I’m the first to admit that the thought of venturing outside of a warm bed, heated blanket and cozy thermals in Winter (specially to brave an outdoor bitterly cold garden) is avoided at all costs. In fact, I am writing this mid-July in Gauteng crawled under a very warm blanket, counting the days for this icy chill to move along and welcome warm Summer months once again.
The truth however is that the Winter season is the best time to work in your gardens and the benefits noticeably outweigh the discomfort. Let’s explain why…
Go get yourself a warm cup of hot chocolate and read through our complete Guide to Winter gardening in Gauteng.
How Winter contributes to beautiful gardens:
1. This is the perfect time for seeds to germinate
Most plants need to vernalize seeds and go dormant during this cold period before they can germinate and develop. Winter & frost hit plants terribly during icy months, so it is rather clever and resourceful of them to go into hiding. In addition to being killed by frost, they might also be more likely to be eaten by wildlife or animals during Winter months when food pickings are slim and resources are lacking. It’s a sort of sleepy holiday interlude before their big Spring show.
2. You can see the structure & outline of your garden
Winter is the ideal time to redesign and freshen up your landscaping. Autumn leaves have fallen, branches are stark and bare, crispy leaves and bursts of orange and browns are scattered across your lawns. Now you can sit back and really look at your garden. Study it carefully and decide if it is functioning as a space that you and your family are enjoying. If not, Winter is the perfect time for renovations!
While nobody is expected to be in your garden anytime soon, focus on hardscaping by possibly building a pergola, archways, paths or paving. Construct beautiful outdoor entertainment spaces in preparation for hot sweltering days. Alternatively a small shaded hideaway area nestled in your gardens during Spring is ideal for reading a good book. Use this time to level out sloping, uneven areas and build steps to connect different levels.
Another bonus is that while most plants are in hiding, your garden is more visible and clear which helps to see which areas of your garden need the most work! This the perfect time for weeding as weeds usually stay green during Winter and are easily spotted and more visible to be plucked.
3. Roots can settle in while plants are dormant
When we look at the beauties that our gardens offer, we often forget that all the magic is happening underground. Without a healthy root structure most plants simply cannot exist or reach their full potential. Cold weather is critical for a number of flowering bulbs.
Hardy plants need varying weather conditions throughout the year in order to grow and bloom. Bulbs form in the Summer months in a process known as “baking” which – you guessed it!… requires warmth, the next process is then triggered by the cooler cold climates in Winter. Temperatures of less than 10 degrees cause the flower stems to lengthen.
Many bulbs must be exposed to these bitterly cold weather conditions for at least ten weeks to grow successfully. This process gives our plants a chance to increase their root and stem growth as far out as is possible before their big blossoming season begins. Similar to enjoying a wonderful full stretch in the morning before crawling out of bed to take on a busy day!
Winter garden to-do list:
So now that we have established that Winter in fact plays an important role in our gardens, what can we do to take it to the next level?
- Chop Chop Chop!
Winter is a brilliant time to sculpt trees as most of the autumn leaves have fallen, making the shape of each tree more visible and easier to work with. Cut back flowering shrubs such as Leonotis leonurus or Barleria that have finished flowering for the season, so that you provide your surrounding plants a time to shine.
If you have any roses in your garden and you want sweetly fragranced, gorgeous rose blossoms, then now is the time to grab those secateurs! Roses need to be pruned annually towards the end of July, when hopefully warmer weather is on the way. Don’t tackle this task too soon however as it will encourage new growth that will be hit hard when frost returns.
- Water & Irrigation
Irrigation is something that needs to be relooked at seasonally. Gardens need less water when temperatures drop, so adjust your watering accordingly, a good “rule of thumb” is to water your plants in the morning instead of the afternoon, this will keep them from frosting overnight, a good time would be around 9:00 a.m. and we suggest no more than three times a week with reduced lengths.
Do not leave sprinklers and irrigation systems on overnight as the water can freeze and damage both piping and plants. It’s a good idea to always pack away hoses before dark, however if you find that your hose pipe is frozen, try not to move it until it’s thawed as it can crack and break.
- Frost Guard is a must!
Depending on where you are and how severe the frost is around you, we suggest popping past your nearest nursery to get some protection that you can place over frost-prone plants. You will be looking for frost guard or a lightweight horticultural fleece, which is available at various garden centers which you will want to place on your plants before 3:00 p.m. and then removed again by 9:00 a.m. the next day.
Unless your garden offers sheltered areas, it is not suggested to plant anything that is not frost hardy and instead choose plants that can conquer the cold.
Pro Tip: If it’s too late and you haven’t managed to catch the frost in time and found leaves and branches of shrubs that have been damaged by frost, do not cut them. Leave them on until all threats of frost have passed as they will protect the plants from any further damage.
- Feed the birds!
When Spring arrives each year, there is nothing more serene than sitting in a fragranced vibrant garden hearing birds twitter and chirp happily. To encourage birds to stay in your area and not venture out, Winter is a good time to invite them to find shelter and food as supplies are scarce at this time of year. Offer bird houses or simply high wind break areas in the garden which will invite them in. You can leave out seed, fruit and especially suet, meat scraps, and peanut butter as fat gives birds a much needed super boost in Winter.
- Mulch & Compost
It is a good idea to do this at the beginning of Winter since it will protect the roots from the cold weather. Remove the annuals that have finished and add compost to the top layer of the garden 3-5cm, be careful not to disturb the roots of the plants or to mix up the soil too much as this removes much needed nutrients from the soil.
Once this has been completed, cover the beds with a layer of mulch, this will protect the roots from the cold, as well as provide them with nutrients. It will also protect them from any wildlife that favors nibbling on them.
So now that we have provided you with a landscapers Winter checklist, get those gardening gloves on, wrap yourself in a warm woolen scarf and happy gardening! (Otherwise, call us and we will do it all for you! 😉)
When the cold chilly months conclude and the Summer warm rays start falling over your garden, feel free share your beautiful outdoor spaces. We would love to see them on social media!
That’s it from us for now, watch this space for more tips, tricks & gardening inspiration.
From the Green Creations Team