Don't neglect your winter garden because you can enjoy it in winter and if you maintain it, your garden will thrive in spring and summer.
Top tip: Get some advice on what to plant so you have some colour come winter.