Author: Kevin Burness Date Posted:3 May 2022
With the weather cooling Kevin Burness from Simple Gardening provides some handy tips and tricks for winter gardening.
Well, the mornings are getting a little fresher here, and we are overdue for some Autumn weather, but it’s still perfectly Queensland conditions.
Cool mornings and warm days are awesome but, as always, I’m starting to plan ahead and my preparations for the cooler months are well underway, lining up jobs to embrace the mild conditions.
To get ahead, I’ll be preparing the soil and plants with a few amendments and looking at my long list of jobs to plan.
The fruits of labour
The cooler weather is a great time for those really labour-intensive jobs, building structures, moving materials like pebbles, rocks and mulches, as well as painting, oiling and repairing bits and pieces.
With the lawns, weeds and gardens slowing down, I aim to shift from maintaining and keeping up to catching up and creating.
A project-oriented approach
As the seasons change, I try to make a list of projects, goals and tasks that will be my focus, and also steps that lead into the following season.
Building processes and having goals can seem a little more rigid than the laidback gardening that most people imagine, but if you want to make gardening simple and still achieve an amazing garden, having some structure really does help.
I’ll aim for a few episodes of what I have planned for the next few months, and hopefully it can inspire some winter gardening.
Calcium to harden up
So, where to start with winter preparations? As with all things in the garden, I start with the soil.
When the weather begins to cool down, I like to look at some dolomite or lime around late Autumn depending on your soils needs. A quick pH test is handy or check for hints in the leaves with visual guides available online.
As these inputs are generally a lot slower to break down and become available to the plants if we apply now, they can start working into the structure and be ready later when the needs are higher in the growing season.
Over the years as my soil has improved and I’ve kept amending my soil, it is now nourishing the plants year-round. As a result, they seem to be a lot hardier and able to handle the colder months better. If your pH is good or high, a little Micronised Gypsum Liquid can also be beneficial for soil structure.
Feeding the soil.
I try and keep the soil microbes ticking over if I can. Like most of us, the little lifeblood of the soil can get a bit cold and not want to do as much in Winter, but we can at least try to help them along with a few treats.
In Winter, I still apply all my Plant Doctor basic liquids with Seaweed Secrets, Humic and Fulvic Acids, plus the other goodies giving them some encouragement. Even a rich humus-filled soil can benefit from a boost in the cold.
Check out the ‘soil builder bundles’
Do you have enough mulch to keep the soil warm? Most people think of mulch as a warm-season job and part of gardening in the heat, but keeping the soil protected from extreme cold and fluctuations as the weather changes can help protect vital soil microbiome and plant roots.
I find the cooler months are more pleasant to be shovelling and moving bigger piles of mulch or carrying and spreading hay-type mulches. It’s not to say you won’t need to do some in the warmer months, but particularly with my larger gardens that are topped with long lasting bark-type mulch, I can get most of it done now with only the smaller hay or grassy-mulched veggie and herb gardens needing a little more work later.
Fertilising in winter
I still apply fertilisers most of winter. We do get pretty cold here in the Gympie region, but nearly all the plants will still show results from some extra feeding. It generally isn’t a dramatic change and different plants will work with less input, but I find I can get a little extra out of many plants with a little extra fertiliser.
In my climate, we grow a lot of veggies right through winter and they are still in need of a good supply of nutrients. Many of my herbs bounce back in winter and likewise would love a little luxury nutrient boost. Regular Activ8mate is my go-to for that little extra boost in the veggie and herb gardens.
My favourite winter fertiliser is Flowers, Fruits and Roots (FFR) Liquid. Anyone that follows my Simple Gardening feed will see a lot of Cordylines featured, and the cooler months are when they can really show their true colours.
As well as the Cordys, many of my other tropical-style plants have large roots and rhizomes and will benefit from the extra phosphorus and potassium in FFR. You might not notice much change, but it can still be happening under the ground as the plants store up some extra food.
With the coloured foliage of the Cordys being maximised with extra potassium, strengthening plants against the cold somewhat and toughening up the plant cells also helps to drive the colours and contrast as part of this process.
We can be tempted as gardens slow down to leave them to their own devices and pick it back up in Spring when it takes off again. But why miss out on all the potential? Keeping the momentum and joy of a garden is a year-round hobby.
I’ll definitely take a little more time for other things in life over these cooler months, but I always make sure to use my time as best I can to keep gardening simple yet effective, and to keep the gardens as beautiful as possible.
I'm just an experienced and awesome gardener sharing my own personal opinions. These are all my own approaches and processes I use in my gardens. I’d like to help guide others to better gardening practices through my experience and encourage more successful gardening in our communities.
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