Winter gardening tips

Date posted: 31 May 2017

Winter is coming! Like, right now.

While it's tempting to while away the next few months in your ugg boots by the fire, there are still plenty of jobs to get done in the garden. We spoke to Botanic Gardens of South Australia curators to glean their top winter tips.

A late start

Last weekend's rain could be considered the break of the season and it was a bit later than normal. Typically we experience the first substantial rainfall in late April or early May so if you've planted anything recently hopefully you've been keeping an eye on them (also watching out for your pot plants drying out). If your soil has been dry for an extended period it can become water repellent/hydrophobic (look for water pooling on the surface), which can be fixed with a good soil wetting agent and/or seaweed-based additives.

Weed Control

With substantial rain finally falling after our mostly dry autumn it won’t be long until garden weeds start appearing through our gardens. It’s critical to keep on top of weeds and remove them before they mature and set seed. “One year’s seed is seven years of weeds”, as the saying goes! Hand weeding is a very effective way of removing weeds as this time of year because the soil can be softer and weeds can be removed roots and all. Use garden hoes or tillers for larger areas, otherwise consider chemical control as another possibility.

Retail therapy

Yes, really! If the weather is really nasty outside, get some seeds for your ornamental and vegetable gardens. Head into the The Diggers Club shop on Adelaide Botanic Garden's Schomburgk Pavilion to find some funky heirloom seeds. Highlights this winter include:

  • Truffle trees: These Holm Oaks have been inoculated with the spores of French fungus!
  • Garlic: Diggers are offering two packets for the price of one for members right now.
  • Potatoes: from mid-June Diggers will have a great selection of seed potatoes in store for planting over winter - mashers, bakers, chippers and all-rounders.
  • Vegie Box Collection: This contains all the seeds you need to grow for the ultimate winter crop, providing enough vegies for a family of four.

Another great product for those with a keen interest in citrus is Commonsense Citrus - a hands-on guide to propagation and planting by Ian Tolley. Ian launched the book at Adelaide Botanic Garden last week and it's a compendium of observations and practices in propagation and commercial growing accumulated over a lifetime in horticulture.

Start a new project

While winter can be considered the slower time in the garden, you can use this time to sort out problems that have irritated you such as underperforming plants, which you can removed. Or perhaps you’ve been pining to add a water feature, new garden edging or an entertainment area to enjoy your garden? Do some research and get cracking.

Kitchen gardening

When you’re not turning your produce into delicious hot soup, winter’s a great time to get jobs done in your kitchen garden. Winter’s the time to prune your existing fruit trees or buy new ones to put in the ground. Winter’s also great for planting brassicas (such as brussels sprout and cauliflower), lettuce and Chinese vegetables. Take the time to tidy up your garden, compost, prune and start thinking about what you’re going to plant up next season.

Time to prune

Another great winter job is pruning for structure on your young deciduous trees. The fact these trees are without their leaves means the form of the tree can be seen easily, and crossing wood, double leaders and a plethora of other problems can be picked up early. Hydrangea pruning can also be done now the flower buds have set. The old wood can be pruned out and the shrubs pruned back to those healthy fat flower buds for a good display next year.

Roses

Rose pruning is a winter must. Any time from July onwards is fine and you’re done apply some Seamungus, which will help them resist frost, pests and disease, plus condition the soil and encourage root growth (which will give them a great head start for spring).

Education is key

If you want to get the most out of your garden this winter, the Botanic Gardens of South Australia has several fun and hands-on winter Masterclasses on offer. Led by our Curator of Plant Propagation, you can learn Advanced Plant Propagation techniques on Thursday 10 or Sunday 20 August, with more fascinating Masterclasses to follow in spring, including ones on orchids, introductory propagation techniques and ferns. Head to our Masterclass page for the full schedule and more info, and book your spot before the classes fill up.