Just because the weather is cooler doesn’t mean your garden has to go into hibernation! Winter can actually be a great time to get out in the garden and start growing plants.
Growing plants during the winter in Australia means they won’t bolt to seed as quickly as they would in summer, and you’ll be able to enjoy a longer harvest.
Also, there is less competition for food because many insects are less active in the cooler months. So your winter plants can put all their energy into growing.
How to prepare soil for planting winter vegetables and flowers?
As the weather begins to cool down in Australia, it’s time to think about planting winter vegetables and flowers. Preparing the soil for your winter garden is relatively simple and only requires a few steps.
- Rake up any leaves or debris that have accumulated on the surface of the soil.
- Turn the soil over with a spade or tiller to aerate it and improve drainage.
- Add a layer of compost or well-rotted manure to enrich the soil and provide nutrients for your plants.
What plants to plant in winter in Australia
In Australia, winter begins in June and lasts until August. During this time, the average temperature ranges from 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.
Here are a few planting ideas for your Australian winter garden.
Vegetables to plant in winter in Australia
Among the most popular choices are leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, and spinach.
Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes are also ideal for winter gardens, as they can be planted early in the season and harvested just before the first frost.
These front tolerant vegetables are hardy plants that can withstand cooler temperatures.
Cabbage thrives in Australian winters; the shorter days allow the plant to develop a sweeter flavour.
The beauty of growing cabbages is that they can be grown from seed or transplanted.
If transplanting, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. When transplants are 4-6 weeks old, harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions.
Follow the steps below to grow your cabbage seeds in the garden.
- To get started, choose a sunny spot in your garden and prepare the soil by adding some compost or manure.
- Sow the seeds about 10cm apart. As the seedlings begin to grow, thin them out so that they are about 30cm apart.
- Cabbage needs consistent watering, so be sure to keep the soil moist (but not wet). Apply a layer of mulch around plants to help keep moisture and control weeds.
- To prevent pests and diseases, keeping the area around your plants clean and free of debris and weeds is also important.
- Harvest cabbage when heads are firm and fully formed. Cut whole heads from plants with a sharp knife.
- Store cabbage in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Cabbage can also be frozen or canned for longer storage.
Growing kale in winter in Australia can be a fun and rewarding experience. This hearty vegetable can withstand frost and even some snow, making it a versatile option for winter gardening.
When it comes to planting, you’ll need to start your kale seeds indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost date. Once the weather outside has cooled down, you can transplant your seedlings into the garden.
- Kale prefers full sun but will also do well in partial shade.
- Be sure to give your plants enough space to spread out, as kale can grow quite large.
- If you live in a particularly cold area, you may need to provide some extra protection for your plants, such as a frost cover or cloche.
Spinach is one of the few vegetables that can be grown successfully during winter in Australia.
The key to successful production is to choose a variety that is suited to your climate. For example, ‘Perpetual’ and ‘Winter’ varieties are good choices for growers in southern Australia.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden. Spinach grows best in full sun, but it will also do well in partial shade.
- Prepare your soil by adding some organic matter. This will help the spinach roots to grow deep and strong.
- Sow your seeds. Spinach seeds are small, so be careful not to plant them too deep. Plant them at a depth of twice their width (approximately 1cm).
- Once the seeds have germinated, thin out the seedlings so that they are spaced about 15cm apart.
- Water deeply and regularly, especially during dry periods.
Carrots thrive in cooler weather. They can take up to 16 weeks to mature, so it is important to start them early in the season.
- When growing carrots from seed, sow the seeds thickly in a row and thin out the seedlings to about 5cm apart when they are about 10cm tall. Transplants should be planted about 20cm apart.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant your seeds. Carrots need full sun and well-drained soil to thrive.
- They also prefer slightly acidic soil that is high in organic matter. So if your soil is on the alkaline side, you may need to add a little lime to balance it out.
- Carrots don’t like their roots to be waterlogged. Be sure to give them a deep soak once a week and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
- Carrots are ready to harvest when they reach about 10cm in length. You can pull them up by hand or use a spade or trowel to loosen the soil around them first.
Cultivating turnips in winter in Australia is not as difficult as you might think. The key to successfully growing turnips in winter is to choose a variety that is well-suited to the cooler temperatures.
Some good winter varieties include Purple Top White Globe and Snowball.
- Turnips can grow in partial shade, but they prefer full sun. Choose a spot in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight.
- Turnips prefer well-drained soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. Compost improves the quality of your soil, as it adds essential nutrients and helps break up compacted earth. Avoid using too much nitrogen-rich fertiliser, as this can encourage lush leaf growth at the expense of strong roots.
