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18 May 2015

Gardening During the Colder Months

Gardening during winter can be challenging, with many plants - and gardeners - struggling with frosty mornings and cold overnight temperatures. The colder months can be an incredibly productive time, however, with lots of plants still active and plenty of preparation work to do before the warm weather kicks in. From vegetable and herb gardens through to flowering plants and natives, the winter months are a great time to get down and dirty.

Vegetable gardens can still thrive over winter, especially in tropical and semi-tropical areas. Some plants are productive year-round in this part of the world, as long as garden beds are set up to get as much sun as possible throughout the day. Many experts recommend a staggered planting schedule over the colder months, with some veggies hardy enough to go through an entire winter cycle and others only appreciating the tail end of the winter period.  

June is a great time to plant thyme, snow peas, broad beans, cabbages, dill, radishes, artichokes and garlic. July is a good month for growing chicory, lettuce, endive, cohlrabi, parsnips, sage and shallots, with any of the June options also possible except for garlic. While it's still nice and cold, some plants do much better with an August planting schedule as more light starts to fill up the sky. Great options for August include artichokes, asparagus, garlic, beet root, potatoes, spinich, spring onions and tomatoes. 

While they are normally associated with spring, winter can also be a great time for flowering plants in Australia and New Zealand. Sasanqua camellia, Camellia japonica and other Camellias can bloom throughout the colder months, with red hot pokers and succulents also bringing colour and wildlife into the winter garden. All the wattles are poised to flower later in winter, with many grevilleas also blooming at this special time of year. Flowering plants are the perfect way to brighten up a cold winters day, with plenty of options available at your local nursery. 

Winter is a great time to do garden maintenance, getting rid of waste from previous seasons and getting ready for the busy spring planting schedule. Mulching is often performed over the colder months, simply because it's easier to do with lower temperatures and less plant cover. It's important not to overdo it, however, with excessive mulch making it difficult for light winter showers to penetrate the soil. Winter is also the perfect time to prune deciduous trees and plant bare-rooted shrubs in preparation for the warm months ahead.  

While most plants benefit from fertilisation, it can be difficult finding the perfect time to feed them what they need. The winter months are not the ideal time to apply a lot of fertiliser, with plants growing more slowly and requiring fewer nutrients during this period. Depending on the plants in question, as little as half your normal fertiliser should be applied over winter. While spring flowering annuals, bulbs and winter vegetables all still need to be fed, overfeeding other plants can leave them more susceptible to disease. It's also a good idea to swap from a high nitrogen fertiliser to a low nitrogen one over the colder months to avoid grey mould and other problems.