Winter in the garden is just as busy as other seasons. There’s always something to do to keep plants healthy and weeds under control. For us, it's mainly about pruning and planting right now - and weeding, always weeding.
This month we’re weeding then gathering any fallen leaves and using them as mulch in the garden. Also sowing cover crops in bare areas for all the great reasons mentioned in this blog post.
On fruit trees we're pruning dead, damaged, diseased branches. Then pruning to have space between branches for air and pollination, to let the sun in for the fruit to ripen and keep the branches reachable for picking. These all help reduce pests and disease. We’re after strong healthy branches with lots of fruit spurs. Check out Kath Irvine’s helpful pruning videos.
We’ve started pruning roses. Lopping off branches that cross and rub as these allow disease to enter the plant through the damaged area. Taking out some of the older branches to encourage new growth and pruning to an outward facing bud on healthy branches.
After pruning, where there have been pest problems, we’re thoroughly spraying the tree with copper to deal with any overwintering pests. Otherwise we’re spraying the neem oil to deter those nasties.
Grapes have also been getting pruned, trained and sprayed.
We’re planting shrubs and trees. Whether it’s natives for shelter and food for wildlife, or fruit trees and shrubs for homegrown goodies. Now’s the time to get them in.
This is the best time to plant strawberries. Remember they will need protection from birds.
We've been sowing seeds for green manure crops where there are garden beds not being used or areas where customers are deciding what to plant.
Bare soil invites weeds to make themselves at home, and when it rains, valuable soil and water wash away taking nutrients with them.
Benefits of covered soil
There are many reasons to sow a green manure crop. To:
Before cover crops seed
Cut them down or pull them out before they go to seed. Use the stems as mulch or dig it into the soil to rot down and release nutrients for the next crop and improve soil structure.
What to sow
Diversity is the way to go. Each plant has its own benefits, from attracting beneficial insects, to adding specific nutrients to the soil.
Include your cover crop in your vege crop rotation plan. Ie don’t grow plants of the same family after each other.
In winter, we have oats and legumes (nitrogen fixers) such as beans, lupins and various types of peas. There’s also winter-hardy salad crops, such as corn salad and miner’s salad (Claytonia).
Experiment with what works in your area and with your soil. You’ve got a lot to gain and very little to lose.
A to-the-point list of activities to prepare your garden for winter and the plants for spring. We're talking about pruning, feeding and general care. Plant, sow, reproduce covers planting.
Remember Wild about Weeds can help you with any of these tasks.
Prune and trim
Prune shrubs that have finished flowering. Eg hebes, rosemary, manuka, grapes, hydrangeas, lavender, grevilleas, fuchsia. Many of these grow leggy and the lower leaves die. Pruning encourages new growth.
Give hedges a final trim before winter. Remember to leave the bottom wider than the top to prevent bottom branches dying off.
Cut perennials, eg herbs, back to encourage new growth. Poke a few short cuttings in the soil to grow new ones.
Feed your hard working plants
Spread a quality general organic fertiliser around plants’ dripline as per packet instructions. Water it in before mulching. No need to fertilise plants that don’t like fertiliser. Eg proteas, leucadendron.
Spray plants with neem or other organic pesticide. For deciduous plants after leaves drop is a good time to fully spray plants to deal to any overwintering fungi and other pests lurking in nooks and crannies.
Mulch or compost plants inc shrubs and trees. This will reduce weeds, improve soil structure and break down into nutrients for the plants. Sow green manure seeds in bare areas.
Don’t waste fallen leaves and prunings. If they’re not diseased use as mulch or put them in your compost. It's all goodness for the soil.
Keep weeding. If you don’t have much time, at least remove flowers and seed heads to reduce spread.
Cooler wet weather brings slugs and snails to deal with.
With more rain and less heat, but enough to keep the garden happy, autumn is a great time to plant, sow seeds , take cuttings or split perennials.
If you have a wood burner or a firepit, you could plant trees to coppice and supplement your delivered firewood.
Otherwise plant trees and shrubs for shelter, privacy, to bring wildlife into your garden.
If you’re after spring flowering bulbs, get them in now. We’re talking anemones, bluebells daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, snowdrops.
Sow seeds for winter flowers, such as calendula, pansies, wallflowers, cornflowers. Primulas, polyanthus, cineraria will flower in shade if you have a spot for them.
Sow direct until May: cosmos, cornflower, nigella, poppies, sunflowers and sweetpeas. For sweetpeas, chill seed first to give germination a head start. Once growing, pinch heads off to encourage strong side shoots.
For fresh winter veges sow broccoli, broad beans, cabbage, cauliflower, peas. Or give microgreens a go if you’re short of space and not so patient.
Propagate woody cuttings like berries, grapes, hydrangeas, currants and roses. See Grow your own free plants
For free plants, divide your perennials such as grasses, irises, sorrel, day lilies, hellebores, hostas, heucheras, achillea. Get more bang for your buck and a better show by grouping them.
Cover bare areas
Finally, if you have any bare areas, sow green mulch such as Kings Green Mulch mix. This helps reduce weeds, then you chop it down before it seeds and use it for mulch. Win-win.
Thought I'd share some photos of plants and flowers in my garden this autumn.
I didn't think there was much colour until I looked properly and saw the flowers blooming. Hover over image for caption.
Autumn is the best time to take plant cuttings and grow some more
This works for many plants you’re likely to have, eg fuchsias, hebes, hydrangeas, lavender, rosemary, succulents.
My method is a bit of a shortcut as I put cuttings straight in the ground and leave it to mother nature.
Here's what I do:
My house backs on to a large sports park that slopes down to the road below. The large area between the road and the playing field is wildlands. Lots of rubbish. Lots of pest plants. Some natives.
