Winter pruning

A Full Moon phase during winter is a good time to prune most deciduous plants. From 19th of this month is a good time to prune dormant trees and vines that tend to bleed (weep sap) if pruned in late winter. These include grapes, kiwi fruit, mulberry, birch, conifers, frangipani, maple and poplar. Pecans, which bleed readily and require minimal pruning, are best pruned during Last Quarter phase (from June 26th) when sap flow is lowest. Almonds should also be pruned early in winter because they flower earlier than other Prunus species. Other deciduous fruit trees can be pruned in winter with the exception of apricots and cherries. These trees are prone to bacterial canker if pruned when sap flow is low and cuts are slow to heal. Young apricot and cherry trees can be pruned in spring during First Quarter phase, and mature trees pruned after harvest during a Full Moon phase. Deciduous fruit trees grown for spring flowers rather than fruit are pruned during a First Quarter phase, after flowering.
It is a good idea to keep a container of methylated spirits with you when pruning and regularly wipe the blades of your pruning tools to avoid the risk of spreading and bacteria or fungal spores from one plant to another.

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Pruning roses
In most areas, bush roses can be pruned during a Full Moon phase in winter, after they become dormant. If you have removed dead wood, suckers and crossed branches during the growing season, little winter pruning will be required. Where frosts are common, or rose canker (dieback) has been a problem, it is better to prune bush roses as late as possible – at the first sign of new growth when sap flow is higher. Then prune, with slanting cuts, during First Quarter phase to encourage strong growth. This will help reduce dieback because the fungus that causes rose canker lives on rose thorns. Roses are more susceptible to infection by this fungus when sap flow is slow and pruning cuts heal slowly. Careful pruning is the only way to avoid dieback, as there is no treatment for the fungus.
Climbing roses that are floribunda or hybrid tea sports can be pruned at the same time as bush roses, but climbers that only flower in spring are pruned before a Full Moon, after flowering.

Planting roses

Roses are available for planting now. If possible, avoid purchasing bare-rooted roses before the end of June, as roses that have been lifted before they are fully dormant do not usually grow well. If you live in an area where frosts occur, it is better to plant them at the end of winter. Planting of potted roses can be delayed until spring where frosts are severe. Also avoid planting roses during wet weather, when soil will become compacted.
Roses need a well-drained soil, and following the guidelines for planting trees and shrubs apply to roses. See “Planting trees, shrubs and vines”, under Ornamentals.
If new roses have not been pruned before purchase, leave any pruning required until the end of winter, at the first signs of new growth, or until frosts have passed. If new roses are pruned early and frost damages the plants, you will have very little to cut back to. Climbing roses are pruned after flowering in spring. If pruning at the end of winter, prune new roses during First Quarter phase when sap flow is higher and growth response will be faster. If frost is not a problem, new roses can be pruned during Full Moon phase during winter.
If you are replacing a sick rose, remove soil from the planting area beyond the reach of the sick rose’s roots, and replace it with soil that has not grown roses before.

Planting trees, shrubs and vines

dripline Winter is the best time to plant deciduous trees, shrubs and vines, including roses and fruit trees. Evergreen plants do well if planted in spring in cool and temperate climates, or in early autumn where summers are very hot. Moon planters will plant these during Full Moon phase for best results.
Always make planting holes wider than deep. Feeder roots are situated under the outer foliage canopy where rain drips from the plant. A wide planting hole allows the easy spread of roots as the plant grows. Wide holes are extremely important where soil is heavy. Mulch should also be applied to the outer canopy area, not near the trunk. Mulch against the trunk can cause collar rot.
Having dug the planting hole, fill it with water and leave it for an hour or two. This practice serves two purposes. It allows you to check that the area is well drained, as few plants grow well in waterlogged soil. It also prevents water applied after planting being drawn away from the plant into surrounding drier soil. If some water remains in the bottom of the hole, plant the tree or shrub in a mound to improve drainage. If a lot of water remains in the hole, avoid planting in that spot until drainage is improved.
Don’t plant any deeper than the tree or shrub was in the pot. Bare-rooted plants will have a change of colour on the trunk that indicates the original planting depth. This will ensure that any graft is positioned above ground level. To avoid planting deeper, lay a garden stake across the top of the hole and position the plant so that the original depth is aligned with the bottom of the stake. If necessary, make a mound of soil in the bottom of the hole to that the original planting depth can be repeated. Spread the roots of bare-rooted plants over the mound before filling.
Fill in the hole, occasionally jiggling the trunk of bare-rooted plants to avoid air pockets around the roots, and mix some compost or worm castings through only the top 10 cm of soil. Organic matter in the bottom of the hole will cause the plant to sink as the organic matter breaks down. If you do not have compost to spare, place some well-rotted horse or cow manure on the soil surface, under the outer canopy, and cover it with 5–7 cm of organic mulch. The addition of organic matter when planting perennials is very important, as many foreign plant families (exotics), in particular, rely on a beneficial soil fungi called mycorrhiza to supply their roots with nutrients and water, and mycorrhiza live in organic matter. Without organic matter in soil, plants can struggle to absorb what they need for healthy growth, and will be more prone to pests and disease. Australian natives will benefit from the application of some leaf mould around them.
Gently firm soil around the plant, but do not trample the soil as roots can be damaged. Water gently, to settle soil, before applying mulch. Do not apply any extra fertiliser at planting time, but an application of seaweed extract tea can help reduce transplant shock.

