Posts in Winter

Mulching your garden

Fruit, Winter


Premulch - Put down a good dose of manure (preferrably more rotted than this!) and some fertiliser.

Premulch - Put down a good dose of manure (preferably more rotted than this!) and some fertiliser.

Winter is the time to be putting down mulch in your garden.  As I mentioned in my previous post about mulching the vegetable garden, mulching – covering the soil with a protective layer- is an important task.  In the fruit and vegetable garden mulch should preferably be some sort of organic matter, because then it will add to the health of the soil.  However in an ornamental garden non-organic mulches such as pebbles may be appropriate.

As you can see from the photos below, the mulch I selected was fairly newly shredded tree material.  This will work fine and provide a good protective layer against weeds, but because it is quite new it will draw nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down.  This obviously isn’t a good thing for plants as it reduces the amount of nitrogen they have for growth.  To offset this I would recommend applying a good dose of fertiliser to the surface of the soil like blood and bone and/or rooster poo.

Why mulch?

Mulch offers many important benefits to the gardener.  The first of which is it helps keep the weeds down.  Apart from looking unsightly, weeds compete with your plants from nutrients, limiting their growth.

Secondly, mulch helps keep moisture in the soil.  In Melbourne where I garden, the summers can be very hot, and exposed soil will dry out much

Cover with a good layer of mulch (3-5 inches).  Keep it away from the plant trunk.

Cover with a good layer of mulch (3-5 inches). Keep it away from the plant trunk.

more quickly than covered soil, leaving your plants prone to heat shock.  A good layer of mulch will trap the moisture in the soil, just where your plants need it.

Thirdly, keeping the soil moist helps with the microflora of the soil.  Good healthy soil has fungi and bacteria that live within it. These help release nutrients in the soil and can help reduce the growth of harmful organisms.  When the soil heats up and dries out, this sterilises the soil, reducing the number of microflora in turn reducing soil fertility.  Mulching will help prevent this.

How to mulch.

Firstly start by removing any weeds and grasses around your plants.  This will stop them simply growing through the mulch you apply.  Like I said above the next step is to put a layer of fertiliser down to provide some available nitrogen.  Also it is easier to apply fertiliser for your plants before you put down the mulch.

Lastly finish by applying a good layer of the mulch, between 3-5 inches.  This depth will really help to keep the weeds down and build a good soil microclimate.  Just be sure to keep the mulch away from the trunks of your trees.  If it is too close it can cause collar rot of the trunk, killing the tree.

So, do you use mulch in your garden?  If so, what types?  Have you found it helped?  Let me know with a comment below.  Thanks!


How to Prune Gooseberries

Pruning soft fruit is essential to get the best crop and to minimise pests and diseases.  Gooseberries are no exception.  Following on from my recent text post on pruning redcurrants I have put together a video on how to prune your gooseberries.  This is a job for wintertime when the plants are dormant.  Enjoy!

How to Prune Red Currants for a Bumper Crop

Winter is the time to be pruning your red currants to ensure you get the best possible crop for next year. Red currants are a delicious soft fruit that is well worth the effort growing. Like most soft fruit they degrade quickly and transport poorly, so anything you buy commercially is likely to be substandard compared to what you have grown at home. Red currants fruit on established fruiting spurs, and there are certain pruning techniques to support the development of these spurs. We are going to run through these here. If you are someone who prefers to what a video on how this is done, pop on over to my page on pruning gooseberries for a short video. Many of the techniques are very similar. The pruning techniques described here apply to white currants as well, but not black currants as these have different growing and fruiting habits.

Prune for a goblet shape.


After the previous growing season, your currants can look pretty wild.

continue reading..

Time to start chitting those potatoes


My seed potatoes on the window sill chitting.

My seed potatoes on the window sill chitting.

Wintertime is coming to an end here in Melbourne and it is happening early. It’s just into the start of August here and already the blossom is swelling. According to my usual timeline I won’t be planting my potatoes till September, but given the warmth we’ve had I’m starting to chit mine a bit earlier. For those who aren’t familiar with this, chitting is the process of starting the potatoes off by exposing them to light. This causes shoots to form so by the time you should be planting them outside they already have a head start. You can see, I have mine on the window sill in an old egg box to keep them upright.

So how to you start yours off? Do you chit your potatoes or just pop them in the ground straight away? Let me know by posting a comment below.


How to prune – the fundamentals.

It’s winter here in Melbourne at the moment and for many plants it’s the time of year to be pruning.  This is especially so in the fruit garden.  However good pruning technique is essential to avoid the introduction of disease and to avoid dieback in stems.  While I don’t claim to be an expert, I have put together a short video with what I have found to be essential information on how to prune.  Hope it’s helpful!

So did you find this useful?  Anything else you would like to know?  Write me a comment below and let me know, or share it with your friends.

How to Protect Your Plants from Frost

Protecting tender plants from frost is an good skill to have in the garden.  While I think you should grow plants that are suited to your local environment and timed according to the time of year, sometimes it can be worth trying to keep tender plants going.  In this short video I have given a couple of examples about how I am protecting some more tender plants from the cold.  Specifically we look at overwintering an eggplant (aubergine), some capsicums (sweet peppers) and Thai chillies, and lastly some celery (that I planted at the wrong time of year).  Each has different challenges and in the video I present different solutions for each.

continue reading..

How do I know if the gooseberries are ripe?

The gooseberry plant that finally produced some fruit.

At last, I have some gooseberries on the bushes. After four years they have finally produced 3 gooseberries. The problem is now, how do I know they are ripe? After doing some research it seems that when they give slightly to squeezing they are ready to pick. We’ll try it and see how they taste.

First pizza!

Following on from my last post about building our wood fired oven from earth, I finally managed to get the fire right.  And we managed to cook our first pizzas.

You would think it was simply a matter of lighting a fire in the oven and away you’d go.  The few goes were a disaster simply getting it lit.  I then fitted a chimney to it (the original plan hadn’t included one), and found that it drew much better so the fire could be started much more easily.

I then discovered you shouldn’t be shy when building a fire in these things.  I reckon my first few efforts must have been too wimpy, and the thermometer struggled to pass 100 degrees Celsius.  This time I went all out and it worked a treat.  It got so hot that it set fire to the door (it was wood as per the instructions), and the thermometer went off the scale.  As you could imagine I was well chuffed, and the pizza was great.

We are going to try a roast this weekend, and we’ll probably chuck a few loaves of bread it as well.  I’ll have to make a new door, and I think the key is not to keep it in place while the oven is heating up, just place it once you have spread the coals in preparation for cooking (the instructions were very vague on the use of the door).  This should keep the heat in to enable the bread and roast to cook well.

I’ll keep you informed.