Winter can be harsh, especially if you’re in a region of New Zealand with temperatures beneath 0, heavy winds or heavy rains. It’s that time of the year where Winter Coats come out, the fireplaces are ignited and bowls of soup are served up by the dozen. Speaking as one who enjoys the cold of winter, I can say I love this time of year, and so too can you! When I think of gardening, I envision the blazing sun on my back, a cool breeze in the air and the sky perfect and clear. However, taking care of your garden during winter can be more beneficial than you’d think.
The Winter Vege Garden
I remember back to my childhood, doing gardens in both summer and winter, and never being able to get my head around how anything could grow in the blistering cold of winter. Vegetables such as peas relish in the cooler temperatures. To give a bit of history; hailing from England and early Roman civilisations primarily, peas were always sown in winter because of the tenderness of their skin and it’s resilience to the cold. The outer shell could resist the colder temperatures whilst protecting the pea within and as a result, could flourish during the colder months. This has, obviously, translated over to the contemporary era and pan-globally peas are grown in the hearth of winter. (Interestingly enough, peas are also technically classified as a fruit not a vegetable, as they contain seeds and are grown from the pod of a flower). Whilst being able to endure the heavier frosts, temperatures beneath freezing will kill the plant or force it into hibernation if the temperature gets low enough. As a result, here is our advice for planting your winter peas in the garden.
- Find an area that has dry, well-drained soil and that is in full sunlight. Although the colder temperatures do agree with the peas, they still demand the nutrients gained from sunlight and through photosynthesis. If no suitable soil can be found, try sewing “Austrian Winter Peas” instead. As they grow, they effectively revive the soil as their roots expand out.
- If available, use an organic fertilizer to help prime the soil, as it will support the plants as they grow through the cold.
- Once the seedbed has been prepared, poke holes of 3-7cm in depth into the soil and place the seed within. This depth is enough to allow the seed to absorb the energy of the sun, whilst also spreading their roots into the soil.
- Plant each seed approximately 10cm apart and each row 25cm apart. This gives the roots room to spread without interfering with each other and the ability to grow strong.
Austrian Winter Pea plants are ideal for increasing nitrogen content within soil and they have a heavy resilience to frosts and even snowfall. As a result, once the plant comes into bloom, turn it over beneath the soil and give it a few weeks to compost. The resulting soil, will be perfect for growing sweet corn come spring time. It also has a natural weed deterrent which activates when sowing new seeds into the ground. Planting in Wellington and Auckland should not give you much trouble however. Auckland possesses naturally enhanced soil from the volcanic nature of the ground, and Wellington’s altitude and climate provide perfect replenishment for the soil.
Additionally, if you have some space in the garden, wait until the middle of winter, when a few frosts have hit the ground and then plant Parsnips and Yams. These vegetables, once they take root, develop additional natural sugars in the colder soils and as a result are a lot sweeter in taste when it comes to harvesting. Try find drier soil for this, as they can then be left in the ground until needed!
Also if timed perfectly, Garlic and Shallots also thrive in the colder weather. Best planted at the Winter Solstice, as it is the darkest and shortest day of the year, generating less light than any other day of the year. It’s at the very apex of autumn crossing into winter. Preceding the Winter Solstice, turn the soil, at a depth of 20cm to prepare for the sowing of these seeds.
Give your Winter Lawn a Fighting Chance
Moving away from the vegetable garden and towards the more apparent and visible sections, such as the lawn. Everyone has endured the winter lawn, with its rapid growth, high production of weeds and (for all the dog owners out there) immeasurable amount of mud. If your lawn is in a state of disarray then now is the opportunity to rake over it, removing all the weeds and excess grass and have it neatly prepared for a fresh sowing of grass come spring time. The turning of the soil gives it a chance to oxidise and thus prepare for the planting of a new lawn. When it comes to planting this new lawn, and even preceding it, use an organic liquid fertilizer to provide support and to boost the metabolism of the soil. This generates ideal soil for then placing a roll out lawn and locking it into place.
My Big Fat Gypsum… Solution?
If you notice a high build-up of clay within soil, winter is the best opportunity to deal with this. Taking a garden fork, poke vertical holes into the heavy soil and then establish surface drains to carry away excess moisture from the area. Apply gypsum (can be purchased from most local garden centres) to the clay and it’ll work wonders. The gypsum has a natural effect by binding to the particles in the soil and allowing oxygen to flow into the soil. This in turn results in mass drainage of excess water and preparation for the spring. To get the most out of this, try using a thick layer of mulch as this will keep the soil damp and cold throughout the winter. When spring finally hits, the soil will then be ready for reseeding, and using a Premium Lawn Mix will make the task ten times easier!
Albeit not the prettiest product on its own, Scoria 25|7mm can be used to make even the bleakest of yards, more vibrant and colourful than they were previously, whilst also operating to drain excess water. For those of you who are interested in putting planter boxes up high (such as on rooftops or higher floors of houses or apartments) then a layer of scoria beneath and around the soil in the planter box can assist with removing excess water. Scoria is a form of pumice, or volcanic rock and is highly popular amongst landscapers for its water resistant nature. Natural Scoria floats on water, and as a result, once compacted with soil, it operates to push the water either back into the soil to sustain the plants or down and out the bottom of the planter box.
Keep your Plants Safe and Warm
Plants in winter tend to hate cold water as much as we do and roots that go into shock can sometimes lead to early decomposition of the plant. Avoid watering plants directly from the hose too often during winter, but rather fill up a watering can and add a bit of hot water. Whilst the water should not be hot or warm, it should be lukewarm to the touch. Also only water in small doses as the onset of cold can quickly chill the water and freeze it down to the roots. On top of that, if the plant is in a pot or is generally just a lover of sunlight, try moving it to a more enclosed area such as a veranda or a sheltered side of the house on the deck and give them a warming coat of topsoil. This reduces their exposure to chilling temperatures and supports induction of heat and growth!
Take advantage of installing retaining walls and planter boxes as well this winter. With the soil a lot firmer, it is easier to map out and mould the shapes of your gardens. Macrocarpa Railway Sleepers provide the ideal level of support, strength and heat induction to perfect this. Not only do they look great, but they also can provide elevation, meaning less straining of your back during winter, in bending down to tend to the garden. Additionally, the contained soil and elevation in altitude results in a greater absorption of sunlight, meaning that plants can grow healthier and stronger. As winter can present heavy winds and rains as well, the planter boxes are ideal for covering the plants at night or before a storm hits, and keeping them protected from either drowning or excessive damage through erosion.
Whilst summer is the ideal and picturesque “gardening season”, the foundations that are laid in winter can help support the growth and development of your summer garden. So don’t view winter as cold and foreboding but rather as a 3 month window to prepare your yard for the rest of the year!
At CUBAG, we pride ourselves on having the best products and deals to help you complete your winter garden. With Drainage Scoria 25|7mm, our own Premium Lawn Mix, Garden Mixes and more, we’ll assist you in achieving your own Winter Wonderland.