Wally Richards – getting ready for winter

Now is the time to prepare ourselves and our gardens for winter.

We are prompted by advertisements and common sense to prepare for the coming short daylight hours and the cold that winter brings. We endeavour to make ourselves and our homes “as snug as a bug in a rug” by getting in the firewood, checking our electric blankets and digging out our winter woollies.

If we take time to look after our own needs, why not make time to look after our much loved gardens and plants?

Keep lemon trees feet dry

It is only logical that the plants and gardens we have cared for over the last nine months should now be given a bit of protection against the chills and wet they will face in the coming months.

Wet soil greatly increases the cold that plants roots have to survive in.  Prolonged “wet feet” increases the chances of root rot which is a killer of a number of plants. It stops growth, where drier soil allows some growth even in a wet winter.

We can’t stop the rain falling but we can assist the soil to dry out faster. For instance if you have a vegetable patch dig a trench at least a spades depth around the perimeter of the garden. Water will drain into the trench where wind and the weaker sun will speed up its evaporation. Clay soils and hard packed soils tend to hold water in the root zone of plants and the easy way to open up these areas is by applying good doses of gypsum now.

You can also install nova flow drain pipes from known wet areas into your storm water system.
In my case I have a backyard that can become a lake in winter, with rain water which can lay for days or weeks. This is not good for my citrus trees and other plants that grow in the area. My chooks, which free range the area, must wish they were ducks. I solved the problem by digging a trench the length of the yard and placing a nova flow pipe in the trench covered with pea metal and then replaced the clay soil over the top. At one end, near the house, a deep hole was dug and lined with a plastic container that has ample holes in it. A submersible pump is placed inside this and connected to the storm water system. When we get a good downpour, the water drains into the nova flow pipe and runs into the hole with the pump. When the water builds up the pump automatically turns on and pumps the water away.

The end result is the yard never stays under water for long and my chooks have not developed webbed feet.  You have an initial outlay for a submersible pump, but as I have had the same one for over 20 years it certainly has more than paid for itself.

A problem that often happens in wet winters has actually been created by gardeners who have mulched garden areas to retain moisture during the summer months. This can work well during dry times but can be deadly in wet times for any plants that don’t like been in wet soil for prolonged periods.

Every year in spring or early summer I have gardeners ringing me up to complain about shrubs and trees in their gardens dying. I ask one simple question: have you a mulch on the soil in that area?  More often than not, the answer is yes and that is the problem. The soil can’t breathe and moisture can’t get away and plants die.

So rake back mulches now from the root area of plants that don’t like wet feet especially citrus trees.

There is a product called Perkfection which is great for protecting our plants against wet weather diseases. A couple of sprays now, a month apart, will put your garden plants in good stead for the winter ahead. Perkfection is ‘Synthetic Organic Phosphates’ and what you are doing is placing this valuable material onto the foliage of your plants, where it is very readily absorbed and transferred through the whole of the plant. This fortifies the plant’s cells, increases the plant’s immune system and makes your plants less susceptible to invading pathogens.

The next step in ‘winter readying’ your gardens and plants is to apply magnesium and potash which can be found in balance with a product called Fruit and Flower Power. Use around your preferred plants at the rate of 50 grams per square metre once a month for the next 2-3 months. The 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 shows 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. Often we see leaves yellowing in winter due to insufficient amounts of this element.

As the weather cools and winter approaches, plants feel the chills like we do, but plants can’t put on a jersey like we can. A plant’s protection from chills and frosts comes from having adequate Potassium in their diet. I suggest to gardeners to supply adequate potash to their plants as winter starts to approach and to avoid too much nitrogen.  Potassium hardens up the cells of our plants giving protection from frosts and wet. We can further protect our soils and plants by a soil drench of Magic Botanic liquid (MBL) and a spray over the foliage of the same.

Next step is to protect those plants that do not like the cold and frosts and we can achieve a good degree of protection from a spray of Vaporgard. VaporGard is organic and it provides a long lasting (2-3 months, or longer in winter) film over the foliage which protects down to 3 degrees C.  In areas where you have harder frosts you will still need the extra protection such as the traditional frost cloth.  Combine the two together and you will have increased protection. Note: several frosts in a row can result in damage still.

VaporGard develops a polymerised skin over each spray-droplet which filters out UVA and UVB, providing a sunscreen for the chlorophyll, which is normally under attack by UV light. This results in a darker green colour of the foliage within a few days of application. The chlorophyll build-up makes the leaf a more efficient food factory producing more carbohydrates, especially glycols giving stress protection from moisture loss and extra fuel for better growth and faster maturity. The glycols are anti-freeze for the plant’s cells so you have enabled the plant to have its own anti-freeze system. It is the freezing of cells at frosty times which causes the frost damage.

During an average winter with the occasional frost I can keep my tamarillo in full foliage as well as other frost tender plants. An application of Vaporgard now will prevent you being caught out with an early frost and later on about June another application will protect your plants into spring.

Once you have applied Vaporgard to any plants and wish to apply another spray of Perkfection you need to add Raingard to the spray so it will pass through the film of Vaporgard.

In a nutshell you firstly aid drainage, then apply  Fruit and Flower Power, followed with a drench of MBL and spray of the same with Perkfection added. Lastly for those tender plants, spray over the foliage with Vaporgard.

2 comments on “Wally Richards – getting ready for winter

  1. Alan Most on said:

    Wally, I have novaflow from a small sump in our back paved area. It’s partially blocked with leaves and sediment. What do you suggest is a good way to clear it?? Have put the hose down but even though we’re on mains pressure it has little effect.

  2. Hi Alan, it depends on where the pipe leads to as there may be something like a tree root blocking the pipe. You can try a water blaster or a long piece of wire and keep chipping away at it or hook it back towards you and hopefully get some flow that will flush the debris out.


    Tim Durrant

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