As we’re hunting out woolly slippers and draught-proofing windows, it’s time also to think about shelter in the garden. Just as the most effective winter clothing involves layering - merinos, scarf, waterproofing – the best shelter in gardens is also built up in several layers.
Like a chink between trousers and top, an undefended gap between trees can make life uncomfortable all winter. Provide good shelter, on the other hand, and you could be cutting not only wind, but also your power bills - it’s another layer of insulation round the house.
Creating layers of shelter to protect your garden from winds means using combinations of trees, hedges, screens and shrubs to give protection where it’s most needed. It might seem counterintuitive but open fences, screens and hedges create more shelter than a solid barrier like a brick wall. Open shelter filters and slows down wind, while solid barriers create eddies downwind – which is why the windiest areas are often found at the corners of fences or buildings. Sometimes simply planting one shrub or flax bush in these wind tunnel spots can shelter a whole yard.
Any barrier creates shelter behind it for a distance of 5-10 times the barrier’s height. So a 2m hedge can shelter a 10-20m courtyard. Increase that by adding a few taller columnar plantings such as cabbage trees- these can cut wind without creating shadow, and frame a view without blocking it.
Areas needing maximum shelter, like a sitting terrace or vegetable garden, can have added layers of protection. For veges, this could be a knee-high fence or hedge of lavender, rugosa roses, sage, and other useful herbs and insect-attracting plants. For a sitting area it could mean trellis or screens, supporting vines like sweet peas or grapes.
Try and find plants that serve more than one purpose- such as feijoas, which provide fruit as well as shelter, taupata to feed birds, or rosemary, which attracts bees.
Give support at planting time as root rock (plants wobbling in the wind) can be fatal. A solid, low tripod of stakes gives plants support in all directions. Heavy rocks or bricks on the roots also provide stable anchorage. Mulch well and make the most of winter rains to water in your plants.
Prune in June:
June 17: How to Prune Fruit Trees: Kath Irvine workshop, Edible Backyard, Ohau.
Other June jobs:
Mulch, mulch mulch: Feed that soil life! Now is the time to create your soil for next summer. Build it up with layers of wood chip, seaweed, straw, grass clippings, manure…
Seedlings: If you allowed a few plants to go to seed over summer, seedlings of lettuce, borage, parsley, mizuna and other self-sowers will be popping up everywhere. Move them to a suitable spot (or pot up for your local school or community garden.)
Broad Beans: One of the few seeds that germinate at low temperatures, these are among the easiest veges to grow.
Miner’s Lettuce: Not well-known, but gardeners who grow it will rave about how it comes back each winter with no effort. A Californian native, it was a staple food for gold miners (hence the name). It’s a hit with kids and adults alike, being soft and mild in texture and flavour, more like a bright green spinach rather than crunchy lettuce. Great for winter salads as well as spanakopita, soup, pasta etc.
Sow: It’s getting too cold for many seeds, but you can sow broad beans, and onions in trays to plant out in late winter. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
Plant: Garlic, beetroot, winter greens (bok choy, mizuna, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet, parsley.)
The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools. Community Visits and workshops are free.
To contact the Green Gardener, call the Council on 04 296 4700 or 0800 486 486, or see www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/greenservices