November 17, 2011
Winterizing your yard may take some time and hard work, but it is well worth it. If you want your lawn and garden to look good next spring, then you will want to take proper care of your grass, trees and plants in late autumn and beginning of winter. While winterizing your lawn and garden does not protect the greenery from every form of possible damage, it does offer a high level of protection and will prevent you from having to deal with winter burn and dead or damaged grass, plants, trees and flowers. Following are some winter lawn care tips from the experts that can help you to keep your lawn and plant life in tip top condition all year round.
It is important to keep the grass cut short, as grass that grows too high will get frozen and ruined. It is also a good idea to fertilize the yard up until the end of October but not past this time if you have a Bermuda grass lawn. If the fertilizer has a high level of nitrogen, then it should not be used past mid-November for Fescue.
The best winter fertilizer for lawns is a fertilizer that meets the needs of the type of grass being grown. Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass are typically warm weather grasses, although there are some new types of Bermuda grass that can handle cold weather without dying out. According to Robert Cox, a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent, an individual with Bermuda or Zoysia grass should use a fertilizer that is high in potassium and phosphorus. On the other hand, those who have Fescue grass, Bluegrass or Ryegrass should use a fertilizer that has a high level of Nitrogen. Those who are looking for an effective organic fertilizer should use pelletized chicken manures, says Stephen Ryan at ABC.net. This all natural fertilizer is slow acting and environmentally friendly.
Assessing your soil conditions before putting in fertilizer is very important. The pH of the soil is determined on a scale from zero to fourteen. In order to find out what the pH level of your lawn and garden soil is, hire a professional to test the soil for you. A lawn with a pH from 0-6 will be acidic, while a lawn with a pH from 8-14 will be alkaline. Seven is neutral and ideally a lawn should have a pH of between 6 and 7.5. If the lawn overly alkaline or acidic, then pH correction may be in order before the lawn is fertilized. The soil’s pH can be raised with lime or lowered with sulphur.
Georgia Lawn also suggests that a homeowner aerate the lawn before winter sets in. Aerating the lawn simply means making small holes in the yard so that oxygen can get in the soil. Without oxygen, the grass will end up compacted, dry and brown. The holes in the soil also allow fertilizer to get in more easily. A lawn can be aerated using either an automatic or manual aerator; either type of aerator can be rented as needed. It is also possible to aerate the lawn with a simple garden fork. The device should be poked into the ground at regular intervals in order to create small holes in the soil. Aeration is a very labor intensive process. If you would like core aeration done on your yard
Seeding the area before winter is also advisable. Many weeds start to die when autumn sets in, so this provides place for new grass to take root and grow. While grass will not usually grow in very cold weather, it will grow up well next spring if the area has been properly seeded.
Fescue grass is a good type of grass to use, as it can handle cold weather well. Some of the various types of Fescue grass that one may want to consider planting are Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, Creeping Red Fescue, Chewing Fescue and Sheep Fescue. This grass, unlike many other cool weather grasses, can also hold up to hot weather and can thus be cultivated year round. Bermuda grass is yet another good option; as was noted above, this type of grass is a perennial grass but there are some cold weather types of Bermuda grass that can be planted in the early fall.
Good lawn care in Winter involves making sure that weeds do not sprout up. Once you have taken the time and trouble to prepare the soil, it is imperative to make sure that weeds do not steal the nourishment that the grass, plants, trees and flowers need.
Walter Reeves has compiled some excellent winter lawn tips on Georgia gardening at Walterreeves.com. He suggests that pre-emergent weed killers be used regularly as these will prevent weeds from germinating and taking root. There are various types of pre-emergent weed killers on the market. Pre-emergents should be applied in mid-October and then be watered into the soil so that they will be fully effective.
While pre-emergents and other weed chemicals can make the job of eliminating weeds simple and easy, it is also important to note that these chemicals should be used with care. Outdoor pets may have an adverse reaction to the chemicals used on the lawn. Rains will wash pre-emergents and weed killing chemical residue into outdoor water features or even the neighbor’s lawn. Before buying chemicals for the lawn, it is very important to make sure that they are at least reasonably environmentally friendly.
