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Winter Garden Care – Planting in a Mediterranean Climate Winter - by Jonathan Yaakobi

In cold winter climates where the ground is either frozen or at best rock-hard, planting is unthinkable. This is not the case in the mild winters typical of the Mediterranean climates in Southern Europe, the Middle East, Southern California, or South West Australia. Yet despite the soil being soft and pliable enough to allow for planting, many home gardeners believe, mistakenly, that it is best to delay the planting and wait for the onset of spring.

Admittedly, there are groups of plants that are not worth planting at this time. Laying a warm season, perennial lawn turf is undesirable in the autumn, let alone the winter. The tropical and sub-tropical plants, whether woody or herbaceous, which are marginal in their hardiness to cold, should also be left until the spring.

But these usually make up only a small proportion of the specimens in a Mediterranean climate garden. For the majority that are completely at ease with the relative chill of a Mediterranean winter, not only will they come to no harm by being planted in the winter, but they will actually benefit as a result.

The Main Advantage

The principle benefit of winter planting is that the plants have time to develop their root systems, so that when the optimal growing conditions arrive at the beginning of spring, they are best suited to take advantage of them. For as opposed to frozen winter regions, the temperatures in Mediterranean climates are moderate enough to allow many species to grow and develop, albeit at a reduced rate.

After 25 years of gardening in Israel, I’ve seen countless times, how herbaceous plants “take-off” in the spring, and how the woody species enjoy a head start over those planted at the “right time”, i.e. the spring.

The One Drawback

There is however one disadvantage of winter planting that is worth noting – weeds. The germination and growth of winter annual weeds can be prolific, especially in a year blessed with sufficient rain. The weeds have to be dealt with not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to protect the young plants from competition and even from being swamped. It is important therefore, to get rid of the existing weeds prior to planting, and to prevent further germination by spreading an organic mulch around the plants.

After Care

In the period between the planting and the spring/summer, when the plants will presumably be watered via the irrigation system, it may be necessary to hand water during the warm, dry spells that occur between the rains. It is an unacceptable waste of water in a dry climate to operate the whole system for the benefit of the new plants, while the established ones can wait for the next rainfall.

Furthermore, make sure you do not over water, as this can cause the roots to rot. Organic mulch plays an important role here, by not only suppressing competition from weeds, but also by preserving enough moisture in the topsoil, without the roots being drowned in excessive water.



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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach
 



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