Published : 8 June 2016

Finally winter seems to have arrived! I'm not talking about the recent high winds and downpour, rather the cold nights and chilly mornings that have seen us dig out the thick woollies and slippers!

It's a beautiful time of year - blue skies, sunshine, reduced humidity, that early morning mist and a nip in the air. So resist the urge to snuggle up on the lounge with a book, and get out in the garden - not only do your plants really need your help right now, but you'll benefit from the fresh air and exercise.

Winter can be tough on our plants, especially the further south you go. Growth slows right down, nutrients can be harder for the roots to find and, of course, there's the possibility of frost to contend with.

But it's also a very important time of year for your garden, with the jobs you do now affecting how your garden blooms come spring and summer.


Protect your plants

Firstly, protect your plants. Move potted tropical plants and other sun-lovers into protected spots in the garden, or even up onto the deck. For frost-sensitive plants that can't be moved, invest in some rolls of frost cloth. Reasonably priced and easy to use, this fine gauze will attract the frost, keeping it off your precious plants.

You should also adapt your watering methods at this time of year. Plants don't require as much water, and you should avoid watering late in the day, when the temperature is dropping. It's also advisable to use tepid water to reduce any possible shock to the plant.

You've probably noticed rose bushes and fruit trees for sale in your local garden centre. It's a good time to plant them, but ensure you dig a slightly bigger hole than you need, adding plenty of compost and aged manure to protect the roots and give the plant the best start.

You may also need to remove some of the mulch you added earlier in the year. Generally, in Australia, we apply mulch to reduce the effect of the hot sun, retain moisture in the soil, and smother weeds during the growing season. But too thick a layer of mulch at this time of year could make the soil too cold and damp, rotting or killing your plants.


What to plant

Another handy job you could be doing if you live in a cold climate, is building simple 'cold frames'. Simply construct a wooden frame around the area you wish to protect, and cover it with plastic or cloth at night. Remove the cover during the day.

Come summer, you can still utilise these frames by swapping the plastic for shade cloth, protecting the plants from strong sunshine.

It's also a great time of year to install a rainwater tank, so you can start building up your water supply in time for spring. Major hardware store stock a wide range of outdoor taps and fittings, so you can set-up your own garden irrigation system.

Alongside those rose bushes and fruit trees, you may also have noticed a great selection of winter colour plants, such as polyanthus and pansies. Perfect for pots and containers, these gorgeous blooms add a welcome splash of colour during the winter months.

You should also be planting bulbs now, if you want to ensure an impressive display of daffodils, narcissus, jonquils, tulips and other spring beauties.

In the vegetable garden, it's time to plant carrots, leeks, onions, beetroot, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach and silverbeet - and spuds. And the herb garden will benefit from the addition of some coriander and chamomile.

Those roses and fruit trees can also go in, along with pistachio and pecan nuts. A dose of liquid fertiliser will give them a great kick-start, applied to the soil early in the morning.

Finally, if you get a good shower of rain to moisten the soil, get out in the garden when it stops and pull a few weeds!