Winter is coming! With winter on the horizon, many homeowners (and home gardeners) are hurriedly raking, trimming branches, and taking what measures they can to prepare their plants for the cold, wet, and other extremes that winter brings. Though it will vary from yard to yard, there are some general guidelines to follow that will help you understand how you can get your yard ready for winter to ensure that your plants stay happy and healthy! If you want a lush, green lawn and a healthy garden come spring, read on for everything you need to do before it gets too cold out there.
Leave Your Leaves and Other Lawn Care Tips
Though raking leaves is one of the most quintessential homeowner activities, we actually recommend that you leave fallen leaves on your yard through the winter. Fallen leaves help insulate your plants’ roots, keeping them warm and protecting against erosion. Think of the leaves like an all-natural blanket that’ll shield your grass from the harshest of winter’s extremes to keep it healthy through the cold and wet.
Another bonus of crossing raking off your fall to-do list (in addition to time and energy saved) is that you’ll provide food and shelter for wildlife throughout the winter, and you’ll help preserve the delicate ecosystems endemic to your yard and your garden.
We do recommend that you quickly run your lawnmower over the fallen leaves prior to the first snowfall of the season. In doing so, you’ll create a natural mulch that will provide more efficient nutrients to your plants and your soil. Since it’ll be in smaller pieces, this mulch will also decompose better, so you won’t have an intensive leaf cleanup looming over you.
If you want your grass to be as lush and healthy as possible by first thaw, we suggest you aerate your lawn before temperatures drop too low. You’ll want to start by raking out the thatch, or a layer of material that naturally builds up between grass and soil that helps direct nutrients and water to grass’ roots. Then, use an aeration tool to make it easier for oxygen, moisture, and vital nutrients to get to the roots at which they are most needed.
Though it may seem excessive, if you really want to keep your yard in the best shape possible, you should try to avoid walking on it when the cold hits. Frost, much less snow or ice, can make grass (and other greenery) extremely brittle, and thereby at risk of snapping or breaking. Even a quick stroll across a frozen lawn could leave patches of grass damaged and unable to grow back as strongly as before.
Adjust Your Yard Care Schedule
Many animals hibernate during colder temperatures, but did you know that plants do the same? They slow their growth to save their energy for warmer, sunnier days, meaning that they require less water than usual. In fact, watering your plants when temperatures dip is more likely to kill them! Plants require much less water during the winter months, and they’re actually more likely to get the water they need from snow, ice, or rain. If you know that they’ll still need water during the winter, go ahead and water them—we simply recommend that you evaluate your watering practices to adjust for the colder weather.
In a similar vein, you should hold off on the fertilizer until the cold wears off. By doing so, you’ll help your plants hibernate and enjoy bigger blooms next season.
Prep Your Plants
If you want to see your perennials grow healthy by early next year, then there’s no time like early fall to start plantning. Plants installed in fall will be rooted and ready to go come spring, but planting too late can spell doom for your plants. Not only the cold, but brutal winter winds can hurt your plants, so tie them up or stake bushier, taller perennials to ensure that an icy gust doesn’t bring about their untimely demise.
Tender bulbs don’t play well with frost, so dig them up and keep them safe indoors until spring. Wait until their leaves turn black to dig them up, then let them dry out inside for a couple of days before packing them and keeping them in a dark, slightly damp location through winter. When spring hits, discard any rotted bulbs and replant the ones that are still in good shape.
Many people think that winter will kill off pests in your garden, but that’s not altogether true. In fact, leaving rotting or bug-laden vegetation in your garden could mean big trouble in the spring. Dead plants breed insects and disease by the bunch, so it’s important to eliminate rotting vegetation as much as possible—ideally, by the root to avoid putting your garden at risk. You can reduce waste by mixing them into your compost or soil for future use.
Expect, and Prepare for, the Unexpected
The most important part of winterizing your yard is evaluating your yard and planning ahead so you can understand how your yard will change in the winter as well as what you can do to help it. A big part of this is considering unexpected external factors that could come into play, like deer or road salt.
For example, if you have winter vegetables you should cover them with a cold frame or hoop house to protect them. Even if they’re cold-tolerant vegetables like kale or carrots, it’s still important to protect them from frost and roving animals. You could consider deer-proofing your fence to achieve that latter point, since deer often forage in urban gardens during the winter months. They’ll even go after “deer-proof” plants if they’re hungry enough, so if you don’t want to be giving out free lunches, you can use deer spray or deer-proof your fence.
If you live near a road that gets salted, try adding salt-tolerant plants to the perimeter of your yard to help protect your salt-averse vegetation. We recommend specimens like paper birch, black cherry, Eastern red cedar, white oak, pitch pine, and Eastern cottonwood trees, or herbs like evening primrose, marsh-mallow, Canada Mayflower, or seaside goldenrod.
When in Doubt, Trust the Experts
Each of the steps outlined above is useful for preparing your yard for an easier transition into and out of winter, but be sure to research the appropriate winterization for your specific plants to ensure best results. In recent years, there’s no such thing as predictable weather in Memphis, but we can help you establish or execute a winterization plan for your Mid-south landscape.
Winterizing your yard is worth the extra effort, and since winter is just around the corner, now is the time to ensure a healthy yard in the spring! For expert advice, tips, and service, contact Red’s Tree Service to start implementing these Mid-South yard winterization tips.