In summary

  • Winter is a great time to maintain and tidy up your garden
  • Keep an eye on your indoor plants during winter, including modifying sun and water intake
  • Frost tolerant plants can thrive outside in winter, like kale, carrots and brussels sprouts

The temperature may be falling but that doesn’t mean your garden has to go into the deep freeze.

Whether you’re caring for your indoor plants or looking to get your garden ready for spring and summer, Swinburne Horticulture Teachers Darryn Gatt and Kate O’Grady have some top tips to keep your greenery happy.

Don’t love your plants too much!

Gatt and O’Grady note that there’s a tendency in winter, especially as we spend more time inside or work from home, to kill our plants with kindness. In cooler temperatures, the soil tends to stay moist for longer so slow down the watering to about half what you normally give your plants.

That will also help avoid fungus gnats, those small black flies you might spot around your plants, which can feed off the roots and cause problems.

Indoor plants are tropical so hot dry air is not your friend. Make sure you move them away from heating systems that will dry them out. And try and find the right balance with sun – they still need light for photosynthesis (the process which keeps plants alive), but direct sunlight for plants that are used to the dappled light of tropical rainforests might be a little much.

Start your spring clean in winter

As your deciduous trees go dormant, now is the perfect time for a big clean up says Gatt. When pruning, look for the three Ds in branches – diseased, damaged or dead. Clear these out first.

For roses, you should also remove any branches that are crossing over, as rubbing can cause splitting and infection.

For your fruit trees, you can start pruning for shape but remember that every fruit tree is different. Nectarines and peaches produce on last spring’s growth for example, so make sure you keep the productive wood.

Winter is also a good time to be vigilant, as apricot and other stone fruit trees can be susceptible to bacterial diseases in the colder months.

Beneficial gardens on Swinburne's Wantirna campus 

You can also do maintenance with your spring and summer flowering perennials by cutting them back significantly in preparation for the warmer months. Tasks you’ve put off, like mulching and weeding, can also be great to do while things slow down in winter.

Mulching helps regulate soil temperature, protects from the frosty mornings and can stop weeds from growing, so will continue to benefit your garden throughout the year.

What to plant in winter

As to what to plant in winter, Gatt says your winter veggie garden can be stacked with anything frost tolerant. That includes winter greens, kale, carrot, beetroot, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts among others.

O’Grady also says that you can start germinating some of your spring plants. These include tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, capsicums, chillies and more.

These plants must be kept protected from temperatures below 16 degrees Celsius. O’Grady offers the tip that when you first run the tap, if the water comes out tepid (rather than noticeably cold and warm) then your spring plants are ready to start putting in the garden.

Most importantly, whether it’s for enjoyment, relaxation or fresh food, don’t let the colder months stop you from enjoying the health benefits of gardening and growing.

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