What to do in the garden:
We have had some wintry weather in the last week after a very balmy autumn.
As it is now officially winter, it will be a good idea to look at what to do in the garden.
Now we are starting to have frosts, your frost tender plants will need protection. Vegetables can be covered in a cloche, while tender ornamentals can have frost cloth put over them. Ideally, if you get frosts, you should only be growing plants that tolerate frosts. You can also plant tender plants under house eaves or in the shade of trees.
Some ways you can avoid frost damage are:
* Avoid pruning and fertilising deciduous trees and shrubs in autumn, as the new flush of growth can be susceptible to frost damage. This is important with roses, so wait until mid July to prune your roses in Wellington (prune later in the South Island).
· Leave the frost damaged growth on your plants. Although they look unsightly, they do provide protection for the rest of the plant. Once the danger of frosts has past, you can prune back to healthy growth.
· Leave dead flowerheads on perennials as protection, or cover them with mulch.
Avoid walking on frost-covered lawns, as it will damage the grass.
If you have deciduous trees in your garden, the old leaves make an excellent material for your compost bin. Otherwise simply spread them as a mulch around the base of trees. It is a good idea to use a cover such as corrugated iron over your compost to keep the rain out, and keep the heat in.
Prune hydrangeas now- cut back stems that have flowered last season to the next node with two buds.
Apples can be pruned in June. Remember, they need little pruning, other than removing the dead, diseased and damaged growth, inward-facing growth and shoots from the base of the tree. If you prune apple trees too hard, you will get more shoot growth and less flower and subsequent fruit growth.
Berryfruit can also be pruned – remove old canes and shoots of raspberries and boysenberries, and tie new shoots to your wires. Cut out old shoots of gooseberries and blackcurrants.
You can plant garlic and shallot now – they can be planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day.
Brassicas ( cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli), strawberries and silver beet can also be planted now.
Watch out for slugs and snails – use a product like Quash, which is safe around pets.
At this time of year, lawns that are in the shade can get mossy. You can use products like Surrender or iron sulphate to control moss, or simply rake the lawn vigorously and remove the debris. If your lawn is poorly drained, you should think about putting in drains. If it is shady, either improve the light by thinning trees nearby, or if you can’t do this, it may be more advisable to plant this area in shade-loving plants.
Hydrocotyle or waxweed can be a major weed problem now. You can use Hydrocotyle killer, but it helps to keep the grass growing well, and well drained, as the weed gets in bare areas and loves wet soils.
Porina caterpillar is active now. They cause grass to die off and leave little mounds of soil where they merge each night. You can apply a product like Lawnguard or organic Caterpillar biocontrol to control the pest.
Paths, decks & paved areas:
Not only lawns, but hard surfaces such as timber decks and paving go mossy and green in winter. To control this, you can use bleach (sodium hypochlorite) such as Janola or Chlorodux, or a product such as Wet & Forget. Use it neat, either applying it by watering can or sprayer. Avoid getting bleach on your skin or clothes, as it turns everything white! Some people use a water blaster on these surfaces, but it can roughen the surfaces, and make it easier for moss and moulds to grow.
Happy winter gardening!