By James Wall, Gardenworld.
It’s time to get off the couch, sharpen up the secatuers and face up to winter head on. There is so much that can be achieved – and when the wind is not blowing too hard from the south, Melbourne is not really that cold at all. Later, you come back inside and feel you have really earned that cup of tea. You may even bring in a few treasures for the kitchen such as a handful of spinach leaves, a lemon or two and a big bunch of coriander. Winter is here and it’s go go go.
Shape deciduous ornamental trees and shrubs now, removing inward crossing branches and cutting back lanky bits. Apart from apricots, it is also time to prune back deciduous fruit trees so as to control their size and improve branching. This means less fruit but of bigger size. It also means netting and harvesting is easier. Don’t cut the little spurs off that jut out from the branches as fruit will form on these.
Winter is a very busy time at Gardenworld as we sell hundreds of fruit trees. Included are dwarf fruit trees which can be grown in pots and are much easier to net. They are the same variety of tree but are grown on dwarf root stock. They are available in apricots, apples, peaches, plums and nectarines.
It is important to spray peaches and nectarines with a mixture of copper sulphate and lime. This is known as the Bordeaux mixture. Back in the 1880’s, French Botany professor Pierre Millardet of the University of Bordeaux noted that vines closest to the roads did not show mildew, while all other vines were affected. After inquiries, he found out those vines had been sprayed with a mixture of copper and lime to deter people passing by from eating the grapes, since this treatment was both visible and bitter-tasting. This led Millardet to conduct trials with this treatment and he published his findings in 1885, and recommended the mixture to combat downy mildew and other fungal diseases.
Weeds in the lawn have just sprouted. Commence your plan of attack now and you will be rewarded with a weed free lawn in summer. I like manually removing them, but it is tedious work and I am glad I have my Back-Joy Kneeler, my best friend while performing this task. There are also some good selective herbicides that will kill the weeds but not your grass. You will however need to use a different one for buffalo grass.
Hydrangea quercifolia is a favourite plant of mine. Known as the oakleaf hydrangea its leaves have just turned orangey red before falling and will reward you with creamy white spring flowers. It is best grown in a more shaded part of the garden. Prune traditional hydrangeas now, if you haven’t already done so. Also prune canna lilies almost to the ground and tidy up other perennials.
In the vegie patch, plant more of the fast growing leafy greens as the older batches will be getting towards the end of their tether. Go for broccoli, onions, broad beans, leek, spinach and silverbeet in particular. If you love your Asian recipes, go crazy with coriander, which you can direct seed into the soil. Sprinkle 20 odd seeds per hole.
It really is a great month for deciduous plants. Look at a plants structure while it has no leaves. There is an element of beauty, especially at the first sign of new shoots. Now that we are past the shortest day ,the days will only become longer, the plants will respond and it will be great to see just how alive this world really is.