“A garden is half-made when it is well planned. The best gardener is the one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey
On a sunny, breeze-free winter’s day, there’s nothing like spending time in the garden. Even if there’s a chill in the air, in most parts of Australia you can find a nice spot to enjoy your garden year-round. One of the nicest parts of spending time in the garden in the winter is that your to-do list isn’t growing — literally — before your very eyes.
Find a spot and make it yours
Many of us make the mistake of thinking that the furniture in our garden needs to stay where it is all year, but this is not the case. The bench seat you use on the verandah during summer — because you need the shade protection — can become the perfect lawn seat in the cooler months. Outdoor tables can be moved off the patio and placed in a spot that catches the winter sun for year-round alfresco dining.
Take a few minutes over a few days to watch your backyard and how the sun moves across it during the winter, then stake out a spot or corner that gets a nice amount of midday sun and plan to turn that into a special space. This doesn’t need to be anything permanent; you can create a special area to relax in over winter by using outdoor furniture and potted plants.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is you can still find a space for a special seat, even if you only have a courtyard or balcony. If space is limited, pick the sunniest corner and put a chair there — it’s the perfect spot to enjoy your morning coffee. If you have plenty of land, there are more choices, but don’t make your spot too far from your house — if it’s too far away you’re less likely to use it. Try to pick somewhere that’s in the line of sight from your house — that way you’ll see your special spot and it will prompt you to sit out there.
Now you’ve found a special spot, use it. While the natural tendency is to stay indoors during winter, this isn’t necessary in Australia. Make a cup of your favourite hot beverage, grab a book or magazine, a blanket and a couple of cushions and take yourself outside for awhile. The kids will enjoy being able to play around you and the fresh air will do you all good.
Make the most of the dormant season
If you spend enough time outside in the summer you can practically see the grass growing in front of your very eyes. While sitting around outside is relaxing, it can also be a little overwhelming in summer when your to-do list is longer. This is why it’s so nice to spend some time outdoors in the winter when nothing much is happening in the garden.
Take this time to tackle some projects you never quite get around to in the summertime. Does the shed need a good cleanout or a coat of paint? Perhaps your tools could do with a good clean or now might be the time to stocktake your garden shed and decide if you need to invest in new tools. Do you need to add any garden beds or pathways? The cooler weather provides the perfect opportunity to undertake these tasks. Plus, you have the foundations in place for spring planting.
Plan for the future
A planned garden is more successful than one that’s thrown together with no consideration of what to plant where. And the best time to plan is when you actually have time to do it. While things are a little quieter, it’s a good time to create a garden diary. Take a look at your goals for the next few months and work out the best time to undertake these activities. Research online or in a garden diary to find out the optimum time to perform regular maintenance tasks or plant new plants and make a note of these in your diary. Be realistic about how much time you have to spend in the garden. If you’re a full-time working couple who don’t particularly enjoy gardening, don’t expect to be able to achieve as much as a retired couple who love getting their hands dirty. Space out the garden tasks you have to achieve so you can realistically get through them.
Decide on what you realistically need to buy for the garden this year and set a budget. It’s so easy to go over budget when you get to the nursery and find all those must-have items you didn’t know you had to have. Don’t be afraid to plan a few smaller trips to the nursery rather than one large trip. If you buy more plants than you can plant in a session, some of them will die while they’re sitting around in pots waiting to go in the earth.
Enjoy your garden all year round by taking the time over winter to get into the garden and enjoy the fruits of your labour — and plan for the future at the same time.