Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t still get your hands dirty in the garden. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a complete novice, now’s a great time to tap into your inner green thumb.
There’s plenty to be done in the cooler months and Australian winters are comparatively mild, which means it’s not so brutal that you can’t get out into it. Research has shown that spending just five minutes outside, be it on a walk or doing a spot of gardening, can improve your mental and physical health – particularly in the winter when our vitamin D levels plummet. Plus, your garden will look much better for it come spring.
Looking after your indoor plant babies is a breeze through winter. Water them sparingly (unless you’ve got the heater on high all day), place them in a sunny part of the house, and let them sit outside for a few hours once a week, provided it’s not thunder storming out there. In order not to overwater them, push your hand fingers into the soil. If it’ dry, give it a drink, if it’s damp, hold off. Remember to wipe off the dust on the leaves too to make photosynthesis a little easier during the low light months.
In winter, deciduous plants, shrubs and trees shed their leaves and go into hibernation, which means your lawn will likely be littered with leaves, bark and twigs (from your own garden or the neighbours’). Since it’s cold, you might as well work up a sweat. Grab a rake and collect any sticks or twigs that could be used in a fireplace or barbeque and throw the rest on the compost heap.
Unless the ground is frozen solid, you can still prepare it for plants that thrive in the winter months. In fact, winter is the best time to plant and prune many rose varieties which will pay dividends when the temperature rises and they start to bloom.
Engage in some physical activity by digging a new vegie patch or garden bed and prepare the soil with fertiliser. Weeds are easier to spot in the colder months so use a hoe or manually pull out any unwanted visitors.
Winter’s not over yet, so either planting immediately or prepare for your spring selection. If you’ve decided on a vegie patch then kale, rocket, spinach, radicchio and mignonette lettuce are good to plant now. Root vegetables like carrot, radish and beetroot actually develop a better flavour profile in winter as they convert starches into sugar. You can also prepare for your spring crop by readying tomato, capsicum, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, zucchini and other seeds on a warm windowsill until the soil warms outside.
Now’s also the time to sharpen the secateurs and start pruning. Cut back now to encourage plenty of lush new growth in spring.
Cold weather slows down the growth process, so lawns won’t require as much mowing during the winter months – every few weeks is fine. Be sure to use the catcher though, as the clippings can lead to fungal issues in the cold weather if left behind.
Aerating your lawn stops soil compaction and allows nutrients to sink deeper. The process might sound a bit daunting without a powered aerator, but it works wonders for the spring rejuvenation. Push any regular garden fork into the soil and wobble it back and forth to create small holes. Continue this process about every 15 centimetres until your entire lawn is finished. Finish the process by dressing the lawn with a fine layer of loam or coarse sand, or hose on seaweed to nourish the micro-organisms in the soil. Wait until spring and fertilise.