How to protect your garden during winter
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that gardening should stop. Johannesburg experiences fairly mild winters and provides the opportunity to tidy up for a healthy and ready garden for when the temperatures eventually turn. Luckily on 21 June, the season starts shifting back towards summer, and you could get your family excited by taking them to the nearest nursery and purchase everything you could possibly need to brighten up your garden for spring.
We know it’s hard to stay involved with your garden during the winter months with the cold and the fact that there’s not much growing… But piles of leaves are accumulating, weeds sprouted where they shouldn’t have, and certain plants have died off entirely. So, it’s recommended to start raking up old plant litter and old debris, de-weed where it seems necessary, and remove dead vegetation.
It’s common for vegetables and succulents to get frost burn, and they need to be sprayed with a bottle of water in the morning to melt the frost away. For more vulnerable plants, it’s best to visit your nearest garden centre to purchase landscape fabric to cover them against the frost.
Pruning rose bushes
Rose bushes and ornamentals need to be pruned to encourage healthy growth. It helps manage the size of your rose bushes and promotes aggressive flowering and a more extended flowering period during the summer. The old wood needs to be removed to make way for younger, more vigorous branches.
Always use a pair of secateurs and a pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands from the thorns. Two-thirds of the rose bush can be taken down and prune at a 45-degree angle away from the bud so that the water doesn’t rot the new buds. A pruning gel can also be added to the plants after it’s been cut. A quality rose fertiliser can be used to fertilise the plant and remember to always water after fertiliser has been applied.
Aim to create a vase shape and cut through all the stems that grow through the middle of the plant. Sometimes two to three stems are all that will remain, but soon they will flourish during the growing season as the roots will be able to feed them.
Maintaining fruit trees
Pruning fruit trees helps to stimulate new fruiting wood which results in better quality fruit. Stone fruit trees, which include cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums, are best to prune after the flowering season in April or May as they can mildew if pruned in the winter.
Pruning trees into a cup shape allows adequate sunlight and airflow into the centre of the tree. It also allows for easy harvesting and light penetration. It’s challenging to prune a large tree into a manageable shape, instead, train a young tree over time with a strong base which splits into four to five branches (the first framework). These branches should then further divide into another four to five branches (the second framework), and this forms the canopy of the tree.
Remove the old and diseased wood and cut the branches that grow through the middle of the tree and shade other branches. Shaded branches will not provide fruit, and direct sun on new buds will encourage healthy growth and fruit. Cut at a 45-degree angle and feed the trees fertiliser and manure after pruning. Add lime to the base of these trees to improve the soil’s PH, making for a healthier flower and fruiting tree.
Winter in Joburg means that lawns die a miserable death each year and many lawns get invaded by runner or golden moles. Treating your lawn for lawn caterpillars will get rid of the moles. Lawns need spiking fertiliser that’s high in phosphate during winter and should not be cut too low as this can cause disease. The secret in having a nice, well-kept green lawn in winter is to start preparing it in autumn. It’s also recommended not to use top dressing through winter, but rather to wait until spring.