As winter approaches, most people are settling in where they can stay warm, cosy, and dry. Everyone else that is, except landscapers and gardeners with the serious intent of doing things “right” in the garden.
That is because now is one of the very best times to plan and plant a new landscape. This is especially true if the section is coastal or subject to drying out over the warmer months.
This transition period from late autumn through early winter is Nature’s time of death and rebirth. The glory of the past growing season is collapsing into the compost pile where its richness will soon nourish the roots of plants that will rise to bloom with the first warmth of spring.
Combine this fact with ground still warm and workable from the fading autumn sun and abundant rainfall to keep things constantly moist for months to come and you’ve got a great time to plant.
This is especially true of trees, shrubs, perennials, hardy bedding annuals for winter and spring colour, most ground covers, matter of fact, just about everything except (sub)tropicals.
Before planting, plan carefully and get things right the first time. Inexperienced gardeners may want to get a landscape plan drawn of their section. This should be used more as a guide to planting rather than a gospel followed religiously.
Remember that a landscaper’s personal taste in plants can sometimes conflict with the needs and wants to the homeowner. Even an experienced gardener will want to draw out a thumbnail sketch.
Or mark out where things are to go in the new landscape using lawn chairs or stakes for trees and shrubs and the garden hose to outline the edges of garden beds. Walk around this imaginary garden studying different angles to be sure that the planned landscape will look good from all sides.
Study where and how much the sunlight strikes the section now that the days are short. Remember that the sun will rise much higher in the sky during the summer which could radically change the amount of sunlight and heat affecting the planting area later in the year.
Examine the soil. Host soils benefit from the addition of copious amounts of compost. This enriches the soil, tends to neutralize it’s Ph, retains valuable moisture, and makes it fluffy and light so that the plants’ roots can breathe. If the soil is heavy add drainage materials like pumice, river gravel, sand, bark or a commercial clay breaker in addition to compost.
Where water stands on the land for more than an hour after heavy rains, drainage tiles may need to be laid prior to planting. If the soil is a lighter sand or gravel then compost and peat or well-aged leaf mould should be added to improve water retention.
While compost is quite rich, it is often a good idea to add a complete plant food or at least blood and bone to further improve the soil. When planting, dig big holes filled with good soil and/or compost and stake securely against wind.
Water in well and add a mulch like bark or compost around the plant to keep it evenly moist. By spring your new landscape will be well established and ready to reward you with beauty for a lifetime.