Hot diary: What can you do in July?

Most gardening reviews thrive on telling you that winter also is a rather busy time. They dress up endless lists of things to do and not to do. It might make them feel like they are worth buying. Winter gardening is up to you really and what has not been done in July can be done in August. There are only a couple of little things that truly have to be done at this time of year. Some reviews will say that winter gardening is all about freezing fingers, getting wet to the bone (if we are lucky enough to have a wet year), bogging machinery and getting ready for spring. A La Carte encourages you to follow nature, stay at home on cold days and buzz about on nice sunny afternoons. One thing at a time and each time has its thing. In winter, time is mostly spent doing indoor work.
Back in April we said that if we were to compare gardening with the process of cooking a meal, you would only be at the stage of shopping for the groceries. Well in July, your roast is in the oven and you are now tidying the kitchen up. Same with the garden, all your plants should be in by now and you should be cleaning up.

Write down and plan:
How is your diary going?? Do you have a few notes by now?? To make sure I use mine, I also write down personal things, such as funny things the kids have said, what we did on the week-end and so on.
Some winter mornings inspire us as much as a cold cup of tea does. Follow your instincts and stay inside. Grab your diary and make notes of seed to order and make a few phone calls to source seedlings for spring planting (do not buy them yet as some may be frost tender, especially if you do not have a greenhouse to keep them protected).
Winter is no excuse to have a whinge about the look of your garden. Winter gardens, if well planned, are not at all dull. They are subtle, modest and patiently waiting for spring to come back. Your local nursery men and women will get you back on the right track with plants that offer attractive seed pods, unusual bark, winter flowers and/or architectural plants for a year round effect.

Tool maintenance:
Make the most of the quieter time to maintain your gardening equipment: sharpen blades, service lawn mower, edger, whipper snipper, chainsaw and the like. If you wait until spring, the servicing team at your local shop will be flat out and chances are you will not be able to get your equipment back for 2 to 3 weeks. I am telling you this by experience. A couple of years ago around spring time, snakes were soon to come out, the grass was high and I could not get my whipper snipper back for 3 weeks because everybody else was in the mood for spring cleaning.

It is the perfect time to nourish your garden beds and for the love of worms, please avoid using pellets out a bucket. Could we live on vitamins tablets only? Of course not, so let’s get our wheel barrow out, order some manure/composted material and feed your soil properly.

Vegie patch:
Things are now slowing down, even for goodies that are ready to be harvested. Still a little feed will not hurt.

By now you should be planting:
beetroot, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, peas, radish, rocket, shallots, snow peas and strawberry plants.

By now you should be harvesting:
Beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, burdock, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chives, collards, corn salads, endive, Florence fennel, Kale, Kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, mustard greens, oregano, pak choi, parsley, radish, rocket, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, sorrel, spinach, swedes and turnip.

Planting, pruning and maintenance:
You MUST now buy and plant bare rooted.

Roses have performed well throughout the growing season and are now in desperate need of TLC, even more so if the ladies did not look their best. Start by giving them a good prune, which roughly consists of keeping the best branches and stems and removing any dead wood and weaker limbs. An amazing lady (not a rose, a true one) once said that her grand-mother always left 3 buds when pruning: one spare lost to insects, one spare gone with a sudden frost and one left to grow. It is a good rule of thumb for most roses. However, climbing roses require lighter pruning, otherwise they will never get to cover that wall or arch graciously over a path. There is no better friend to your roses than manure. Apply two spades full, in a circle, per established bush, more for larger ones. Always make sure the manure is at least 10cm away from the base, as it may cause fungal attack if in contact with the stem tissue. By keeping your roses well fed, hence healthy, they will not be as susceptible to pests and diseases.
While you have your secateurs in one hand, also give a prune to fruiting trees and bushes, except citrus. Never prune citrus trees, you are only allowed to remove dead branches. A wise pruning will increase the amount of harvestable product and promote your plants health, while a poor pruning will yield exactly the opposite. This is a rather skilful operation so make sure you do a little research before hand.

On a sunny day, take a walk round your garden and prune deciduous shrubs and plants that have died back. Remove dead or diseased material. If you are not sure about this, scratch the stem with your finger nail if it is green underneath it is alive. This does not require any skills, other than bending down. There is no need to worry about how far back you should prune, simply leave a reasonable amount of plant material and go harder next year if you think that was not enough.

You think that one shrub would look better in another area of your garden? Well, let’s get the man of the house out, make positive comments on his strength, blink your eye lashes a couple of times and point out to him that this particular shrub needs to be relocated… if he moans, tell him that it was his mother’s idea. Whatever works for you, is good to us, the point is that if you are going to dig out plants it has to be done this time of year….. only. Yet, bear in mind that some plants simply cannot be dug out (most natives, cordyline and well established trees just hate it).

Rake your garden, dispose of and/or burn any unwanted material (organic ones only of course). If you are not sure on how to proceed safely, just ring your local fire brigade, or take it to your nearest green waste centre.

On colder days, remember that water saving options still apply. Turn your irrigation devices on low, reduce the watering of your pot plants and your lawn hardly needs supplementary watering by now.

Lawn care:
There is barely a thing to do in winter to keep your lawn going, if you get the chance scarify and aerate to ensure healthy growth in spring. Do not mow too short to keep the soil warmth and your lawn inner layer protected from frost.

Pests and diseases:
Winter is mildew's favourite time of the year, as days are mild and damp. If you notice a change of colour and your plants look pale and silvery, spray them with fresh milk (not processed). Do so only if they do not always look this way… some plants naturally are silvery and pale.


Transplant shrubs, feed the soil, plant bare rooted stock and prune roses, fruiting trees and shrubs.

Well next time we talk, spring will be round the corner and we will have no excuse left to spend time indoors. But for now, nature is slowing down, having a rest and so should we. For a quiet month, I have done a fair bit of writing. Oh! Well! Gardening reviews may be right at last, there is a lot to do in winter.

Revision by Helen Quade,
Text by Aurelie Quade.