Winter brings frost and cold weather. In this column, gardening writer JACKIE WARBURTON says it’s time to store dahlias and keep watering the garden.
AS the cold weather starts to bite, here’s a plant that’s not bothered by frost – Mahonia lomariifolia, a hardy evergreen shrub with fragrant yellow flowers and mature, dark-blue berries.
It’s one of the tallest of the mahonias and is a striking foliage and perfect for a large garden. The leaves are sharp, and this should not be planted on a pathway but a backdrop plant that doesn’t need pruning.
IF there are any dahlias in the garden, they should be lifted and stored under spent potting mix or sawdust and left to sit dormant for the winter. Ensure you leave at least 30 centimetres of stem with the tubers and keep them dry and away from frosts.
I leave most of mine in the ground because I am lazy, but I put extra mulch on the crowns to protect them from the frost. The other advantage of leaving large stems is that it’s a reminder where they are planted and not to dig in that area.
KEEPING the water up to the garden in the winter is important to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out and become hydrophobic.
Once an area of soil has dried out it can take a lot of effort to get the soil working again. Frost will draw moisture out of the plants and soil, so mulch is important for minimising the fluctuation of temperature in the soil.
If there are any new shrubs from autumn planting, remember to keep the water up to them so they don’t dry out.
IN my mini-orchard, I have a self-fertile cherry “Stella”, a grafted three-way plum composed of Santa Rosa, Satsuma and Mariposa. They are all compatible and flower at the same time.
Different varieties have different growth rates so the tree can look unruly at times, but for space constraints it is worthwhile.
Don’t prune stone fruit now as we move into winter because it causes gummosis disease, a bacterial canker. Cherries, apricots and almonds should all be pruned after fruiting in summer.
For now, feed the soil with manure. Any manure is good, but chook manure is readily available to me and is high in nitrogen and good for fast spring growth. Later in spring I will switch over to potassium and phosphorus fertilisers for fruit-tree growth when the soil has warmed up.
ALL berries should be pruned now, including young berries and raspberries. Prune autumn-fruiting berries to the ground and for summer-fruiting berries, only remove old canes, leaving canes that haven’t fruited and tie them back to a trellis. Keep the base of the canes weed free and feed with compost and mulch for the winter.
NOW’S the time to ensure branches of deciduous trees are not overhanging the house or causing damage to buildings. Engage a qualified arborist for any work over three metres tall as it’s dangerous and should not be carried out by the home gardener.
Deciduous trees are easier to prune when they are dormant and the branch structure of the tree can be clearly seen. Tree pruning work will be required if there is dead, diseased or damaged wood (the three “Ds”). This is one of the basic principles of all pruning.
ARISARUM vulgare is a sweet ground cover for a shady area where not much else grows. Once planted, you have it for life so place it on its own. I have seen it underplanted in large areas of dry shade, where it disappears in spring and summer, and emerges in the cool months of the year.
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