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Cubag's Winter Maintenance Gardening Guide 2016

Summer has been hotter than usual this year, which can only mean that winter is going to be colder than usual also. Taking this into consideration, the maintenance of your yard is going to be paramount this winter and so we have assessed a few of the main areas of concern for you.

LAWNS

If you're like me, then chances are that you have a lawn which is in a shaded area and therefore will not receive the same level of sunlight that it should to stimulate healthy growth. Like most people, the garden is the last place you think of spending time when the ground is frozen solid, however there is still hope!

 

Step One: Prepare in Autumn

Preparation is key to helping your lawn survive the cold. In the months leading up to winter, adjust your cutting height by a setting each time you cut it, ensuring you start from quite a high cut. This means that the grass will have time to adjust to its new length and won’t receive such a shock when the winter comes. Compare it to how your scalp feels if you get a haircut mid winter, and the hairdresser takes it extremely short; that cold chill affects the soil and grass to a higher extent than it does humans (as unfortunately, your lawn can’t just put a beanie on!)

It can also pay to aerate and dethatch your lawn in the middle of autumn.

Step Two: Fertilize

In late autumn to early winter, you’ll want to add some fertilizers to your lawn. Throughout the summer, your lawn has the benefit of all the natural sunlight and warmth flooding around the place, but in winter it needs all the help it can get. The basics of it, is that the fertilisers will freeze to the soil and project down into the roots of your lawn. A kind of multimodality, if you will, this helps with promoting your lawn to continue growing in winter and keeps it fed and sustained until spring rolls around.

Step Three: Avoid Traffic and Keep it Clean!

For a lawn that is trying to survive the winter, one of the last things it needs is boots and footprints all across it. Avoid foot-traffic across the lawn as much as possible throughout winter. In a sense, this gives the lawn a chance to fight for itself and to grow healthy and strong without any interference, bar what it would normally endure from Mother Nature. Help out by clearing any dead leaves, fallen branches or fruit however, as they will slowly kill the grass squashed underneath and attract all sorts of pests, such as earwigs.

WET SPOTS IN LAWNS

Perhaps one of the less favourable and least attractive things you can have in your lawn is the sporadically arranged wet spots. Wet spots in the lawn are caused by poor drainage and poorly absorbing soil, which generates a pooling of water on the surface. In many cases, this can come to resemble swamp-like conditions and can result in dead patches throughout the lawn come summer time as the grass has an inability to grow. This process effectively drowns the lawn and damages the roots underneath preventing further virility and growth. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this from happening.

Option One: Sandy Land

Purchase an absorbent sand and rake it through your lawn through the process of top-dressing. The sand will then play its part by absorbing the excess water and helping to draw it away from the area or force it back into soil to nourish the roots. Sand is kind of the sponge of the landscaping industry and is excellent for helping take care of that extra moisture.

Option Two: Level the Terrain

Somewhat more time consuming but a potential permanent fix, is to level out the terrain. Most commonly, the pooling of water occurs when there is an inconsistency in the land and divots spread throughout the lawn. Using a lawn mix or a topsoil can help with this. Simply calculate the amount needed and then compact the product into the lawn to help level out the flow of water. The presence of fresher soil can also help with absorption and water retention.

Option Three: Drain Drain Drain

Perhaps the more creative option of the bunch is to build a self purposed drain to assist in removing excess water. One such option is to build a French drain gravel walkway. As gravel does not fit as comfortably, piece by piece, as soil does, it allows for much greater drainage and used properly can help guise the presence of the drain. With this style of drain, there are a few things you’ll need to do:

  • Firstly identify the best position for the installation of the drain. Often around the edge of the lawn where it can freely drain into other garden beds or out into a sandpit is a good bet.
  • Next you’ll want to dig the ditch to be deeper than the surrounding lawn and with a slight concave effect to it to allow the water to roll down and into the drain (the excess soil could be used for levelling out any divots in your lawn).
  • Using a combination of gravel and scoria, you can fill the ditch you’ve created and then line it with any decorative material you want.

Not only does it create something which can look beautiful in the garden but can help outsource water and control that overflow.

With initiating the draining aspect of your yard, it may pay to consult with a landscaper who might be able to provide assistance in this process.

Option Four: Consider the Surroundings

Often, the water becomes trapped as it does not have the right conditions to evaporate. If this is the case, then consider trimming back to the lawn and removing all clippings and also trimming back hedges or overhanging trees. Particularly through winter, shaded areas are prevented from getting the full concentration of sunlight and as a direct result can not evaporate efficiently.

Option Five: Aeration

Refer to our aeration blog for learning how to do this useful lawn treatment technique. In a nutshell, however, aeration basically loosens up clay in the soil and allows air beneath the surface to help stimulate movement of water.

MOSS AND MILDEW

Nasty and unsightly, moss and the buildup of mildew or mould can often ruin any garden. But what is the main problem of moss and mildew? Moss, in particular, grows on roofs and roofing tiles which is primarily unsightly, but also can become quite dangerous. In the smaller scheme of things, for little backyard greenhouses, this has the potential to cause the roof to cave in, and on a larger scale could also happen to houses. Moss basically works as a sponge-type effect in that it rapidly absorbs and holds water which helps it to grow and become larger and heavier. Down on a garden level, the moss can work to suffocate plants and also makes pathways and rocks very slippery if it manages to spread across them which can become a danger. All in all, it’s a pretty pesky aspect of the garden. If there is a heavy presence of moss or mould on your ceiling, it is advised you consult a roofing expert as there is the potential for it to collapse. Dealing with it in your garden however, is not as tricky as you might think.

Eliminating moss in the garden is as simple as purchasing a plant-friendly spray which can be spread around the area. Once the mould or moss is dead, it can then be raked away with ease from the designated area.

To prevent moss from appearing once again, simply seed or keep clean and dry the desired area. You could also try applying a mulch or bark across the area, which will help prevent the moss from reappearing and give you the option to repurpose the area at a later date.

MULCH

As we mentioned in previous years, mulch is one of the best weapons you can use to combat the unpredictability of Winter weather. Mulch is a kind of thermostat for your garden, that will regulate heat in the summer months and the cold in the winter months. Similar to how you might insulate your house; it keeps the cold out in winter, and the heat out in summer. There are many benefits to using mulch and it bonds fastidiously to any organic vegetable dye applied to it, meaning that there are a plethora of colours it is available in.

As long as mulch is applied at the correct depth or thickness it will act as a weed control. In order for a mulch to act as a weed suppressant it needs to be placed at a thickness of 100mm across your garden bed. Mulches are generally stringy and contain both large and small particles. Thus when they are placed at the required thickness, the mulch will knit together forming an impenetrable top layer which will prevent any sunlight from reflecting through to the soil below. This is where any dormant weed seeds sit waiting the required conditions to occur. They need a growing media (soil or garden mix) for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight to photosynthesize. (the conversion of sunlight into energy which is be used to grow) Now by cutting out the sunlight through the use of a mulch layer, the weeds can’t photosynthesize therefore they can’t grow, hence the term “weed suppressant”

Generally speaking, mulches are not the most expensive products in the landscape spectrum. However they won’t cover as much square area as a decorative stone. This is due to the mulches needing to be spread at twice the thickness as a decorative stone or chip. (100mm as opposed to 50mm) In most cases you can rely on one cubic meter of decorative stone covering 15 to 16m2. Where one cubic meter of Mulch will cover 9 to 10m2.

For even more great tips and tricks, check out this video here:

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