How to care for your plants through winter

Worried about your garden surviving winter? Here's what you need to know.

Maintaining a garden takes a lot of TLC, especially through extreme temperatures whether it be summer or winter. But as the frosty air rolls in, it's important to know the preparation and care involved to keep your garden thriving into spring. Thankfully, Melissa King, horticulturalist and ambassador for Nylex and Northcote Pottery has the answers. 

Prepare

While the winter can be harsh on some plants, you can still grow a garden all year round - as long as you prepare. Melissa says autumn is the best season, but as long as the weather is mild your garden will still benefit from the preparation. 

The first step to prepararing your garden is to rip out the last of summer's crops and reinvigorate the soil. 

As she explains, "Work plenty of compost and rich organic matter into the soil. It helps to improve soil structure, replace lost nutrients and aid drainage. The addition of organic matter also encourages beneficial soil microbes and earthworms, to promote a healthy living soil environment."

Restructure

Particular species will feel the cold more than others, and will show in your garden. Melissa refers to this as when the bones of the garden are revealed. 

Here, the horticulturist shares her tips on how to avoid a sad looking garden: "Replace poor performers with a selection of robust, cool-season annuals. If your garden is needing a bit of brightening, add some colour with winter flowering plants like Daphne, Hellebores, Correas and Grevilleas."

For the more delicate species like tropical and frost-tender plants, Melissa reccommends to put them in Urbanlite pots so they're able to be moved into sheltered positions or warmer spots where there is risk of frost.  

"If you live in a frosty area, now’s the time to move tender plants to a warm spot and protect young vulnerable growth," she says.

Choose wisely

"If you’re new to gardening, pots are a great place to start," Melissa says. "Try growing leafy greens like lettuce or silverbeet, which are fast growing and productive in pots and can be harvested leaf by leaf as you need them for garden fresh sides and salads."

If you have a smaller space, you can also fill decorative containers with annuals like pansies, violas, polyanthus and cinerarias to provide splashes of cheery colour throughout the cooler months.

Stay hydrated

While the outside temperature is cold, Melissa says that it's important to remember that it doesn't necessarily mean it's wet. 

Even though soil loses less moisture to evaporation in winter than in summer, you still need to keep the water up. As Melissa explains, "Anything that’s actively growing and flowering will benefit from regular doses of plant food throughout the growing season. Look out for a fertiliser with added beneficial soil microbes so that you are looking after your plants above and below the soil."

To track how much water the garden is receiving, the horticulturist recommends implementing a rain gauge like the Nylex digital rain gauge which monitors hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rainfall. Then you'll be able to know when to get the hose out. 

Prune 

Make sure to keep a special eye out for deciduous fruit trees and roses, which will need a good prune through winter to establish a strong framework and encourage healthy growth.

While your focus is maintaining the planted species, it's also important to look out for weeds that will try to grow after rainfall. Melissa encourages to do a 'weed sweep' after a wet period for a better chance of getting the root system. 

If you have a larger garden, investing in appropriate tools will help. "I like to use Cyclones 5 in 1 multi-tool with a long trowel and sharp edge to help dislodge stubborn weeds or a two-prong hoe to quickly cover bigger areas," Melissa shares. 

Look out for the warning signs

If your garden is still not looking healthy, Melissa advises to check the soil. "If water isn’t getting down to the roots, you might need to apply a wetting agent. On the other hand, if your soil isn’t draining properly, work plenty of compost and organic matter through the soil and use a clay breaker if necessary. It’s also important to keep an eye out for pest and disease problems so you can treat them early," she tells.

"If a plant needs to be resuscitated, I often turn to a seaweed-based plant tonic. It helps to promote healthy root and top growth, reduce stress on plants and aid plant recovery."

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