Autumn is the time to protect your landscaping investment against winter weather. As you rake up leaves for the umpteenth time, look at your yard with an eye for winter protection. Do you have plants in containers that need to be brought indoors? Can your pond withstand subfreezing temperatures? There are some winter preparations that cannot be avoided if your landscaping is to survive a harsh winter.
As anyone who lives in an area with harsh winters knows, winter is not the time to be working in the yard. Outdoor tasks are much less enjoyable when frostbite and pneumonia are very real threats. Once temperatures drop, it is often too late to salvage more sensitive plants or yard components. Preparing your landscape for winter means providing the nutrients plants need to survive, correcting any potential freeze risks, and trimming back shrubs and trees for improved spring growth.
Feed Your Lawn
Even though snow may be on its way, your lawn still needs nutrients. Unless you live in the Deep South, where Zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine varieties are common, a light application of nitrogen during the middle of September and just after Halloween can provide your lawn’s root system with the strength it needs to survive even the harshest winter. Adequate, regular watering is also important until the ground freezes. This is also a good time to feed other plants with an appropriate mix of nutrients.
Patch & Prune Problem Areas
Autumn is ideal timing to eliminate shallow rooted weeds and to reseed bare spots in a lawn. If you reseed with fast growing grass variety, such as ryegrass, it will have time to take root before the cold settles in, providing you with a lush spring lawn. As tempting as it may be to start pruning shrubs and trees in the comfort of warmer weather, you should wait until after the first frost. Pruning stimulates stem growth if the weather is warm enough, putting the new buds at high risk for winter damage. After the first frost, however, many trees and shrubs have dropped their foliage, making it easier to see shape, structure and any deadwood. These factors make it significantly easier to trim and prune trees and shrubs for improved growth next spring. Autumn is also the best time to prune roses back to mature woody stems, avoiding the risk of rust and other fungal infestations.
Wrap Trees & Shrubs
Many trees and shrubs suffer devastating attacks from mice, rabbits, and other animals during the lean winter months. You can protect your landscaping investment with the use of tree wraps. Tree wraps also protect against sun scald and cracks from frost and freezing temperatures. Mulching or adding compost around trees and shrubs can help protect them against the cold, while providing nutrients for spring growth.
Protect Water Features
If you have water features such as a pond or waterfall in your landscaping, winter preparation is critical. Water can freeze inside the tubing, pump, and filter, causing them to rupture and require replacement. Depending upon where you live, it may be possible to winterize the pond simply by increasing the pumping power, which keeps the water moving adequately. In other areas, such as Minnesota, more in depth winter preparations must be completed before temperatures get too low. Winter is also a good time to empty your hose and roll it up for storage.
Design For The Future
During your winter preparation tasks, consider the future of your landscape. Hiring a landscape designer can take away much of the mystery of preparing for winter. Professionals in your area know the ideal plants to install, and how to best care for them while you stay warm beside the fire. Another advantage to hiring a professional landscaper is that you can take advantage of their knowledge and skills to help you create the landscape of your dreams.
While you are preparing your yard for winter, you may also want to stock up on salt for the walkways, dig out the snow shovel, and put away the lawn furniture. You may even want to hang those Christmas lights while its still warm enough to feel your fingers!