The best thing about winter is…working in the garden

It’s around this time of the year we start to long for longer, warmer days, and generally more sunshine. When it feels like the end of winter can’t come quick enough, this is the time to take stock and make the most of where we’re at. We put the question: What’s the best thing about winter out there, and received some great responses. We particularly loved this one from Elle Meager, founder of Outdoor Happens:

“The best thing about winter is working in the garden without being burned alive! Winter’s my favourite time for labour-intensive tasks like mulching and digging new gardens. During the day in winter, it’s the perfect temperature here in North Queensland.”

Elle Meager is the founder of Outdoor Happens, Permaculture Designer, and Sustainable Living Consultant.

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5 things to make your garden thrive this spring

One of my favourite scenes in the movie, The Secret Garden is when main character Mary Lennox sees her garden come to life in spring after the long, cold English winter. Whilst some parts of Australia are more seasonal than others, we definitely have all four seasons here in Canberra, and fewer are celebrated more than spring after our cold winters. Whilst sunshine and warmer days make spring a pleasant time to be out in the garden, it is also an important time to get some key jobs done in your garden to maximise it’s beauty and productivity over the warmer months. Here are some key jobs to tick off your list this season:  

1. Prune
Now is the time to prune back the growth of perennials from last season (if you haven’t already). If you live in a frost-prone area, there may be some frost-tender perennials that you want to hold back on pruning until after the risk of frost has passed, but everything else is fair game! My buddleia and salvia have all been given harsh haircuts to prepare them for new-season growth (and flowers!). I am also planning on pruning my peach tree this weekend, but because it is flowering I will only remove the lower growth, as well as branches and stems without flowers. I don’t want to jeopardise any potential fruit! 

Pink azalea in my garden

2. Mulch
A trip to your local garden centre to top up your mulch should be on the agenda this month. It is beneficial to alternate the types of mulch you use on your garden beds to ensure a diversity of beneficial bacteria in the soil for your plants. Different types of mulch include: straw, bark chip, and different types of compost, such as mushroom, laid thickly. For an extra kick, you could also add a layer of manure or compost under a heavier mulch, such a bark chip. The key is ensuring your mulch is down and watered in before the hot summer days arrive. 

Red azalea in my garden

3. Water
Most plants, including lawn will have gone through a low-growth period over winter, especially if you live in a cool climate. Give them the boost they need with a good deep soaking a couple of times a week to stimulate growth. We’re still experiencing a dry period in Canberra, so watering is going to be crucial for us this season if we want strong plant growth, and ultimately fruit and flowers.  

Flowering plum in my garden

4. Fertilise
Adding mulch and manure to your garden will give it a great kick-start to the season, but for hungry flowering plants, such as roses, additional fertiliser may be required. I like using a liquid fertiliser, such as Thrive – especially after rain or a good watering when plants are more receptive to absorb it. Slow-release and pelletised fertilisers are a low-maintenance option if you have a large garden or just want to ‘set-and-forget’ for a few weeks. Beware of fertilising native plants, as some are not tolerant of high levels of phosphorous found in many fertilisers (such as chicken manure). Use a specific native plant fertiliser or if in doubt stick with an organic fish or seaweed tonic. 

5. Get out and enjoy it
Watch the flowers grow this spring. No seriously! The more time you spend in your garden, the more motivated you’ll feel to look after it. If you, like me try to sit in the garden, but keep seeing jobs that need to be done, rather than mindfully enjoying the moment, remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve done. Tomorrow is another day. 

Make your life easier in the garden with some of these handy gardening tools