Winter can be a quiet time in the garden, once you’ve got on top of your weeding and mulching. It’s a great time to assess the garden’s bone structure of paths and evergreens. If you do decide something needs changing, winter is also a good time to deal to tree pruning or hard landscaping jobs like building paths, walls or fences, without breaking too much of a sweat.
It’s also a good time for planting trees and shrubs, as you won’t have to spend hours watering them. And it’s a time to make plans. Draw up a map of your garden and make a few photocopies. Put your feet up, read some seed catalogues and plan next season’s plantings, so you can hit the ground running in spring.
July in the vege garden:
Sow: It’s getting too cold for many seeds, but you can sow broad beans, and onions in trays to plant out later. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
Plant: Garlic, beetroot, winter greens- bok choy, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet, fruit trees and bushes.
- Prune grapes, roses and pip fruit.
- Mulch up around the stems of brassicas (eg broccoli, cabbage) with compost, especially if they’re rocking around in the wind. They can grow new roots from the bottoms of their stems if covered in compost.
- Plan new paths or drainage to deal with any boggy areas.
- It’s still good planting weather for shrubs and trees.
- Seedlings of lettuce, borage and other self-sowers will be popping up everywhere. Move them to a good spot, or pot up for your local school.
- Make soup
Mulch, mulch mulch: Feed that soil life! The soil is nicely wet but still warm, as it cools down more slowly than the air. Seal in these lovely soil conditions with a good layer of mulch.
Mulch doesn’t just mean just wood-chip; it’s anything laid along the surface of the soil. It keeps away weeds (providing it’s laid thickly enough), it helps retain this moisture in the soil (meaning less watering over summer), and organic mulches (as opposed to pebbles) also break down to improve your soil, feeding soil life such as worms.
Weed an area before you mulch, paying special attention to perennial weeds like kikuyu or those that have seeds. Then spread on a good thick layer, and you won’t have to weed again for months. Once a garden has been thickly mulched – we’re talking a 10cm layer that fully blocks light reaching the soil surface – it should only need top-ups to any bare patches for the next few years. Re-apply when the mulch has broken down and is no longer suppressing weeds.
Cocoa husks make great-smelling mulch
Best value mulch: Grow your own - eg blue lupin – from a sprinkling of seed. Or use fallen leaves under trees or shrubs. Arborist chip is also cheap (even free from a friendly arborist!)
Best nutrients: Seaweed or compost. Use these for high-need plants like fruit trees and roses.
Best for veges: Straw is light and lets the rain through.
Best in a hot spot: Pebbles or rocks make long-lived mulch, in open areas away from falling leaves (otherwise they can become high-maintenance).
Best-smelling: Cocoa husks are light but long-lasting, great around perennials.
Watch for: Don’t smother tussocks and grasses with mulch. Their growing tip is at ground level, so keep that clear. Soft things like lavenders and succulents can also rot if over-mulched – use a drier mulch such as pebbles around these.