What to do in the garden in July and tips for the winter garden in Melbourne and Eastern Australia.
The autumn twilight turned into deep and early night as they walked. Tristran could smell the distant winter on the air—a mixture of night-mist and crisp darkness and the tang of fallen leaves…. the crescent moon hung white in the sky and the stars burned in the darkness above them.
Neil Gaiman, Stardust
Although some trees are hanging on to the last of their leaves here in Melbourne today, is the first of the very chill air and grey sky that heralds deep winter. It is tempting to think of winter time as a restful period in the garden, a time to wrap yourself up with lovely garden books and seed catalogs, dreaming of spring and summer days when the garden is bursting with life, but on closer inspection in most parts of Australia, you will find a to-do-list as long as your arm! I have found on a cold crisp day absolute joy in the garden, so I have shared my to do list here, I hope you will have fun in the garden too.
Things to do in the winter garden July
- Save those leaves is my number one tip! I have been known to go to other peoples houses and rake leaves for them, not only do you get good karma but this is one of the best ways to improve you soil, save water and help your hedges, shrubs and trees grow strong and suppress weeds. Spread leaves directly into garden beds (keeping away from trunks) or use them in compost or simply bag them up and store them in a out of the way place for a year for wonderfully rich humus that will enrich your soil (I keep one or two bags under the house)
- Plant peas both snow and snap peas. There are few more easily grown crops that are so productive and joyful than fresh peas. Plant in pots with a tee-pee or climbing frame in a sunny spot near the house and soon you will have fresh baby leaves for salad followed by the best peas ever. Plant a few types at a week apart to extend the picking season. The goodness doesn’t end there though as the plants will enrich your soil while growing and I always dig the spent plants into my garden beds.
- Plant leafy greens for quick nutritious crops this includes Asian greens, lettuce, spinach, kale and for something a bit more robust silverbeets. I use all of these from very young plants (almost micro greens) in stir fry and salad, just make sure not to over pick a single plant.
- I prune all my roses now and shape the climbing roses.
- See a tiny weed pull it out now before it is too late! Set aside some time to cruise around the garden only doing weeding -either pulling out or smothering with deep mulch. Good luck on your mission.
- Look at the structure of the garden and remove or re-plant anything that is in the wrong spot. Perhaps some things just need a hard prune to change the shape or create a dramatic new look. Be careful as some plants, like conifer hedges, won’t come back if too vigorously pruned.
- Best of all is order seeds for flowers and veggies because planting time will be upon us soon and this is so much cheaper and more bountiful than buying seedlings.
- Start a liquid weed fertiliser container. I use my green waste bin and an old drink purifier for making a liquid fertiliser out of green waste -most importantly make sure it has a lid because the smell is dreadful! Add all your leaves and weeds to this plus a handful manure and especially comfrey if you have it, stir occasionally and by spring you will have a great liquid fertiliser your plants will love. I don’t put any highly poisonous plants like euphorbia or ivy in this mix -I’m not sure it would matter but I don’t take the risk. Use diluted by 25% in a watering can.
Things to plant in July in Melbourne and Eastern Australia
Flowers – why not choose at least three annuals to give you flowers from spring to autumn and plant some self seeders* that will look after themselves and come up year after year. Plant in punnets by all means but many of these can be sown straight into the garden.
Annuals – alyssum*, aquilegia*, calendula, cineraria, cornflower*, cosmos, delphinium, dianthus, erigeron, foxglove*, hollyhock, honesty*, larkspur, lobelia, nemesia*, pansy, poppy*, primula, snapdragon, stock* and viola.
I have some favorite seed suppliers, locally I use Diggers seeds mainly for vegetables and from overseas my two favorites are as follows. When importing seed you should check if they are allowed by using the Australian Government’s Biosecurity import conditions database as many seeds are not allowed in such as poppies and beans etc, so save money by checking otherwise they get confiscated. Swallowtail is good as they wont send you these seed to begin with.
Vegetables to plant now in Victoria
These should not need particular care if grown in an area of your garden with good sun and soil, they will grow very well in a green house or with overnight protection. If you know you will get frost or hail and can protect them so much the better. My mum grows many of these on a balcony in full sun with great success and it is so handy having them near to the house you will tend to eat more. There are so many seeds you can try so it is worth trying different varieties, with lettuce or brassicas you could plant over ten different types for flavour and texture explosions!
Amaranth, Asian greens, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, fennel, lettuce (oh so many types) Pak Choy, peas, perpetual spinach, potatoes, radish, silver beet, spring onion, tatsoi