Winter gardens are usually drab, dreary and a little unkept. Colder months see gardeners abandoning their secateurs and gardening gloves and letting nature take its course. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. There is an abundance of fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers and plants that thrive in the winter months.
Winter is also the perfect time to reset your garden, ready for the spring/summer growth period – with plenty of pruning, weeding, trimming and sowing to do.
With our list of winter compatible plants and winter garden odd jobs, you’ll have a flourishing garden the whole year-round.
Pruning in Winter
Winter is an excellent time to prune your plants, bushes and ornamental grasses – promoting faster growth in spring. A good prune will give your plants root reserves and energy and an added boost when spring comes around. In addition, most trees are dormant at this time, providing the perfect opportunity to reveal where and how much pruning to do. Rose bushes, wisteria, hydrangeas and grapes in particular love winter pruning. And ornamental grasses will explode during the summer after a drastic cutback.
Of course, winter pruning is good for you too, forcing you to get outside and soak up some vitamin D in the colder months.
Not all plants enjoy a winter prune, so do your research before sharpening your secateurs.
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Protect Your Plants From Frost
Frost can be a real threat to your plants, even cold-tolerant varieties. During the winter it’s essential to take measures to protect your plants from frost, as frost affected plants may rot and die. Keep a keen eye on the weather report during the depths of winter and if you see minus temperatures approaching or frost warnings, take the following precautions:
- Mist stone-fruit flowers and shoots with water at sunset. As the water freezes, it will form a layer of ice that will protect the plant from the impending frost.
- If propagating during the winter, sow your seeds or cuttings in Styrofoam vegetable boxes or purpose-built containers instead of directly in the ground.
- If you have tufted plants in your garden, gently tie the leaves together to cover and protect the base of the plant.
- Prepare when you hear a severe cold snap is on its way, and cover your vulnerable plants with old sheets, towels, curtains etc.
- For potted plants, move them to a warmer location, ideally inside.
- Protect low lying plants by covering them with a pain of glass held up by two pots.
Adjust Your Watering Schedule
Gardens need a lot less water in the winter and can become overwatered and soggy if their watering schedule is not adjusted. The drop in temperatures means that plants experience less evaporation, and your garden will lose less water, meaning winter gardens need roughly half the amount of water a summer garden does. On the days you do water, do so in the morning sun to give your plants time to dry out before the nighttime. If possible, water directly onto the soil, avoiding a plant’s leaves and foliage. The colder temperatures and minimal sunlight are the perfect breeding ground for leave dwelling fungus.
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Tend to Your Gutters
A particularly loathsome and dirty job, cleaning out gutters is a year-round job. People tend to neglect their gutters in winter, leaving the big clear out for fire season. However, excess rain and dropping leaves are a recipe for disaster. Overflowing gutters can lead to gutter and roof leaks and ultimately result in mould and mildew. A soggy gutter is also the ideal environment for certain critters and creatures to reside, which could end up moving into your house.
It might be a cold, wet job, especially in winter, but keeping on top of your gutters could potentially prevent major issues down the road.
Ready Your Veggie Patch
Summer is a veggie patch’s time to shine, but winter is the best time to ready your vegetable garden to get the most out of the growth period.
Firstly, check the fences, gates, planter boxes etc., that make up your veggie patch to see if they need repairing or replacing.
Once you’ve ensured everything is structurally sound, you can start tending to the garden itself. If you neglected your veggie patch during the winter prune, now is the time to tend to your fruit trees. You can also purge your veggie patch of any plants that aren’t performing well to make room for your winter vegetables or spring crop. It is also a great time to start enriching the soil with quality fertilizer to give your vegetable garden a jump start in spring.
Keep on Top of Weeds
Winter often means more rain, which means more weeds. Neglecting your winter weed problem could lead to an overrun backyard come springtime. You need to act quickly to avoid a weed problem, as once they mature and seed, they are a lot harder to eliminate. When pulling weeds, make sure you remove them from the root to avoid regrowth. If you use a specialized weed killer, spray it on and wait for the weed to die before removal. The best way to kill weeds is not to let them grow in the first place. A pre-emergent will prevent weed growth by permeating the soil and creating a barrier around the weed seed. A single application lasts around 12 weeks or an entire winter.
Flowers in Winter
Your winter garden doesn’t have to be grey and colourless, thanks to the many varieties of plants and flowers that love cooler climates. Some plants flower in winter, meaning your garden will be in full bloom for fifty-two weeks of the year. Several of our native flowers will continue to bloom during winter and are also a great way to save water and attract native wildlife. Alternatively, plenty of dainty flower options will continue to flourish in winter if you prefer that country garden look. Remember, even the most cold-tolerant flowers can be affected by frost.
Flowers to grow in winter:
- Snowdrops and Snowflakes
- Fairy Primrose
- Woodland Cyclamen
- And many more…
Herbs in Winter
Winter doesn’t always spell disaster for your herbs, with some varieties even preferring the cooler climate. However, your summer-loving herbs need a little T.L.C. to survive the cooler months. Soggy roots do more harm to herbs than the cold, so always plant in a spot in the garden with good drainage. If your herbs are potted, simply move them undercover or against a wall in winter. Additionally, to help your potted herbs drain, raise them on two bricks or pot feet. If you live in a frigid region, you may need to cover your herbs on frosty nights or consider bringing them inside. A few kinds of hardy herbs will tolerate the cold but will still need protection from wind and frost.
Herbs to grow in winter:
- Winter Savory
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Vegetables in Winter
Winter vegetables aren’t just delicious in those hearty winter meals; they grow beautifully in colder climates too. Once the weather starts to cool, don’t hesitate on planting your winter vegetable crop in your newly maintained veggie patch. Winter is the perfect time to grow brassicas, e.g., cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, as well as Chinese vegetables and lettuce.
Other vegetables to grow in winter:
Words by Nell Matzen