Even in South, winter brings cold temperatures, dry air and shorter days, all of which can take a toll on your landscape. You may discover your grass turning brown, wilting or even dying during this time of year. Not only doesn’t affect your home’s curb appeal, but it also affects the functionality of this space. With a degrading landscape, you won’t be able to fully use your outdoor living space to the best of its abilities. But there’s still some time before the winter season hits, so consider the following ways to prepare your landscape for this seasonal change.
In the latter half of fall, aerate your soil one last time for the year. This involves the use of a special lawn tool, known as an aerator, that “scores” the soil with many small holes. As the aerator pokes holes in the soil, it allows water, oxygen and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass more easily. Depending on the size of your lawn, however, you may want to invest in a walk-behind aerator. Available to rent at most home improvement stores, walk-behind aerators are powered by gas, so you don’t have to physically push them across your lawn.
Plants are often susceptible to shock during the winter because of the cold temperatures. When the first cold snap of the year hits, you may find your once-healthy flowers falling over and dying. You can give your plants a helping hand, however, with mulch. If you have a flowerbed that you’d like to protect this winter, for example, add about 2 inches of mulch to the top layer. A high-quality organic mulch adds valuable nutrients that keep your plants healthy. Most importantly, it creates a layer of insulation that protects your plants from the cold winter temperatures.
You don’t need to water your landscape as frequently in the winter as you do in the summer or spring. As the temperatures begin to drop, less water will evaporate from the soil. Therefore, your grass and plants will absorb more water throughout the day. If you continue to water your lawn during the winter the same amount as you did during the spring and summer, you may inadvertently make it “waterlogged.” When this occurs, the soil will turn soft and mushy — and it will eventually kill your grass and plants. You can still water your landscape if there’s a drought. Assuming Mother Nature is providing you with adequate water, though, keep your sprinkler turned off.
You should also use this opportunity to rake any leaves covering your lawn. Leaves aren’t just an eyesore; they can harm your lawn by restricting it from sunlight and contributing to fungal disease in the process. When left unchecked, leaves will create a blanket-like layer over your grass that reduces or eliminates the amount of sunlight it receives. And without sunlight — or without enough sunlight — grass will cease to grow on your lawn. Furthermore, the presence of leaves on your lawn creates a wet environment, as moisture will remain trapped under the leaves. Without anywhere to escape, this moisture allows fungus to thrive, thereby increasing the risk of fungal disease. To promote a healthy lawn through winter and beyond, rake and dispose of all leaves covering your landscape.
Spring isn’t the only time of year during which weeds are common. You’ll also find them scattered throughout your landscape during winter. Dandelions are particularly common during this time, with many homeowners struggling to keep them under control. Whether it’s dandelions or any other weeds, though, you should eliminate them from your landscape before winter arrives. You can do this by pulling them up by the root, or you can you can use an herbicide. A homemade herbicide that works wonders for weeds is vinegar mixed with regular table salt and dish soap. The vinegar and salt kills weeds — and grass, so be careful — while the dish soap encourages the solution to stick to the weeds.
If you have container plants outside, you should bring them indoors to protect them against the cold winter temperatures. Regardless of size, nearly all potted plants are susceptible to frost shock. The good news, however, is that you can bring them indoors during this time of year. Before the first cold snap, make a point to bring in all your potted plants.
Finally, you should mow your lawn one last time immediately before winter. Mowing your lawn to an appropriate height for the specific grass species encourages healthy growth while improving your home’s curb appeal in the process. After winter arrives, though, it should stop growing until the following year. So, mark your calendar for the last week of fall to mow your lawn one last time.
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