Winter Gardening Tasks

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There’s plenty you can do now to protect your plants from nippy weather and make life easier in spring and summer.

Tasmanian author and gardening expert Jennifer Stackhouse shares five cold-weather gardening tasks to tackle.

A good time to move dormant plants

A tangle of twigs from a plant that may be dry and dormant in the colder months, but not necessarily dead.

Many plants are dormant in the colder months, but not dead.(Supplied)

Jennifer says at this time of the year in a lot of Australia’s climates plants lose their leaves, and if you’re a new gardener or have moved somewhere with an unfamiliar garden you might mistake a winter slumber for death.
“Always be very cautious about assuming something is dead, especially during autumn, winter and early spring,” she says.

“Branches will still be able to be bent, and will have some green inside.”

She says the benefits of a sleeping plant is that it can be pruned and also dug up and moved.

“If it’s a herbaceous perennial, for example dahlias, these are plants that die back to a bulb underground,” she says.

“You can actually dig them up and divide them and put them into other parts of the gardens or give them to friends.

“Or if you don’t want to look after that part of the garden, you don’t have to do anything.”


a woman with dark hair looking at the camera, there is a rose bush next to her with one dark red rose

Tasmanian author and gardening expert, Jennifer Stackhouse.(Supplied: Kim Woods Rabbidge)

Protect plants from frosts

Plants, just like humans, can feel the cold.

Tropical plants and sub-tropical plants living in an area that gets a cold winter might need some protection.

Jennifer uses the example of gardenias and citrus in pots.

“They might start to suffer a bit in winter,” she says.

“Try and move them into a warmer spot.”

She says if a frost is forecast, the plants can be covered for protection.

Even succulents might need some cover.

“Some succulents are frost hardy and some are not, so I tend to treat potted succulents as not being frost hardy until I know otherwise,” she says.

“I always try to move plants that could be susceptible to very cold conditions into a sheltered spot.”

Learn when to prune

Jennifer says pruning times can depend on where you live.

In warm climates, roses can be pruned in early winter.

“That’s because winters are short and they’ll start to grow earlier than in colder areas,” she says.

She says in colder areas, like Tasmania, to put off pruning for as long as possible.

“Pruning encourages new growth, and then new growth can be affected by cold conditions,” she says.

If you’re in a temperate area prune your roses in mid-winter, and in cold areas prune in late winter.

Jennifer says winter is also a good time to prune dormant fruit trees, or remove dead wood and old fruit.

“Evergreen fruit trees like citrus and avocado and mangoes don’t require winter pruning, not every edible plant needs to be pruned,” she says.

Perennial bulbs that die down over winter can be cut back.

“Sometimes you’ll have a mess of dead and dying growth, so cut everything back to the base of the plant,” she says.

You can protect the base with mulch if you live in a cold area.

A perfect time for lawn care

Winter is the perfect time for lawn care, like raking away dead grass and moss and patching up bare lawn to prevent weeds filling the space.

“Where you’ve got bare patches you can actually buy lawn seed which will grow through winter,” Jennifer says.

“You’ll have a green leafy lawn without having the weeds.”

If you’re in an area that gets bindi eyes, it’s time to get on top of them.

“They are a weed that gets a prickle at the base of the plant that sticks into your feet in the warmer months,” she says.

“But the plant actually flowers and forms that seed in winter so they start to come up in autumn.

“By the time you realise you’ve got them, they’ve already formed the part that’s going to cause you a problem.”

Jennifer says you can use herbicides or remove them by hand with a trowel or fork.

She says it’s also time to clean up any leaves from deciduous trees that might be preventing lawn from getting light.

It can be turned into leaf mould, a nutritious additive for soil, or put straight onto garden beds.

Close up on the leaves of beautiful garden fresh silver beet.

You can still grow leafy greens in winter.(ABC: Aimee Volkofsky)

What to plant in your vegetable patch

Jennifer says you can still grow vegetables over winter, and it’s a great time to plant spinach, silverbeet, snow peas, broad beans and garlic.

“It’s often easier for people to grow vegetables over winter because there’s less stress on the plants,” she says.

“It will give you food through winter and into spring.

“If you’ve got summer crops, pull out anything that’s old and not productive and that can either go in the compost heap or if its diseased put it into the green bin.”

She says it’s good to dig compost through your patch and put some mulch over the top.

“Don’t let it get infested with weeds,” she says.

“Plant some seedlings so that you give the area a bit of care through the winter.”

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