Winter gardening Tips in Canterbury

I have been busy this past month giving talks to garden clubs both in town and out in the country. What I have seen is a very dry province. June was frosty with little rain to recharge the ground with much-needed water. The garden looks very bare with little colour. Much of the work in and around the garden involves cleaning up, removing unwanted plants and weeds, and, if possible, mulching with pea straw to protect the soil and plants from the frosty weather. The lawns have stopped growing and look yellow-green, so it’s best to leave them and wait until the end of winter before doing any work on them.

On bright sunny days after the frosts have gone, it is the best time to do the winter pruning and spraying with copper and lime sulphur. This year I bought some red garlic to try and see if it is more resistant to rust. Despite what some gardening advice recommends, I think it is not the right month to be sowing seeds outside, and only in the greenhouse if you have some bottom heat. Even then, only a few plants will do well as the days are very short. Plants that were taken as cuttings in the autumn and are well-rooted will need to be potted on, but they will have to be kept only lightly watered until they show signs of new growth.

On those days when the sun shines, the greenhouse can have a few hours in the middle of the day with the vents open to get some fresh air and remove some of the condensation from the glass or plastic. The bare-rooted fruit trees will soon be in the retailers. If you want any, I recommend getting in early to get the best choice, especially if you want to espalier them. Keep warm and only do what needs to be done in the garden on the sunny days.

Happy gardening!
Michael Coulter

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