The air is crisp and the soil is soft with rain: it’s the perfect time to get out into the garden and get some work done before spring. While it might be tempting to stay inside in front of the fire, this is arguably the most important time of year for gardeners, with plenty to do to ensure a lush and bountiful springtime.
What you choose to spend your energies on will vary around the country, from sub-tropical Darwin to snowy Hobart. Of course, climates vary within state boundaries as well, so we’ve divided our gardening guide up by temperature rather than region. You know your region best, so pick the one that best matches your local patch and get gardening!
1. TAS, VIC, ACT & NSW Southern Highlands
These are the chilliest parts of the country, with extended cold for several months. Winter is a great time to plant bare rooted trees, including fruit trees and ornamental deciduous.
Cold weather vegetable crops that will tolerate the cold include most leafy greens, peas and beans.
Delicate potted plants and sun loving tropicals should be moved inside if at all possible. A verandah or porch will do nicely to buffer them against chilly winter winds while still exposing them to the maximum amount of light.
If you have plants that can’t be moved inside, try making them their own bespoke greenhouses. Construct frames around the plants so that you can drape plastic over them in the evening as a barrier against the worst of the chill, and take it off again when the morning sun arrived.
Your soil needs protection too. Give it a thick blanket of mulch to help it retain some warmth, and remove some in spring to allow the crowns of your plants to emerge.
2. SA, Inland VIC, Southern WA & NSW
Temperatures in these regions might include a few mild frosts, but remain mostly temperate throughout. Asparagus and rhubarb crowns should go in the ground by early winter at the latest, so don’t delay.
Varieties that prefer warmer weather, like tomatoes, capsicum and eggplant, can be started in a sunny spot inside in seedling pots. Start them from seed now and by the time they’re big enough to be planted out the frosts will have passed over.
We all get hungrier when the temperature drops, and your garden is no exception. Use this time of relative dormancy to feed your soil with compost, aged manure and other organic materials to provide fertiliser and improve drainage against the inevitable compacting that wet soil undergoes.
If your soil quality is poor, consider growing a winter green manure crop like hairy vetch or winter peas. These will develop root systems that protect the soil from winter erosion while depositing a load of nitrogen into the ground ready to feed your next vegetable planting.
3. Queensland, NT & most of WA
Warm areas don’t need to take as many precautions against the weather, so you can spend your time planting. Leafy greens will do well here, but you can also expand into sweetcorn, watermelon, leeks and tomatoes that wouldn’t tolerate the southerly cold.
Use this period of relative cool to sharpen your pruning shears so you can complete your pruning before new shoots and leaves appear.
Roses should be pruned back hard, leaving a framework of three or four main stems in an open shape that allows each to get light and air. Hydrangeas, wisteria, grapes and deciduous fruit trees should all be on the list to tackle next, along with ornamental deciduous like hibiscus and fuschia. If you’re not sure how much to prune, start with a light hand: you can always prune more later.
No matter where in the country you are, your garden is sure to enjoy your love and attention, so bundle up, grab your spade and get gardening!