- Avoid stomping around the garden or lawn where you have spring bulbs. It is a hard life already for a bulb, pushing through cold, wet soils without being stomped back into the ground. Even worse, some only put up one flowering spike and if you break that off, you are sunk for this season’s display.
- Prune and keep pruning. I am halfway through the roses but have finished the wisterias. The hydrangeas have been started. As luculias finish flowering, it is the best time to prune and feed them because their instinct is to spring into growth. It doesn’t pay to be too brutal with luculias – they can up and die on you. Regular pinching out or cautious renovation is recommended. They are not difficult to root from cuttings in late spring or early summer if you want to start afresh.
- Sasanqua camellias can be pruned and shaped as they finish flowering. This includes sasanqua hedges but it won’t matter if you leave it until spring.
- With our comparatively mild winters, we can lift and divide dormant perennials such as hostas all winter and spring. In cold climates where there is no growth over winter, recommended practice is to leave it until temperatures start to warm in spring (presumably divisions can rot in completely dormant, cold and wet conditions) – hence the different advice in books and TV gardening programmes from England. However it is wise to leave grasses, reeds, rushes and similar plants until they are growing again because they can be surprisingly touchy.
- You can at least be planting your fruit trees which are now available in abundance. Put in the sure-fire crops first and go to the riskier, more exotic options if you have space remaining. Apples, pears, plums and feijoas are extremely reliable whereas it can be hit and mostly miss with peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots. In mild coastal areas, citrus and avocados are well worth a try – for us they are the crops that save us significant money. Only buy named cultivars of feijoas – the cheapie plants are patchy seedlings for hedging and may never even fruit.
- Get a winter strength copper spray onto deciduous fruit trees, citrus and roses as a winter clean up. This will reduce disease and lichen.
- I have a new definition of a gardening optimist – the person who googled “sub tropical fruits Southland”. Southland may be many things, but sub tropical is not one of them.