Just through my back gate are several pine trees from which I gather cones and firewood.
Natives coming through
As for native plants, are self seeded pseudopanax, Coprosma robusta and repens, renga renga (probably from nearby gardens).
Of course there are way more pest plants than natives. I pull out the small ones, if they're too big I break the tops off so they don't seed or spread seed as far.
The menu comprises bear's breeches/Acanthus mollis, German ivy ( I saw only one plant), ivy, prunus, cotoneaster, broom/Cytisus scoparius and some Norfolk Island pines.
Weedbusters has info on how to control pest pants.
Such a pity I can't use the abundant pine needles for mulch or compost in my garden. There's tradescantia and many other weeds among them and I daren't risk them taking a liking to my garden.
While I'm scrambling around, I lay branches horizontally between trees to create a bit of a shelf. Over time, this reduces soil and water running down the hill and creates a shelf for seeds to settle and grow.
On my walk up my street this afternoon, every other verge had agapanthus, Agapanthus praecox, growing healthily. Definitely the predominant species round these parts.
Why it's a pest plant
It seeds prolifically, spreads seeds effectively which germinate densely. Fragments of the roots easily regrow. Plants live a long time and can handle a wide range of conditions and soil types.
Wherever it grows, it forms solid clumps. I've seen layers and layers grow on top of each other. It bullies all other plants out and takes over.
For information on getting rid of agapanthus see Weedbusters,
First day beating the feet during the rahui to save lives and eliminate Covid-19.
I explored part of Sinclair Park, discovering natives and exotic weeds mixed together. And a lovely wildness in the margins.
Some of the natives
Hover over the photo for more information.
Some of the pest plants I spotted are below.
Life in the margins
Second visit to continue work January 2020.
First visit to start work July 2019.
Photos from the initial visit 24 June 2019 below.
Before we started work Oct 2019
Small garden beds back on to a wild area. We want it to look tidy for as long as possible but some of these weeds are aggressive.
During and after our work
Comfrey is a goodie. Get the sterile one, Symphytum Officinale (common comfrey), which is propagated by the root. The tap root goes down deep into the soil to bring up the nutrients to nearby plants. Plant it under your fruit trees with some flowers that attract beneficial insects.
You can also steep the leaves in water for a health tonic for your plants.
These new plants are going in client's orchard this week.
Contact Wild about Weeds if you'd like us to make the most of your garden.
Here's the garden in spring 2019.
22 November 2018
What a joy to add more to this sunny garden.
See previous photos in our Facebook gallery for this garden.
The album below is from October 2017, just after we started gardening here. You can see how much the plants have grown in the photos above.
When I bought my house in April 2016, there was grass, grass and more grass (not even lush green grass) along with a few ornamentals. Even the soil was lifeless - not a worm in sight.
The ornamentals had to go - they had no real purpose. I like plants to have at least two uses, such as attractive, edible, attract native wildlife, scent, unusual seeds, attract beneficial insects, add nutrients to soil, NZ native - especially those that are local to the area and now rare.
Since then, I've planted fast growing natives by the fences and areas of wild flowers or smaller native area to create interest, give privacy and shelter.
These photos show how I'm working with nature to add interest and improve the environment for creature.
Hover over each photo for the story.
The back garden had a raised bed, a dead lawn, and some straggly pittosporums. Photos show how adding plants over time has added colour, life, diversity and more.
A very large house with a small garden area, embedded on a densely housed hill in CBD.
The first job was to see what was involved in refreshing the garden area. We took photos of the various areas, cleared the weeds, pruned the very old rose right back and created a large compost pile.
Hover over the photos for explanations.
This almost coastal property wants low maintenance plants that keep the weeds down. There are a surprising number of options. We chose small plants so they get established easily. Green akeake, red matipou, muhlenbeckia astonii, manuka, coprosma proquina, astelia banksii small silver spear.
Hover over the photos for captions.
We've done most of the weeding. Next step is to select plants and get them in.
This Southgate property has a large bush area where weeds had taken over and karaka had become the dominant species, considerably reducing diversity. Although karaka is a NZ native, it isn't native to Wellington and takes over from our locals. Te Motu Kairangi explains more.
We are gradually managing the herbaceous weeds. With the karaka, we are hand pulling the seedlings and chopping down larger plants then Stump Stopping the cut. This seems to be working though karaka does re-sprout from below the cut, so we have to be more persistent than karaka.
We're careful not to take out too many larger trees at once as the area is on a bank and we don't want to disturb the terrain more than necessary.
Assessing the bush area Aug 2018
Hover over the images to learn about our first visit to this bush area.
First task was to dig some rough steps for safe access and to start dealing to the weeds (tradescantia, convolvulus, galinsoga, bay tree, with old man's beard and German ivy on the fringes).
Continuing our mahi
October/November/December 2018. Hover for explanations
Already we've noticed more birds (types and numbers), seen dragonflies and more native seedlings popping up.
Now we've made space, let the light in, and it's planting time, we're hoping to plant some Wellington natives, ideally those that are getting rare in the wild. This will add to the wider ecosystem and increase diversity in this little piece of bush.
A private and flat section is a rare thing in Wellington. Over time, we're keen to help this garden show its potential.
Check out our Pinterest boards for planting and garden inspiration, plants for specific situations and much more.
There are boards on edibles, how to..., seasonal tasks, ground cover, grasses, NZ natives. It's a visual feast with links to useful information.
Here in Aotearoa the lilies are blooming gorgeous. I planted some for the first time and am delighted with the results. Deep pink flowers with huge antlers that wobble in the breeze and a delightful subtle scent.
See more on The Garden of Jury's blog which showcases some other stunners.