Author: Kevin Burness Date Posted:13 July 2021
We might be halfway through winter, but there is still cold weather expected before spring breaks! Kevin Burness from Simple Gardening guest blogs to give us all his tips and tricks on protecting plants in the winter.
With evolving weather patterns and as the cool change sweeps over Australia’s east coast each year, winter is a lovely season but can also incite grumbles from any passionate green thumb.
Fear not though, winter gardening is less about reaping the benefits of your hard work rather than it is preparation for what’s to come.
While the days may be short and the nights long, winter gardening is a good time to take stock of what you’ve achieved in peak growing season.
It may also mean you have less motivation to face the frost and commit to a solid gardening routine. But with gardens, consistency is vital.
With a challenging climate in Gympie, QLD I have to work hard to stay keen and pay attention to the weather and do what I can to ride out these cooler months and get ready for the busy times of spring and beyond.
There are several challenges to winter gardening and with my gardens being predominantly tropical and subtropical garden styles, I face the challenge of getting frosts in my area. Here are my tips on dealing with those challenges.
One job that's a balancing act for me is pruning and cleaning up dense growth. Many tropical gardeners use cool winter days as a chance to clear out growth and open up canopy for maximum sunlight.
Removing overgrown or low hanging branches is great, but in frost areas it can be a danger as well. I try to remove some of the larger leaves and overhanging growth to let a little extra sunshine into those darker spots, especially since our days become shorter.
I do this while being aware of possible frosts and if you open the canopy up too much, it will let in all that cold as well as that extra light. Try tracking the weather and work around the worst of the frost as well as maintaining a bit of extra microclimate with a balanced approach.
Microclimate and aspect are a couple of my favourite topics for discussion in gardening, so expect to see it pop up in nearly everything I post!
Leaving canopy layers and dense growth can help shield and moderate areas as frosty conditions push into the gardens. I use the strong abundant growth of some plants to try and protect others that are more susceptible to frost damage.
These strong plants include Bamboo, Alpinia gingers and Tiger grass. Basically, these heavy hitters are so tough and robust I know they will bounce back quickly in spring with the most basic care. They might get slightly damaged, but they will be fine in the long run and will help protect the majority of the garden.
If you don’t have the room or gardens for these types of plants, try using small trees, hedges or shrubs in a similar way. This approach can only achieve so much, but there are a few other tools to help with plant health and hopefully avoid extreme damage.
Plant and soil health
Another way of protecting gardens and lawns during the cold onslaught is maintaining plant and soil health. Watering and fertiliser selection provide a leg up and for extra protection, apply a warm blanket of mulch where possible.
As the colder months have approached, I've moved my fertiliser NPK schedule into my winter blends. For me, this means less Nitrogen and more Potassium. This helps to harden up the cells in plants and shouldn't encourage much new soft growth that will be highly susceptible to frost burn.
In the lead up to winter, I have also introduced Flowers, Fruits and Roots into my liquid fertiliser routine. It's a lot higher in Potassium and contains extra Phosphorous with some Nitrogen. Generally, I start using Flowers, Fruits and Roots around late April and then keep adding a dash until late August.
I apply Flowers, Fruits and Roots monthly with Activ8mate and Seaweed Secrets. If you are keen to benefit from Flowers, Fruits and Roots, take care around Phosphorous sensitive plants and adjust your schedule to suit your soil and local climate conditions.
I love Plant Doctor’s amendment products such as Seaweed Secrets and Activ8mate, which are packed with the benefits of seaweed/kelp and I've personally seen my gardens become more resilient over the years with steady use. For maximum benefits, I apply Activ8mate and Seaweed Secrets all year.
If you aren't mulching, you should be. Imagine going to bed in winter without a decent doona – your gardens, lawns and plants are the same! Protect your soil and it will help look after your plants.
Contrary to popular misconception, you still need to water in winter, although much less. Plants tend to get damaged a lot more and a lot faster in extreme cold.
Take care to learn how your plants and soil work, and adapt to water sparingly, but sufficiently. A light watering on a dry but cool day may help prevent cold damage. I like to use the example of winter, wind burnt dry skin - keeping hydrated helps.
While frosts aren't much of a concern for most, even with extreme and dramatic changes possible, it's still a good idea to take steps to minimise the risks from cold snaps. If you are frost free, it's less challenging but still a good idea to work to the climate, environment and conditions as best as you can, and your gardens and plants will love you for it!
Nothing we do as gardeners is guaranteed insurance, but we can take steps to help our gardens all year around. With Australian conditions being rather extreme, it's important to work all year around to help your plants and lawns survive the challenges of each season. I like the hands-on approach and my method is to constantly adapt to challenges in the environment.
I'm just an experienced and awesome gardener sharing my own personal opinions. These are all my approaches and opinions I use in my gardens. I don't have any pieces of paper to tell me how to garden but I do have years of experience and a big, amazing garden that backs me up. I give general advice from my experiences. If you like it, use it. If not, no problem.
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