Your Winter Gardening Must Do's

With the days getting shorter and oh, so much colder, it’s a great time to get prepared for spring.

Winter in the southern states of Australia can be bitterly cold, grey and puts most of us into a semi hibernation. However, we also experience beautiful, clear, crisp and sunny days, which are perfect to get our bodies moving and venture outside.

Much like ourselves, our wildlife and plant life are similar in their response to winter. Plant growth slows right down, animals get slower too. Food becomes an area of focus; animals have to utilise their food stores or take advantage of the winter foods available, so searching for food becomes a daily task. Plants, seedlings and seeds are incubating and developing in the ground, spreading their roots so they can absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil, so when that warm spring sun comes, they can take off. All of this happens year after year and its really quite lovely to see the changes throughout the seasons.

To get the most out of winter and to get our body moving, here are a few things that we can do that will make our gardens look great for spring as well as helping our local wildlife.


What we can do for plants.

  1. Plant for next year.

Is your garden looking a little bit tired or do you think you need to add some new plant life?  Now is the time to get them in the ground. I find that letting plants sit in the ground for the winter months allows them to establish themselves and develop a good root system. This means that in spring they have all the base work done and can grow nicely, plus they’re more resilient when faced with dry scorching summers than if they’d been planted in spring. Assess what plants you have in the garden, are any flowering, do you have enough cover, do any plants provide fruit or seed can you change part of the garden to become more wildlife friendly?

  1. Soil health.

While it is cooler its naturally wetter too, winter is the season that allows soils to become hydrated and in doing so leaf litter and other materials decompose to provide nutrients to plants for the warmer months. Give your garden a good soak and add some worm juice, Seasol or compost to the garden. This will increase biological activity in the soil, which helps plants to establish stronger root systems. Though you can’t see what happens below the ground you will be able to see the effect when your garden comes alive in spring.

  1. Weeds.

Now is a good time to get stuck into weed removal. If you leave the weeds till spring, they will go berserk, and you will have a bigger problem. There is an old saying, “One year’s seed is seven years of weeds”. I think that says it all. Once you’re done, add a layer of mulch or straw to help suppress future weed growth. This also helps to bring in beneficial bugs, which thrive in the warm and moist microclimate under the mulch.

Don’t forget to clean up too. Fallen leaves of deciduous plants that have been infected with fungal pathogens like Peach Leaf Curl or Rust can spread spores. These spores are microscopic and will lay dormant in the leaf buds until spring when the new leaves are coming on. Cleaning up leaf litter will help prevent pathogen outbreaks later in the year.



What we can do for wildlife.

  1. Nest boxes.

Although most animals have found a shelter for this winter, it’s a great time to install boxes for the wildlife looking to find a nesting site this spring. Do a little research on your local wildlife and the nest boxes they require.  Here’s a link to all you need to know.

  1. Shelter.

While you are in the garden cleaning up plants and litter don’t forget that this can provide habitat. You can still tidy up, however, have a little fun and experiment with what you can do with the litter. For example, with trees and shrubs that have just been pruned, try making artistic stick piles, this becomes shelter to small birds and ground dwelling animals. Leaf litter and bark can be scattered into garden beds and put into piles in some areas so that it can be used for bedding material in spring. Leaf litter also provides material that insects can feed on, thus creating a hot spot for birds to get a meal. It might also be a good time to assess if you need more shelter in the garden. Trees and shrubs with dense foliage are necessary for small birds and other animals and sometimes people realise they have too little shelter in winter especially if they have many deciduous trees in the garden.

  1. Food.

As you assess your shrubs, notice if any are flowering or producing fruit. You can provide a food source to local wildlife by incorporating species that fruit and flower during winter. It’s a great time to plant them too as you will give them time to settle in over the colder months and once spring comes along, they will take off. Native plants such as Grevilleas, correas, banksias and acacias flower in winter and fruiting plants such as Coprosma quadrifida, Rhagodia parabolica and Solanum laciniatum fruit in winter. It’s a win for all, as you will have a beautiful flowering garden in winter and the animals will benefit from having a secure food and shelter during the harder months.


So what are you waiting for? Get that jumper on, bring a thermos with a nice warm beverage, pop on a pair of wooly lined gardening gloves and get stuck into the garden.

If you are involved in local Landcare groups or looking to do some plant rehabilitation now is also the best time to plant, as mentioned previously you need the cooler months to allow plants to establish a good root system that will in turn give them a fighting chance to grow into maturity.

Have fun!


Written by Em Bowman from STEM Landscape Architecture & Design | | Studio 3, 1/177 Beavers Road, Northcote, 3070, Vic.

 and   @birdsinbackyards
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