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Gardening tools and equipment next to a shed, including gumboots, a shovel, a pitchfork and a watering can.
Get ready for spring by preparing your outdoor area now.

Winter ready

Early winter is a great time to give your backyard a tidy-up and prepare it for the season ahead. Ticking off these little jobs will make a big difference in helping plants, tools and outdoor surfaces survive the cold season and come back to life in spring.

1. Clear the garden of any dying plants

Check the garden for any dead or dying plants. Their weakened state makes them more susceptible to pests and diseases, so remove them and put them in the compost or green waste bins. Also, give your perennial shrubs a tidy-up and remove diseased plant growth, says Sue Edwards of Seasol. “Deadhead spent blooms and cut off foliage affected by black spot or mildew to prevent further spread,” she says. (Don’t add diseased foliage to the compost.)

Tip: A wide-head rake makes for speedier collection of fallen leaves.

A person wearing gumboots raking leaves.

2. Improve the soil

To cultivate a robust base, organic matter is key, says horticulturist Chloe Foster. “Top up existing and recently cleared garden beds with organic matter,” she says. This may be in the form of compost, blood and bone or aged animal manures. As they break down, they improve soil structure and moisture retention. Plus, nutrients are released slowly, giving plants a gentle feed.

Chloe also recommends spreading organic mulch over any bare spots. “This will help insulate the soil from the cold weather,” she says.

3. Weed

“Remove emerging weeds before they mature – and make sure you take out the entire weed including the roots,” says Sue. “Hand weeding can be very effective for small areas, but large areas call for a garden hoe.” If weeds are numerous, consider an organic weedkiller spray, but take care when using around plants you want to keep.

4. Aerate your compost

Fruit and vegie scraps, cardboard, newspaper, fallen leaves, lawn clippings and non-diseased garden trimmings can all be added to the compost. To aerate it and improve the rate of decomposition, turn the heap regularly with a garden fork. If your compost is in a static bin, using a compost aerating tool might be easier. Rotating a tumbler often will help to accelerate the breakdown.

Tip: Compost is a great soil conditioner. Dig it into garden beds when it becomes crumbly and dark brown.

A person shovelling compost.

6. Give your shed a thorough clean

“Now is a great time to take stock of your garden shed,” says Sue. “Remove old pots, any half-used bags of potting mix into existing garden beds and spread mulch around the garden.” Give the shed a good sweep so it’s ready for activity once warmer weather arrives, and don't neglect your gumboots. Clean muddy gumboots with a brush, water and mild detergent, then store them upside down and indoors out of the weather.

Tip: “Do a stocktake of your garden to see what needs to be done before the cold weather really sets in. Each garden is different and will require different tasks” says Sue.

7. Tend to your tools

“Use steel wool and methylated spirits to clean and disinfect your secateur blades,” says Chloe. Follow up with a whetstone or diamond sharpener to keep edges sharp, and spray moving parts (springs and blades, for example) with a lubricating oil.

To maintain larger tools (such as spades, shovels and hoes) remove dirt from surfaces and use a metal file to sharpen the edges. “Apply linseed oil to the handles as this will help extend the life of the timber,” adds Chloe.

8. Prune for perfection

As the winter months roll on, deciduous plants become dormant and may require pruning. Fruit trees such as apple, pear, peach and plum will need a good clip-back to encourage fruit production (and make harvesting easier). In mid- to late-winter, prune off dead, diseased, spindly or inward-growing stems of roses. In late winter, prune autumn-fruiting raspberries back to ground level, and summer-fruiting raspberries back to fresh buds. For more on pruning, watch our guide on how to prune trees.

Always prune on a dry day to reduce the risk of spreading fungal and bacterial diseases. Use sharp tools for clean cuts and prune on an angle (so any water runs off) just above a bud on the outside of a stem. Remove dead and diseased areas first, then shape as desired, but don’t cut back more than a third. To ward off infections after pruning (and before buds form), spray roses and deciduous fruit trees with a copper-based fungicide. If you’re a beginner, don’t be too worried about misjudged cuts – roses, for example, are resilient and can bounce back.

Tip: When pruning roses, use secateurs to trim unwanted stems and sterilise the blades between cuts.

A person wearing gardening gloves prunes a thorny plant.

Safety tips

  • Always wear a mask and gloves when handling compost, mulch or potting mix.
  • If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment.
  • Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Take care when sharpening equipment with blades, and make sure garden tools are safely stored where children can’t reach them.

Want to know more about the trees in your backyard?

Learn all about growing deciduous trees.


Some products are not available at all Bunnings stores, but may be ordered. Some photographs feature products from suppliers other than Bunnings.

Photo credit: Photography Getty Images.

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.