Crop rotation

Crop rotation is the practice of allowing a minimum of three years between growing a particular family or group of plants in the same patch of soil. This practice is essential to maintaining healthy soil because it prevents the build-up in soil of pathogens that cause soil-borne plant diseases. Plants weakened by diseases also attract pests. Many modern farmers have forgotten the importance of crop rotation. The trend is towards monoculture and these farmers have to rely on stronger and stronger chemicals in an effort to cure plant pest and disease problems.
There are eight main groups of plants that are commonly grown in vegetable gardens. Some groups can be grown together but others, such as legumes and the onion family, don’t make good neighbours.
If you find that pests and disease are repeatedly affecting your vegetables, and crops are disappointing, try the crop rotation below and you will find that your garden rewards your efforts. This rotation has six sections and includes a green manure grain, plus a legume green manure if you don’t want to grow your own peas and beans. The green manures are included because they recycle nutrients, replenish organic matter in topsoil, and help inhibit soil pathogens. In this rotation, legumes precede the tomato family because broad beans inhibit a fungal wilt that affects tomatoes. Organic matter assists in keeping soil healthy because it provides a habitat for beneficial microorganisms that keep disease organisms under control and improve soil structure.
Section 1:
Legumes – peas, beans, broad beans, or a green manure legume.
Section 2:
Solanaceous – Tomato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, pepino, potato. (Some tomato family diseases can also affect Strawberries.)
Section 3:
Crucifers – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustards, radish, rocket, swede, turnip.
Section 4:
Green manure grain – such as barley, cereal rye, corn, millet, oats, sorghum, or wheat – depending on the season. Sweet corn can be grown in Section 4 if you have plenty of compost and don’t need to grow a green manure grain.
Section 5:
Chenopod family – silver beet, beetroot. (Winter spinach can follow a summer crop of beets as long as this group is not grown in the same bed for another 3 years.) Also the Aster group – lettuce, chicory, endive, globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke and sunflower.
Section 6:
Umbrelliferous – carrot, celery, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley, parsnip. Also the Allium family – all chives, garlic and onions.

Cucurbits – cucumber, gourd, marrow, pumpkin, rockmelon, squash, watermelon, zucchini. These, except for pumpkin, can be sown with group 5 or group 6, but not both. Pumpkins are best grown on their own because the vines are very vigorous and the roots give off compounds that can deter some other plants. Dill can also be grown with Section 3 to deter cabbage pests. Sweet corn is a good companion for cucumber or beans.

When the legumes are finished, group 2 can be planted in that bed. Group 3 replaces group 2 and so on, with all the groups moving up one bed. If you only have three or four beds, divide some of the beds proportionately, to suit your food preferences. Once your soil is restored to health, you can adjust the rotation to a three or four year one that suits the type of vegetables you prefer to grow, as long as you allow at least three years between the same group.
Crop rotation should also be practiced with flowering annuals and some perennials. Cinerarias and zinnias are related to the lettuce family, petunias are related to the tomato family, and stock and wallflower are crucifers. These plants can succumb to the same diseases that affect the vegetables in that group. Carnations and dianthus can be affected by a wilt disease if they are always planted in the same soil, and carnations, dahlias and irises can also suffer a stem rot disease if crop rotation is not practiced.