- Sow the seeds in late winter or early spring, when the soil is cool but not cold. Make sure to sow the seeds thinly at a depth of 1cm, as they need space to grow.
- Once the seedlings have germinated, thin them out. Keep them spaced about 10cm apart to give them room to grow.
- Water turnips regularly, especially during dry periods. Apply mulch around the plants to help conserve moisture.
- Turnips are ready to harvest when they are about 10cm in diameter. Use a garden fork to carefully dig up the soil around the crop before pulling them out.
Potatoes are a cool-season crop, meaning they thrive in the cooler temperatures of early spring and late autumn.
To grow potatoes in winter, start by planting them in late March or early April.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden that has well-drained soil.
- Dig trenches about 30cm deep.
- Place your potato tubers into the trenches and cover them with soil.
- Cover the planting area with mulch to help protect the potato plants from frost damage.
- Water regularly, especially during dry periods.
- Fertilise every few weeks to encourage vigorous growth.
Herbs to plant in winter in Australia
Many herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and coriander, will continue to thrive throughout the winter months.
Rosemary is a hardy plant that can withstand cold temperatures, making it a good choice for winter gardening.
A few weeks of chilly weather each year helps to promote more compact growth for rosemaries.
- Start with a healthy plant. Rosemary is a tough herb, but it will still need a good start in life. Look for a plant that has strong, green stems and vibrant leaves. Avoid plants that look sickly or have yellowing leaves.
- Rosemary loves sunlight, so choose a spot in your garden that gets at least six hours of sun per day. If you don’t have a spot like this in your garden, you can also grow rosemary indoors near a sunny window.
- Rosemary prefers well-drained soil, so make sure your planting spot has good drainage. You can also add some organic matter to the soil to help promote drainage.
- During its active growing season, rosemary will need to be watered about once per week.
Thyme is a great herb to grow in winter, as it’s a hardy herb that doesn’t mind the cold.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden for your thyme plant. Thyme likes full sun, so a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day is ideal.
- Prepare the soil before planting by adding some compost or other organic matter. This will help the soil keep moisture and provide nutrients for your thyme plant.
- Water your thyme plant regularly, especially during dry periods. Weekly deep watering is best to ensure the roots get enough moisture.
- Protect your thyme plant from frost damage by covering it with a cloth or placing it in a sheltered spot during extreme weather.
If you’re looking to add a bit of spice to your winter herb garden, consider growing coriander.
Also known as cilantro, this versatile herb is easy to grow and can thrive in both humid and dry climates.
- Coriander likes to grow in cool weather, so you’ll need to plant it in a spot that gets plenty of sun during the day but is sheltered from the wind.
- Coriander seeds should be sown about 1cm deep and kept moist until they germinate.
- Once the seedlings have sprouted, thin them out so that they are about 20cm apart.
- Like most winter plants, coriander doesn’t like to have its roots wet. Make sure to plant it in well-drained soil.
- Water your coriander regularly, especially during dry periods. When watering, be sure to avoid getting the leaves wet, as this can promote fungal growth.
- Use a balanced fertiliser every month to give your plants the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong.
Mint is a perennial herb that is easy to grow and maintain. Not only does it have a wide range of culinary uses, but it also has a pleasant aroma that can freshen up any space.
While mint can be grown outdoors year-round in many parts of the world, winter is the ideal time to grow mint in Australia.
- Mint thrives in sunny conditions, so choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight.
- Make sure the soil is well-draining. Mint doesn’t like to sit in wet soil, so raised beds or pots are ideal. If you’re growing mint in the ground, make sure the soil is loose and not compacted.
- Mint likes to stay moist, so water it whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Be careful not to over-water, as mint can rot if the roots are too wet.
- Use a balanced liquid fertiliser every month to feed your mint plant.
- Harvest regularly to encourage your mint plant to produce more leaves.
Flowers to plant in winter in Australia
While the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler, there are still plenty of opportunities to get your flower garden growing in the Australian winter.
By choosing the right plants and following a few simple tips, you can enjoy a beautiful display of flowers throughout the colder months.
Also known as sweet William or pinks, dianthus flowers are a versatile group of flowering plants that come in a wide range of colours and sizes.
Although they are typically associated with springtime, dianthus can be adapted to grow in winter in Australia.
One way to do this is to plant the seeds in late autumn, so they have time to germinate before the cold weather sets in.
Another option is to purchase young plants from a nursery and transplant them into your garden bed.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden. Dianthus likes at least six hours of sunshine each day, so a south-facing location is ideal.
- Prepare the soil by adding some organic matter and well-rotted manure. This will help the roots to establish themselves quickly.
- Once the soil is ready, sow the seeds about 1cm deep. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and within two weeks you should see seedlings emerging.
