Winter restoration: how to keep your garden healthy through the cool months

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The cooler winter weather might signal nature’s annual break, but in fact it’s the best time to do those garden jobs you’ve been putting off all year – and more besides.

Certain building materials have always been at the heart of one construction trend or another, whether bricks, timber or tiles. But masonry blocks? Not so much. At least, not until now.

It might seem like a contradiction, but even as winter brings cool weather and apparent inactivity to the garden, these months should be all about restoration. From cleaning your pavers and mulching flower beds to establishing new plants, there is plenty you can do to ready your outdoor space for spring.

Here are seven of the most essential jobs.

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Clean your paving

Now is the time to sweep, scrub and restore your pavers to look like new for spring. To start, clear the pavers of any debris with a brush, then use water and detergent to clean the stones, either by scrubbing or brushing.

Try to identify stubborn marks and consult the Brickworks Guideline for Maintaining Your Home for the best way to remove them. For instance, specific chemicals may be required to remove paint or oil.

Maintain your retaining walls

As with pavers, retaining walls tend to accumulate dirt and stains through the year, and while it’s best to regularly maintain them, it also pays to give them an intensive annual once-over, too.

To clean your retaining walls, scrub or brush with water and detergent, and remove any particularly stubborn stains with specialised emulsifiers ­– see the Brickworks Guideline for Maintaining Your Home for more information. While you’re cleaning, check for any structural damage that may need further attention.

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Plant for the coming season

Just because most plants and vegetables don’t grow during the winter doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a head-start by putting some in the ground now. The likes of pansies, citrus trees, calendula, English spinach and cabbage will bear the weather well and begin to show in spring.

Move potted plants into the sun

It may not be obvious at first, but as the angle of the sun gets lower and ducks behind trees and buildings, your outdoor potted plants could find themselves out in the shade; now’s the time to move them into paved patches that bask in winter sun. For plants that prefer the warm weather but don’t need quite as much sunlight, move to an area protected from chills, such as under the veranda.

Mulch garden beds

Providing an insulating layer between the soil and the cooler air, mulch will help protect the roots of plants through winter, as well as helping to retain moisture and suppress weed growth come spring. You can use shredded leaves, tree bark or straw to mulch flower beds and vegetable patches; just remember to weed and water before spreading.

Banish bugs and snails

Check plants for pupae and insect eggs, on both sides of their leaves and at their base, and spray with white oil to smother them before they have a chance to hatch. To keep stems and leaves healthy, pick off any hungry slugs or snails you find while checking your plants as well.

Look after the lawn

Keeping your patch of grass healthy through the cooler months is crucial for its growth and strength later in the year. Remove any weeds such as bindis and wintergrass, and spread with a slow-release fertiliser. Throughout the winter, rake up fallen leaves from the lawn as they can prevent vital sunlight from reaching the grass.

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