Winter is here and you don’t feel like doing much in the garden, but on the contrary – now is the time to get stuck in and get your gloves dirty.
Everybody always wants to know when the best time is to transplant shrubs and re-pot containers. Now, is the answer. Remember to prepare the new hole before removing the plant form its original position and keep the orientation the same.
Winter is the time to prune your garden. Most shrubs take well to pruning during this time because they are in a dormant stage. The strength of a plant lies in its root system and during the peak growing season, the roots will be pushing energy via plant sap to the outer edges of the plant for development. Should you prune during this growing time, you will lose all that energy. The other reason is because the weather is cooler and there is not as much heat stress on the plants and in winter the insect activity is down to a minimal so you will have no problems with pests encroaching on open wounds. Now you know why it is important to prune now, rather than later.
Most plants take well to a good general cut, but if you don’t know what and where, a general 30% will be a good start. Thinning out of trees can also be done now and here is where you can remove branches rubbing against each other, dead branches, branches growing in the wrong direction and general balancing of the tree. Don’t be in the situation where you look back after 5 years and regret not looking after the tree while it was smaller.
Books can be written of each gardener’s experience when it comes to pruning roses. “Don’t cut here”, “don’t cut too short”, “you are ruining my plants” and so it goes on. The truth of the matter is that it is so easy that even if you are inexperienced, you can still do it successfully. Roses have a vast amount of energy and will grow again, even if the prune was severe or the cut was wrong. Rule of thumb for the different roses will include the following: Bush Roses – Look for three or four main stems which will open the plant up, about knee high and remove everything else. Standard Roses (Lollypops), Climbers and ground covers – Reduce the “head” in general to about 60% of the original and thin the inner branches and twigs. Roses only flowers well on new growth so you need to promote new growth by pruning and fertilising it with a 3:2:1 SR for general root and stem development. In September you can switch over to an 8:1:5 to promote flowers.
Be sure not to water during the evenings at the moment, but also don’t let your garden dry out either. Best time to water will be in the mornings between 8am and 12am. If your plants are too dry during frost or black frost, you could experience more damage.
Very often the perception is that winter is dull, but by planting bright winter flowers you can easily change the mood. Now is the time to enjoy an abundance of bright Poppies, scented Sweet Peas and brilliant borders of Pansies and Primulas.
JJ van Rensburg