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Winter gardening tips

The sun is beaming in through the windows, the air is warm and crisp and the wind is non-existent. Living in South Africa we are blessed with sunshine for three hundred days (possibly more), each year. And winter is just a quick break from our hot summers - it's also the best time to get planting and preparing the garden for the new growing season.

 

In very cold regions where frost occurs some plants that are tender may need to be protected from frost burn. Spray a little water on them in the early morning to melt the frost. Vegetables and succulents are susceptible to frost burn. You will find landscape fabric at your local Builders Warehouse or garden centre that can be used to cover plants that are susceptible to damage by frost.

Roses and ornamentals need to be pruned in July. I am a great believer in more is better in this regard. All too often, I see roses that are not pruned down hard and this doesn’t allow for healthy growth and flowering during the summer months. Two thirds of the rose bush can be taken down.

Make sure all the dead and hard wood is removed at the base of the plant. Prune at a 45-degree angle away from the bud so that water/rain does not rot the new bud. It’s best to seal with a pruning gel after plants have been cut.

Aim to create a vase shape after pruning; cut out all the stems that grow through the middle of the plant, you only want the green healthy stems to remain. Sometimes two to three stems is all that will remain, but they will flourish during the growing season as the roots will be able to feed them with all their zeal.

After pruning feed roses with a good rose fertilizer and cover the base of the plant with a kraal manure or mulch. Remember to always water after fertilizing.

Fruit trees also need to be pruned and fed. Ensure all old and diseased wood is removed. Cut branches that grow through the middle of the tree and shade other branches. Shaded branches will not provide fruit. Direct sun on new buds will encourage healthy growth and fruit. Cut at a 45 degree angle. Feed with 3.1.5 and kraal manure after pruning.

Lawns don’t look great or grow a lot in winter. Many lawns during the winter get invaded by runner/golden moles. These little fellows love lawn caterpillar. Treat the lawn for caterpillar and you will get rid of the moles. Lawns also need aerating (spiking), during winter and then feeing with a good root stimulating fertilizer such as 2:3:2. Remember not to cut lawns too low during winter as it can cause disease. I also don’t recommend any top dressing through winter - rather wait until spring.

Mulching all beds and especially newly planted bulbs. This will retain moisture in the soil and keep weeds from germinating around the new plants. Make sure all beds are turned and kept weed free. Most plants love a well turned, aerated soil.
Hydrangeas need pruning like roses. Add lime to the base of these plants and also to all stone fruits. Lime improves soil PH and allows for plants to gain all the good stuff in the soil. Making for a healthier flower and better fruiting tree.

Winter is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. The plant roots develop fast and get lots of deep watering from the abundant rainfall in spring and growth is exponential during summer.

Contrary to what many of us think, winter is a good time to add colour to your garden: Pots and bed borders look lovely with flowering violas, cinerarias and primulas. I am a huge fan of Aloes and succulents in the garden, they flower through ought winter. Arum lilies and Clivias look lovely in shaded areas and the lovely Leptospermum (tea bush) add a lovely shape and contrast to most beds. Azaleas are very popular winter flowering plants.

So get the wellies on, switch the TV off and get the whole family into the garden this weekend. I promise it will be rewarding for all.

Article by Greg Heathcote-Marks at www.Hedgehogs.co.za