Winter is Coming…
While we have been experiencing some uncharacteristically warm & sunny days, the days are getting shorter and Winter is Coming. Not sure what to do with all of your spare time now that Game of Thrones is over? Get into the garden this winter with these great garden tips for the cooler months.
While Melbourne winters aren’t quite as grim as Winterfell, the grey skies and rainy days can dampen the spirit. Reconnect with nature by bringing some colour in to your winter garden with top picks for winter flowering native shrubs.
Brighten up your winter garden with grevilleas, banksia, correa, wattle, and hakeas. Many of these species flower over the cooler months when things are slowing in the garden and make excellent cut flower specimens- allowing you to bring your beautiful flowering colour inside! Winter can be a tough time for nectar feeding insects. Plant these hardy flowering shrubs to attract pollinators to your garden this winter.
Correa ‘Dusky Bells’
There are numerous Correa species suited to Melbourne’s climate but ‘Dusky Bells’ is one of our favourites. It has a low growing form and makes a great small shrub or ground cover. The bold pink flowers add a great pop of colour at ground level against the dark foliage. Correa ‘Dusky Bells’ is a great drought tolerant, reliable species for a flowering display from March through to August.
It’s easy to see how the Pincushion Hakea gets its common name once you see it’s globular flower heads. Flowering from March through to August, the Pincushion Hakea is a favoured winter food source for nectar feeding bird and insects. The deep pink flowers decorated with cream ‘pins’ provide a beautiful contrast to the smooth grey-green leaves.
This medium evergreen shrub is a great option for a shrub or tree for an urban landscape as it can be pruned to shape. At maturity it can reach 3.5-5m in height and a width of about 3m. It has been used as an excellent street tree on Montague St, South Melbourne.
Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ has a soft appearance with pale green to silver foliage. It is a beautiful large shrub bearing profuse cream coloured flowers year round. This grevillea will reach roughly 4m in width and height in Melbourne and is a softer alternative to the normally bold coloured flowers of Grevillea. This species is sensitive to phosphorus- be sure to use a low phosphorus fertiliser.
Brassicas thrive in the winter garden. Cauliflower, broccoli, collards and kale are well suited to grow in the cooler months. These vegetables are known as cruciferous vegetables, which have a number of health benefits. They are rich in folate, vitamins C, E and K and fibre. Be sure to position plants in a spot where they can make the most of the sun where possible. Your herb garden can still thrive with a little extra care during the winter months. Position your herbs in a warmer and more protected area where they will receive plenty of light. Sowing seeds may prove to be more successful rather than growing from seedlings.
As winter begins the ground is covered by the fallen leaves of autumn. We can incorporate these leaves as free, organic mulch to enrich the garden’s soil. The best practice to create leaf litter mulch is to incorporate them into composting procedures, keep the leaves moderately moist and turn the pile at least weekly. The addition of grass clippings adds extra nitrogen and helps to balance the composting. Leaf litter on the surface of our garden beds can also provide habitat for invertebrates crucial to the garden ecosystem.
It is important to remember to fertilise your gardens through the winter season to be sure your plants are receiving extra nutrients. Remember to dilute your fertiliser as per packet instructions and apply at ground level as fertiliser can cause leaf burn. Be sure to use low phosphorous fertiliser on native Australian plants.
5. Garden Pests
Be sure to protect your young seedlings from nasty pests such as snails and caterpillars, which are most active during winter. White cabbage moths can be seen fluttering around the garden this time of year. Cabbage moth caterpillars love to munch on leaves of the brassica family. Spraying Dipel is a great way to keep caterpillars in check. Dipel is a bacterium strain that specifically targets caterpillars, meaning that it will not harm beneficial insects.
Aphids are sap-sucking insects that love the sugars in new spring growth. They excrete a sticky substance called ‘honeydew’ which attracts ants. So ants on your plants are a good indicator that you’ve got an aphid problem. Aphids can be removed by diluting 2 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid in a 500ml spray bottle and wiping with a damp cloth. Be sure to reapply pest control substances after rain.
6. Fungal Disease
With the mild and damp weather, fungal diseases thrive. Fungi grows in areas that are moist and do not receive sunlight. Be sure to clean up fallen leaves of rose bushes to control the spread of black spot. Old fruit fallen from stone fruit trees should be removed and composted. Old fruit, if left can cause brown rot fungus that could carry across to next seasons crop. Your local plant nursery should be able to help you source the right fungicide for your fungal disease.
7. Take away
Don’t let your green thumb go into hibernation this winter, maintain your interaction with your garden and be sure to liven it up with plenty of pops of colour with winter flowering native plants.