If the weeds are already growing, the best and often only way to clear them is with a shovel and some hard work. Weeds are, unfortunately, very resilient. If the yard is quite large, then clear one area at a time and then fence it off so that outdoor pets, children and other household members do not go into the clear portion of the yard. Moving from an area of the garden with weeds into a weed free area will spread weed seeds which will then sprout up again.
Another important aspect of lawn care winter is winterizing the sprinkler system. If you have invested in a high quality sprinkler system and installed it in the yard, then you will naturally want to make sure that it lasts the winter and is usable next spring. While it does not generally snow in Atlanta during the winter, cold fronts can cause any water residue in the sprinkler system to freeze. When this happens, it can cause parts of the sprinkler to crack and sustain irreparable damage.
There are several ways in which one can drain a sprinkler. The “manual drain” method involves turning off the water supply, opening the manual drain valves and draining the water. One would then need to open the test cocks on the back flow instrument and drain any water out of these as well. Once the water has been drained, the manual valves should be closed.
The automatic drain method involves shutting off the water supply, relieving the water system pressure and draining the water from the mainline. After this has been done, one would need to open the boiler drain and drain any water that may have gotten caught between the shut off valve and the back flow instrument. Once again, a person would need to open the test cocks and drain the water and then close the valves so that water cannot get back into the sprinkler system.
Another method for draining water out of the sprinkler is to rent an air compressor and use it to eliminate water from the inside of the sprinkler. One would need to disconnect the sprinkler from the water supply and drain out the test cocks manually. A person should then attach the compressor, open the valve and allow the airflow into the system. The air pressure would need to stay at fifty pounds per square inch in order for this draining method to be effective. Once the sprinkler has been successfully drained, the isolation valves should be left half way open and the test cocks should be left fully open.
Preparing garden tools for the onset of winter is also very important. While gardening tools such as shovels, fork and hoes are not especially sensitive and delicate, they do require some care and maintenance or they will not last long. Mother Earth News recommends that dried, caked on dirt should be removed from all garden tools and the tools should then be rinsed and thoroughly dried.
After cleaning the garden tools, make sure to sharpen the ones that are dull. This is easily done with a whetstone or file. Start at the outer edge of the tool and move towards the center. Rust spots should be sanded off using either a fine sandpaper or steel wool. Metallic tools should then be coated with a thin layer of vegetable oil. The wooden handles should be wiped with a light coating of linseed oil or paste wax in order to prevent cracking and/or splitting.
Garden tools should be stored in a clean, dry place. If you are worried about water damage, then store small gardening tools in a bucket of sand that has been soaked in oil. Water hoses should be drained and then properly rolled before storage. Any leaks in the hose should be repaired before the hose is stored.
The mower also needs special care. While you will need to use your mower throughout the winter, chances are you will not use it as often as you would in the summer. Make sure the mower blades are regularly cleaned and sharpened. Avoid storing gasoline in the mower; instead, store it in a specialized gasoline container. Alternatively, you could drain your mower’s gasoline into your car gas tank when the mower is not in use.
Mother Earth News recommends that you take special precautions to protect your trees and shrubs if there are rabbits in the area. Rabbits will eat and destroy trees and shrubbery during the winter, as they do not have many other source of food during this time. For this reason, any trees in your yard should be wrapped with guard paper up to 30 inches in height. The bottom of small shrubs can be wrapped in foil and delicate plants can be surrounded by chicken wire cages.
Mother Earth News also recommends that pine trees and other evergreen trees be thoroughly watered several times before the onset of winter. If there is a warm spell in the winter, then the trees should be thoroughly watered yet again. This will protect the trees from drying out in the cold winter months.
Additionally, new plant grafts and delicate plants will need special care. New plant grafts should be shielded with compost mounds or wrapped in leaf filled burlap. Delicate shrubs should be protected by makeshift pole and burlap shelters. All trees should be pruned before the onset of winter. While Atlanta does not get snowfall like the Northern United States does, frost and cold snaps can be just as deadly to a garden as a day of heavy snowfall.
Many people plant beautiful perennial flowers in the summer; however, these flowers will not handle cold weather well and many of them should be cut back or even pulled out before winter sets in. Perennial flowers can be potted and placed in the house where they will be safe; these can then be replanted in the garden when spring returns.
