Preparing your plants and garden for winter

Now that daylight savings has finished it is a reminder that winter is close at hand.
As we all know, winter brings chills, cold winds, wet and frosty weather plus in some areas snowfall.
The weather is harder to predict now days so we should be prepared for whatever happens.
Interestingly I was recently talking to a West Coaster and I joked about their traditional wet weather,
the woman asked me if I read the papers and about how dry it has been down there on the coast this season. The call was regarding  Vaporgard for frost protection.

I was told that where she lived, there had in the past never been a frost, but recently there had been a light frost. The times they are a changing; so it is a good idea to plan for the worst and if it doesn’t happen at least you were prepared.

This gardener from the West Coast spends a lot of time in her gardens and now has a new concern about protecting her Vireyas from possible frosts. She had heard me on a recent talk back session talking about the protection that Vaporgard gives to plants against frost and cold winds. (I do a one hour talk back, gardening session, on Radio Live at 1am on Thursday mornings) The phone call prompted me to give some tips about making your gardens winter ready. There are two elements that help a lot during winter which are potassium and magnesium. These two elements are available in Fruit and Flower Power in perfect balance for plants.
As the weather cools and winter approaches, plants feel the chills like we do, but plants cant put on a jersey as we can. A plant’s natural protection from chills and frosts comes from having adequate Potassium in their diet. Thus gardening commentators always suggest to gardeners to apply potash to their plants as winter starts to approach and to avoid too much nitrogen.  The potassium hardens up plant growth and helps prevent damage from winter chills.

Magnesium is involved in chlorophyll production, which converts sunlight into sugars and is involved in activating enzymes. Because of its role in chlorophyll, the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency show up as yellowing, usually between the veins of the older leaves. In severe deficiencies, the entire leaf will turn yellow or red and then brown, with symptoms progressing up the plant.
There are numerous plants that show this tendency, citrus, Daphne, rhododendrons, tomatoes, passion fruit, roses to name a few. Winter colds tend to lock up magnesium in the soil so you need to ensure there is ample amounts of this mineral available to prevent winter yellowing.
Winter brings a lot of rain and plants such as citrus detest wet feet so you should ensure that all plants that are affected by water logged soil have adequate drainage. The first thing to do is remove any mulch that you have around the plants in their root zone. Mulch encourages water retention in the soil, great during drought but potentially deadly when wet. In areas prone to ‘ponding’ or water logging, dig a trench just outside the root zone about a spade depth. This allows water to flow away from the root zone into the trench where it will evaporate quicker than in the soil.
In really bad situations soak holes or nova-flow pipes may need to be used to aid drainage.
A submersible pump costs little these days and placed in a deep hole in the ground will suck up a lot of water that can be channelled to a storm water system. A few lengths of nova-flow pipe in channels radiating out from the pump will drain the areas of garden they reach.
‘Ponding’ on lawns maybe also caused by thatch build up so  application of Thatch Buster to remove thatch at this time is a good idea.
Last week I mixed up 16 litres of Vaporgard and went around all my gardens spraying the plants for winter frost protection. VaporGard is organic and it provides a long lasting (2-3 months, longer in winter) film over the foliage which protects down to 3 degrees C.
New growth requires further applications but as there is very little growth through winter, this is not needed till the spring. Note; for the full protection that Vaporgard can give against frost and chill damage it takes about 3 days to come into effect. Putting on frost cloth and taking it off is a chore and more often or not, one either forgets or you get caught out. Vaporgard overcomes these problems and becomes an all winter, first line of defence against frosts.

In areas where you have harder frosts than -3 you will still need the extra protection such as the traditional frost cloth (Good quality frost cloth protects down to -5), combine the two together and you will have increased protection.
When using Vaporgard for frost protection you must remember that if you have several frosts in a row damage will occur as the plants do not have time to recover before they are frozen again.
Another protection is a spray of Liquid Copper with Raingard added as the film of copper gives a degree of frost protection. During winter container plants should be kept on the dry side because wet mixes will cause problems.
Outdoor containers should be elevated a little to allow water to escape quickly out of the drainage holes. Saucers must be removed as these hold water and cause root rots.
All plants that don’t like wet feet or are prone to wet weather diseases should be sprayed now with Perkfection and on ever green plants repeated again in a month’s time.

The Perkfection can be added to your Vaporgard spray and when applied again in a month’s time use with Raingard.

Autumn is a great time for gardening and getting prepared for winter.

Happy Gardening,
Wally Richards


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