- To keep your dianthus plants healthy, remove any dead or dying flowers regularly. This will encourage more blooms to appear.
Violas are one of the loveliest flowers, and their ability to bloom in winter makes them a welcome sight during the colder months.
- Violas need at least six hours of sunlight each day in order to bloom. If you live in an area with a mild winter, you can start your violas indoors in a sunny spot about six weeks before the last frost date.
- Prepare the soil by adding organic matter such as compost or peat moss. This will help the violas to get the nutrients they need.
- Plant the violas in pots or raised beds. This will protect them from the coldest temperatures and ensure that they have adequate drainage.
- Keep the soil moist but not wet and fertilise the plants every two weeks.
- Once the plants have two or three leaves, they can be transplanted into larger pots or the garden.
The best snapdragon variety to grow in winter in Australia is the ‘Frosted Fire’. It’s a hardy plant that can withstand temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius.
The ‘Frosted Fire’ has bright orange flowers that bloom from late winter to early spring. Given the right conditions, they will bloom from June until August.
- Snapdragon seeds can be sown indoors in late winter, giving the plants a head start on the growing season.
- The key to success is to plant snapdragons in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. On particularly windy days, you may need to insulate them from the cold. Put mulch around the base of the plants to help protect them.
- Once they germinate, the seedlings should be thinned out so that they are spaced about 10cm apart.
- Water your plants regularly, especially during dry spells. Snapdragons are quite tolerant of drought, but they will perform better if they receive regular watering.
How to water your plants in the winter
Winter is the driest time of year. This can be a problem for gardeners, as many plants go dormant during this season and need less water.
So how do you water your plants without harming them?
- Check the forecast before watering. If it’s going to rain, you don’t need to water your outdoor plants. Your indoor plants will thrive with some rainwater or melted snow, too, because it contains nitric acid — a natural fertiliser.
- Don’t water overhead. The key is to water your plants deeply and less frequently. This will help to prevent root rot and promote deep root growth.
- Water early in the day so the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. This will prevent fungal growth.
- Use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to deliver water directly to the roots. This is more efficient than watering with a sprinkler.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your plants stay healthy during the winter months.
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What plant diseases and pests affect winter plants?
Winter is a tough time for plants in Australia. Many plant diseases and pests take advantage of the cold weather to wreak havoc on gardens.
Some of the most common problems include black spot, powdery mildew, rust, and caterpillars.
These problems can cause leaves to turn brown and drop off, flowers to wilt, and fruit to rot.
Rust is a type of fungus that affects plants, causing them to develop reddish-brown patches.
In some cases, it can destroy the plant’s leaves and stem, preventing them from photosynthesising properly. This can lead to the plant’s death.
If you suspect that your plant has rust fungus, remove any affected leaves and dispose of them immediately.
Here are some additional tips:
- Make sure that your plants are well-watered during the winter months. Avoid over-watering your plants during the winter months because rust fungi thrive in wet conditions.
- Remove any dead leaves or other debris from around the base of the plant.
- Apply a fungicide to the affected area as soon as possible.
- Disinfect any gardening tools that you have used on the plant.
While black spot is more commonly seen in summer, it can still affect winter plants if conditions are favourable for the fungus.
During winter, some plants are more susceptible to black spots because of the slower growth of their immunity tissues.
Wet weather combined with high temperatures can create an environment where the fungus can thrive.
This fungal disease causes spots or lesions on leaves, stems, and fruit. It can also lead to premature leaf drop and reduced plant vigour.
- Take care to avoid overwatering your plants during this time. Only water your plants when the soil is dry.
- Remove any dead leaves or plant debris from the garden, as this can provide a perfect breeding ground for the fungus.
- Isolate any plants that have black spot in order to prevent the fungi from spreading.
Powdery mildew is a type of fungal disease that can affect a wide range of plants, including many common winter crops in Australia. The fungus grows on the surface of leaves and produces a telltale white powdery coating.
While powdery mildew usually doesn’t kill plants outright, it can weaken them and make them more susceptible to other diseases. In severe cases, it can also reduce crop yields.
- To help prevent powdery mildew, plant resistant varieties of crops and avoid overhead watering.
- Remove any affected leaves as soon as possible.
- Apply fungicides or even burn affected plants to prevent the fungus from spreading.
As a last tip, avoid overcrowding crops and make sure they have adequate ventilation. Crop rotation can also be effective, as it helps to break the cycle of infection.
The cold won’t bother these plants anyway
Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying your outdoor space — there are plenty of plants that will thrive in winter conditions.
With a little planning, it is possible to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables from your own garden all year round. Just remember to consult with a professional gardener before making any major changes to your landscape.