Dead flowers should be completely removed from the garden. They do not turn into compost and will attract unwanted insects. Any diseased flowers should also be rooted out and disposed of. The soil should be tilled and lime should be added if the soil pH is too low. One will then want to add a one or two inch thick layer of compost or mulch over the garden area. This will preserve the soil so that plants will grow well again in the spring.
Many people maintain a vegetable garden and regularly plant fall vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins, corn and squash. However, once the vegetables have been harvested, most of the plants should be cut down. The root can be left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of mulch or fertilizer. Many of the cut plants can be left on the ground, as they will decompose. However, cut pumpkin plants and tomato plants should be disposed of, as they will cause the soil more harm than good. If any of the vegetable plants are diseased, then these should also be disposed of, as leaving them on the soil will spread disease to other garden plants and even the lawn itself.
Lawn winter care is important, even if the grass does not seem to be growing much and the flowers have all died. The fact is that the soil needs to be nourished properly so that it will be able to sustain robust plant and grass growth in the spring. Following are some helpful tips on lawn maintenance that will help a person to keep his or her lawn and garden looking its very best.
Even though the grass does not grow much in winter, it is important to regularly mow it and then dispose of the cut grass. Grass that grows overly long will freeze over and die if a cold front hits. This will ruin the lawn ambiance and possibly even kill the grass for good.
Any fallen leaves should be raked up and disposed of and one should weed the garden on a regular basis. In fact, winter is the best time to weed the garden, according to Stephen Ryan at ABC.net. The soil is softer and moister than it usually is, so it is easier to pull up winter weeds than it is to pull up summer weeds. Make sure all weeds are pulled up from the roots or they will grow again.
If a cold spell hits, then avoid walking in the yard until the frost melts. Walking on a frozen yard can cause permanent damage to the grass, as can parking a car on a frozen lawn. It is also very important to avoid using sodium based ice melters near the grass or any plants. Sodium is highly toxic to greenery. If an ice melter must be applied, it is best to use one lists calcium chloride or sand as the active ingredient.
In the last month of winter, your focus should shift a bit from winter lawn treatment to spring lawn preparation. The lawn should be aerated to eliminate excessive thatch build up. One can either do this on his or her own or hire a professional to aerate the lawn. Stake boundaries in the yard where the pavement stops and the grass starts. This makes the work of edging the yard in the spring time a lot easier than it would have been otherwise. Fertilizing the flowerbed is also a good idea, as is watering the area on a regular basis.
If there is no frost on the ground and the weather is not overly cold, then planting fall bulbs can be a great idea. These bulbs will not bloom right away but they will start to grow as soon as spring sets in. Some good bulbs to choose from are crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. The bulbs should be planted root end down in an area of the garden that is sure to get plenty of sun. One will also need to water the flowers regularly but not when the ground is frozen over with frost.
Gardening is a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. However, winterizing your lawn is a job that is well worth the effort. If you take a little time to prepare your lawn and garden for winter, then it will be a lot easier to get the garden growing well again when spring comes around.
Caring for the lawn in the fall is very important. Keep the grass cut short throughout the fall and even during the winter. Water the lawn and garden area well, as winter tends to dry out the soil and plant life. Aerate the yard and seed the lawn using a cool weather grass seed such as cool weather Bermuda grass or Fescue.
Make sure your trees are also protected so that frost and animals do not damage them. Tree trunks should be protected from any rabbits that may be in the area; these cute yet irksome animals can do a lot of harm to trees and garden shrubbery. Trimming and pruning the trees and shrubs regularly is also very important, as is protecting small and/or delicate trees from frost.
You will also want to care for your sprinkler system, garden tools and lawn mower. This aspect of garden winter prep is not a lot of fun, but it is very important. You will want good quality tools that you can rely on once spring comes again. Clean your tools, sharpen them and oil them as needed. Make sure the garden shed is dry and free from leaks that would expose your tools to frost and humidity.
Finally, be sure to maintain your garden and lawn throughout the winter. While winter yard maintenance is not as time consuming as spring, summer or fall yard maintenance, it is still very important. Keep the grass cut short and make sure your plants and bushes are holding up well to the frost. Prune bushes and trees and rake your yard on a regular basis. In the last month of winter, you can start planting flowers that will bloom once spring arrives and you can look forward to enjoying a vibrant, flourishing garden.
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