The changing of the seasons is one of the most stunning aspects of life in New Zealand, with the natural elements displaying a full spectrum of moods. But seasonal changes can also bring challenges. What was growing happily in the warmer months can start to suffer in the New Zealand winter. Frosts, rain, wind and storms all impact greatly on our landscape, and sometimes cause damage. To minimise the impact of these seasonal changes, planting with awareness of weather extremes common to your region is a good idea.
Cold Weather Strategies
Taking care with what you and plant and where you plant it is a common-sense approach. There are many species of plants, fruits and vegetables which flourish during the colder months and these are a natural choice for winter gardens.
Think about where your gardens best attributes are for the colder months. When planting new seedlings in the soil, make sure you allow for maximum sunlight. Where light is filtered, remove obstacles or clear the space to gain more light.
Prepare for Frost
If your garden is prone to frost, plant seedlings in pots that can be moved around to gather the most sun, while protected from frost. If planting in the garden, choose hardy frost tolerant plants. Frost causes the water in plants to freeze, which damages the cell walls. Be careful with exposure to morning sun after frost, as plants that have been frozen and defrost too quickly will suffer.
Once you have chosen hardy plant species that can tolerate frost, continue protection strategies through winter. Cover the ground overnight with a frost covering – an old fabric sack or newspaper – and lift it during the day for air and light. Mulch will also insulate the soil and protect from frost.
If you get a lot of rainfall, prepare for this in your garden. Adequate drainage is necessary, so dig in drains. Soil composition will impact drainage efficiency, so have your soil type identified and work with this. If your soil does not naturally drain well, increase absorption by loosening the soil. Planting in the soil will root it together, allowing it to sustain a greater amount of water without turning into a boggy mess.
Once you have chosen plant species that prefer the cold, it is simply a matter of keeping them nourished. Insulate pots with bubble wrap and insulate soil with mulch. Glasshouses will also keep plants warmer.
Keep the soil fertilised with high-quality nutrients such as nitrogen based fertilisers. Water and feed your garden and remove weeds and bugs to give your pants best chance at good health.
Some Winter Favourites
Popular cold weather plant species include Leucadendron, Astelia Silver Spear, Euphorbia Kea Tui, Nandina Firepower as well as Witch Hazel, and Camelia. New Zealand beech tree varieties such as silver beech are beautiful. Also consider planting trees that can be appreciated without their leaves. The shape and texture of the bark of deciduous trees can be stunning in winter.
Many winter vegetables do most of their growing underground. Because of this, planting root vegetables in winter can be very rewarding. Preparing the soil well before planting is essential. Sow varieties such as potatoes, broad beans, beetroot, and garlic.