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And 3 winter gardening facts that may surprise you

It’s easy to give up on the outdoors during the winter. The morning frost, the dreary days and cold nights can make hibernation sound like a much better option than getting out and about in the garden. However, winter is just as good a season as any to tend to your patches. Horticulturalist and Victa Ambassador, Adam Woodhams, dispels six myths about gardening in winter, and sets the record straight with three facts about winter gardening.


1. It’s best to plant citrus trees in winter so they’re ready come summer

FICTION: “In all but the warmest parts of the country, winter is not the time for planting citrus; or for that matter most plants, small or large. The soil is too cold and it tends to stay wet for too long, increasing the risk of harm to new plantings. You’ll also find most garden plants are dormant during the cooler months so they simply won’t grow or establish. However, winter is the ideal time to be planning where your new citrus might go and getting ready for planting at the first sign of warmer weather.”


2. Keep your grass cut short over winter

FICTION: “During the cooler months, grass grows at a much slower rate. Fact is it's a good idea to either raise your cutting height a little or leave it at your regular height. As a general rule, it's wise to cut your grass so the leaf blades are no shorter than 3cm; but this varies with the lawn type. The big risk of mowing low is 'scalping' which is generally seen as brown patches. Scalp your lawn and you’re exposing the roots and runners to cold or even frosty conditions that will cause serious damage to many lawns. Think of that extra grass as being like a layer of insulation protecting lawn roots and runners from weather extremes.”

3. There is no need to fertilise in winter

FICTION: “Feeding your lawn in late autumn, early or even mid-winter is an excellent practice to get into. This will give the lawn and soil extra reserves to help it survive the cold conditions. Grass may be growing super slowly, but it will still be taking up nutrients that are vital to help build strength ahead of cold and frosty conditions and repair damage afterwards. It’s important to either use a cool season lawn fertiliser blend or a regular blend at half rates. And only ever use quality slow release lawn fertiliser.”


4. You can take time-out from weeding in winter

FICTION: “Sadly, weeds never sleep. Sure, you won’t see many of the lawn and garden weeds that you deal with in the warmer months, but you will see a whole different group of weedy villains. The perennial weeds, those that grow for more than a season, will likely still be around - just not growing much. In fact, winter is the time that the dreaded lawn weed, bindii, is getting ready to flower and then set prickly seeds. So be weed vigilant. It’s actually a nice way to warm up on a cold winter’s day, get out in the sun and do a spot of weeding.”

5. Herbs can’t survive through winter

FACT and FICTION: “Just as with flowers and veggies, there are some herbs that like it hot and some don’t mind the cold. The perennial herbs like rosemary, bay and oregano will chug away through winter, while some such as basil will brown off at the first sign of cold nights. Other herbs, such as coriander, come as a surprise. We think of it as a warm-season herb but if kept in a frost-free spot you will get a really long season from it before it runs to seed. Talk with a horticulturist at your local nursery to find the best varieties for your region and situation as there is a lot of variation around the country.”


6. Winter means no need for lawn care

FICTION: “You may not be mowing your lawn every second weekend, but spending a little time looking after it will see it looking better through winter and have it bouncing back faster come spring. Run the mower over the lawn around once a month just to keep it tidy, this also works as a vacuum to suck up leaves and other detritus from the lawn. If you don’t feel the need to get the mower out then use your leaf blower to tidy the lawn. With short daylight hours, every little bit of sunlight counts to help plants stay healthy. Those stray leaves can be stealing valuable sunlight from your lawn!”


1. Root vegetables are best grown in winter

FACT: “Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, beetroot and potatoes as well as leafy greens like English spinach, silverbeet and pak choy are all excellent choices for the cool season veggie garden. They will tolerate both shorter daylight hours and the cooler weather. The big bonus of the winter veggie patch is it’s almost maintenance free. A little water once a week if it’s dry, watch out for the odd bug and that’s about it!”


2. Plants should be watered in the morning during winter

FACT:  “It’s best to water in the morning to give both soil and plants a chance to dry before night falls, and with it the temperature. When you can, aim to water the soil, avoiding the foliage. And don’t just water by habit. Always check the soil is heading towards dry before watering. Using these techniques will reduce the risk of fungal diseases and rots, as soil can stay cold and damp for weeks they can be the slow, silent plant killers.”

3. Plants can still flourish in winter

FACT: “Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean your garden needs to be bare of beautiful plants – look at hellebores, Heucheras, Euphorbias and evergreen grasses such as the grey-green Festuca glauca and black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) which look fantastic throughout the winter months. If you’re after flowers there are enormous numbers of beautiful winter annuals that will put on gorgeous displays in pots or garden beds, with many available as advanced ‘potted colour’ ready to bloom. Drop into your local nursery for some inspiration and advice.”

You might also like:

Winter garden tidy up 

How to get the best results from your garden beds in winter 

How to get your garden winter ready 

Laura Barry Laura Barry is a writer, bookworm and interior design enthusiast with a love for reporting on all things homes and lifestyle. When not tapping away at her keyboard, Laura can be found making endless cups of tea or perusing the shelves of Sydney’s many bookstores.