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.