There is beauty in a mid-winter garden!

It may be mid-winter but in many areas, spring is already stirring. Beneath the soil, roots are starting to grow, bulb shoots are thrusting through the soil and winter crops are in full production. To give yourself a much-needed lift in winter, spend time walking in your garden or through the local neighbourhood. It’s also a great time to explore local bushland to discover native plants in flower.

Winter flowers to lift your spirits

No matter where you live in Australia, there are plants in bloom during July. If you have flowering plants, stop and pick a bouquet or at least enjoy the scent of winter-flowering plants.

In cold areas, enjoy camellias, magnolias, orchids, hellebores and fragrant brown boronia, daphne and jonquils. Many of these are joined in warmer zones by flowers from poinsettia, iboza (Tetradenia riparia) and Brazilian red cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys). Wattles also burst into bloom across Australia in winter.

Flowering winter_annuals

As well as these permanent plantings, flowering annuals can be relied on to bring colour to winter gardens. Top choices for winter flowers are cinerarias, sweet peas, Iceland poppies, polyanthus, primulas, pansies and violas. When planting water them in with Seasol as regular applications every 2 to 4 weeks will help to reduce transplant shock, and aid plant establishment for healthy growth and a strong, robust root system.

Get the most from annuals by regularly treating them to a  liquid feed such as Powerfeed PRO SERIES for Roses & Flowers, which helps encourage strong flowering. Regularly pick flowers or deadhead spent blooms to encourage repeat flushes of flowers. Sweet peas in particular benefit from regular picking and adds colour and fragrance to the inside of the house.

Special advice for camellias

Japonica camellias are the stars of many gardens in winter as they grow from cool zones to the subtropics. Camellias are evergreen shrubs that flower through winter and into early spring. While they are very easy-going plants that need little attention, a bit of TLC makes them even more rewarding.

Camellias grow best with shelter from extreme cold in winter and heat in summer. An east-facing site, a situation with light tree cover, north-facing locations with protection from the west, and courtyards are all ideal locations.

Solving problems with camellias

One problem encountered with camellias is buds that fail to open. Instead of bursting into bloom, the buds turn brown and fall. This problem, known as balling, is a reaction to cold or frost combined with exposure to very early winter sunshine when buds are wet. Disbudding (that is removing several flowers from a cluster as buds develop) and applying a copper-based fungicide as buds form can assist in controlling this disease.

Browning of flowers, another problem seen in winter, is usually due to too little water. Regularly water camellias especially if there’s little natural rainfall or if overhanging eaves shelter the camellia’s roots. To give them a boost, spread Seasol Plant + Soil Booster under the bushes where lots of leaf litter naturally gathers.

Planting camellias in pots

Potted camellias can be found for sale in flower during winter, which makes this a good time to buy and plant. Camellias grow best in acidic soils with plenty of added organic matter. They can also be grown in containers such as large tubs,which is an ideal way to grow camellias in areas with alkaline soils or little garden space.

When planting in containers, select a premium potting mix (red tick certified to meet the Australian premium standards for a premium potting mix), such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix. When planting into garden beds dig in organic matter  from your own compost bin and/or Seasol Super Compost. Alternatively apply Seasol Liquid Compost to reduce digging. Mix 50mL of the concentrate with 9 litres of water (standard watering can).

Farmer Planting Lettuce

Eat your greens

With the media full of news on the high prices of fresh vegetables, it has never been more important to turn your hand to productive gardening. While becoming self-sufficient in fresh produce is hard and requires a large, sunny garden, it is possible to add home-grown vegies to the table.

If you are short of garden space, grow vegies in containers (including recycled containers such as foam boxes) or in raised garden beds. These should be positioned in warm, sunny spaces and planted with a succession of seedlings to provide vegetables over a long period.

Grow what you enjoy eating. Popular winter green crops include English spinach, silver beet, kale, cabbage and Asian greens. For salads include a few soft-hearted (repeat harvest) lettuce. All can be harvested as needed, leaf by leaf, rather than waiting for the crop to mature. Once the plant has at least eight good-sized leaves, gently pick one or two outer leaves.

To keep the plants in strong productive growth, water when the soil or potting mix is dry and regularly (every 7-10 days) feed plants with a liquid fertiliser for vegetables such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Tomatoes & Vegetables.

TIP: When planting water your seedling in with Seasol. Regular applications every week or fortnight will help create a strong root system and reduce stress from cold, frost, pests and diseases.

How to grow vegetables - beetroot

Pest control for vegies

Add to the family’s diet with other winter crops including peas, snow peas, broad beans and root vegetables such as radish, turnip and beetroot. Beetroot has the added benefit of delicious, edible leafy tops that can be eaten fresh or cooked much like spinach or silver beet.

Keep a sharp eye on vegetables for pests, which include snails and slugs (these can decimate seedlings), caterpillars, aphids and even hungry possums or rabbits. Handpicking or squashing insect pests gives instant protection or use a natural control such as EarthCare Enviro Pest Oil insect spray. A protective fine mesh over vegies can shelter them from many pest problems but invest in an organic, iron-based snail bait to protect seedlings in particular from snails and slugs.