Cool ideas for colder months
How to garden in winter
Winter plant dormancy is more than a period of slowing down or cessation of the life cycle. It is a survival mechanism that is supposed to help plants prepare for warmer weather. During this cold period, proteins are broken down and regenerated and cell membranes maintained.
This article covers the basics of winter gardening, including minor maintenance tips, pruning methods, and pest and disease management.
Want to learn more about winter gardening? Visit All Green Nursery and Garden Supplies. Our friendly team can give you accurate advice on exactly what your garden needs to prosper in the cold.
Fruiting and watering
Winter gardens should now be producing. If you’ve planted autumn crop, you should be able to enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour.
• Cool weather and more frequent rain will reduce the frequency of watering.
• Ensure that the soil remains moist, but not wet, throughout the cold season.
Maintaining a winter vegetable garden is as simple as providing nutrient rich, productive soil throughout the dormancy period.
- Use liquid fertilisers if the soil was well prepared for the crop before planting.
- Low nitrogen fertilisers promote stable sappy growth.
- Be careful not to use too much fertiliser, as extra nutrients can pollute storm water systems.
- Mulch with pea straw or sugar cane to even out fluctuations in soil temperature.
Pests and diseases
Pests and diseases aren’t as active in the winter months, but they are still present. Pests are very host-specific, but can be suppressed using crop rotation in vegetable gardens. Consult a planting chart and decide what you’ll be planting next season and prepare the soil for spring crop requirements.
Look out for Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillars and aphids which might still be active in cooler months. If spotted in smaller numbers, try manual measures to remove them, such as squashing them.
If pests are becoming an annoyance, and numbers are too high for manual control, try natural products such as David Gray’s Vegetable Dust Derris.
In winter, mold and fungi shouldn’t be active. Leaf fungal diseases, such as Black Spot (Diplocarpon rosae), may spend the winter in layers of old leaves and discarded branches on the ground. Winter is a good time to collect any dead foliage under your roses and any other deciduous plants.
Mulching is one of the practices that might help prevention as well, as these pathogens are waterborne.
Plant pruning is basically the removal of parts of a tree/plant to control its growth and suit your needs.
• In the first three years practice formative pruning with aggressive shaping and pruning.
• Later in its life, the tree is pruned to shape by yearly detail pruning techniques.
• Renovation pruning techniques reshape a tree when it has grown too large, or has been neglected.
In winter, it’s very important to prune any plants that require it. Ornamental deciduous plants such as roses, hydrangeas, and wisterias will also benefit from regular pruning. Most flowering ornamentals, especially roses, require an open crown pruning, which is achieved by:
• Cutting any branches that grow into the centre of the bush
• Freeing up space for light and air to flow through easily
• Cutting back stems to pencil thickness just above an outward facing bud
This should help the plant to fight off possible fungal diseases during next season. Again, any discarded material (leaves and branches) should be disposed of properly to prevent any disease spread.
Most deciduous fruit trees are traditionally pruned in late winter, before buds open in their dormancy period. Fruit trees don’t necessarily need pruning to bear fruit, although there are some that will fruit on new growth. We need to understand on which branches the fruit tree produces fruit:
• Apples will produce fruit on branches that are two years old or older.
• Peaches and nectarine will produce fruit on new or first year growth.
• Apricots, plums, and cherries will fruit on first and second year branches.
Neglected trees can also become too large and difficult to manage and keep within the given perimeters. They may eventually become overgrown with non-productive wood, and might start producing every second year.
Another little trim might be required during summer months to maintain shape and contain the size of the tree. No matter when we prune, always keep your secateurs sharp and clean to prevent the spread of disease.
Citrus trees will benefit from pruning and the removal of unhealthy and wrongly positioned branches. Winter citrus pruning will help you:
• Contain the trees in manageable sizes in smaller gardens
• Allow light and airflow through the branches
• Remove water shoots to prevent them from becoming dominant
• Increase blossom quality, fruit size, and provide you with a better yield
Some citrus varieties bear two crops, so some of the new crop may be lost when pruned. However, the benefits to the trees far outweigh the losses, if done correctly.
Citrus gall wasps
Citrus trees also benefit from winter pruning in the areas where gall wasp is present. Citrus gall wasps are small native wasps which lay eggs under the bark of the citrus varieties. Larvae hatch and burrow their way deeper into the stem to feed on the citrus tree tissue.
The best way of fighting gall wasps is prevention, and the rule of thumb to prevent their spread is prune in June:
• Gall wasps are lazy and aren’t good flyers so they will stay in an area of about 100m from the host tree.
• Wasps will start hatching in warmer months so make sure this is done during winter time.
• This wasp doesn’t have a predator in Victoria, so any actions will help prevent this pest from spreading.
Physical traps will also aid in prevention. Go Natural Citrus Gall Wasp And Medfly Insect Trap will do the job. However, these traps are non-selective and can also catch other species. Alternative options include a cage that surrounds the glue trap to prevent birds from getting caught.
Want to know how to take care of your specific plants? Drop into All Green Nursery and Garden Supplies. Our team have all the tips to ensure that your garden is growing all year round.