Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes is a Horticulturist, Landscape Gardener and Classical Western Herbalist.

Temperatures may plummet as winter sets in, but this time of year in Australia is by no means bleak. With crisp frosty mornings and fine sunny days, it can be a pleasure to be out in the elements and warming up with a little bit of work in the garden.

1/ Plant deciduous fruit and ornamental trees now while they are dormant. Bare-rooted roses become available around this time of year, they are cheaper than container grown plants and will establish better as well. Dig as large a hole as possible incorporating lots of well-rotted manure. 

2/ Winter pruning of fruit trees, ornamental deciduous trees and shrubs can be undertaken now.  Plants are dormant at this time so pruning will cause them less stress. Deciduous plants have by now dropped all their leaves making for easier access and identification of dead or diseased wood which can also be pruned out.  

3/ Autumn flowering heads are dying off as the growing season comes to an end. It’s time to clean up the garden by deadheading all those old and spent flower heads which begin to look untidy. Some gardeners may choose to keep some of these for visual interest through winter and give them a chance to drop their seed for next season. 

4/ Midwinter is the perfect time to reflect on how the garden has progressed throughout the year and to make plans for how you want it to develop in the future. Take a note pad and wander round the garden before the last of the autumn display completely disappears. Take note of all the plants that didn’t do so well in their current positions, deciding whether you want to try them somewhere else or completely remove them altogether. If the weather is too bad to do anything outside then take the time to do some armchair gardening; sift through magazines and catalogues to find ideas for new plants and garden features you’d like to try out in the coming months.

5/ Plants that are in the wrong place or have grown too big for their current position can be moved now provided the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. This includes herbaceous perennials, shrubs, climbers or deciduous trees; they will suffer a lot less from the shock of being transplanted at this time. When you are done, liquid feed with seaweed solution to reduce transplant stress.

6/ If you didn’t take the opportunity to aerate your lawn in autumn then you can do so now. You can use anything from your common garden fork to hand-pushed aerators or larger machines which can be hired. This will relieve the compaction induced by a summer’s worth of mowing and family fun and allow enough air flow and light penetration to prevent any fungal problems that may occur over winter. Finish off the job by top dressing the lawn with a mix of sharp sand, garden soil and compost then liquid feed with seaweed solution.  

7/ If you have any garden construction projects then winter is the time to make them happen. Far from a time of rest, now is the most pleasant time of year to do some heavy physical work in the garden. Digging well-rotted manure into beds will pay dividends come spring and summer. If you don’t have well-rotted manure you can add fresh manure to other composting material and put it aside to get the process underway. The sooner winter digging is done the better.

8/ Pests and diseases aren’t very active at this time of year, but they are still around, waiting for a spell of mild weather or for the arrival of spring. Late winter is an ideal time to make sure there is no garden debris or fresh leaves lying around that might harbour pests. Spend some time digging out any weed seedlings that have sprouted and put these in the compost bin with any other garden debris you come across. Dig out any perennial weeds, taking care to get as much of the root as possible and throw these into your green waste bin. What is a relatively easy job now will become a major operation when spring arrives.