Winter can be a magical time for your outdoor landscapes, bringing a still and serene quality that you don’t get with any other season. However, even in the milder South, the growing conditions are less than optimum at this time of year. Taking a bit of extra time with your winter landscape care can make all the difference in ensuring a healthy and vibrant garden come the following spring. Here are a few handy tips to keep your garden pruned, preened and prepped during the down season.
Preparing for The Down Season
Winter feels a bit like tucking your landscape in for a long nap. There are a few simple tricks you can do to make sure it’s prepared fully for a few months of rest.
People often ask if it’s better to leave your lawn long or short for the winter season. The general rule is the final lawn cut before winter should leave your grass somewhere between 2 and 2.5 inches before the cooler weather comes in. If your grass is pretty long, try to cut it down gradually over 2 or 3 mows. Never remove more than a third of the blade at one time as this will damage the grass. Shorter grass during the winter season stops pests from nestling in among the tall blades.
Regular raking removes leaves and debris from your lawn. Left sitting for too long, old leaves and debris can start to smother your grass and inhibit new growth or even kill it. Raking can be done throughout the winter months to keep the grass healthy.
Aerating your lawn and getting some fertilizer down before the cooler winter months is recommended. Although your grass won’t use the fertilizer in winter, having the soil prepared can ensure the lawn is ready to soak up the nutrients as soon as spring hits.
Lastly, if you have an irrigation system, you’ll want to scale back the frequency for the colder weather. Your lawn still needs water, especially in our warmer southern winters, but not as much as during the summertime since less water is evaporating due to heat. Exact amount of watering depends on your grass type, current weather, and irrigation system, but even even during the winter you should continue to water your lawn at least once per week to avoid winter damage. Unless the ground is frozen, you should be able to stick a 6″ screwdriver into the ground all the way up to the handle. If you can’t, your lawn is too dry.
Tree & Shrub Care
Your trees and shrubs will need a bit of extra care before the dormant season too. Applying a couple of inches of mulch around the base of trees, plants, and shrubs is a simple way to keep moisture in the soil and maintain a uniform temperature around the roots during the winter months.
Although frost and ice are rarely an issue in milder Southern winters, it’s still a good idea to hold off on pruning until just before spring. This ensures the vulnerable freshly pruned areas aren’t exposed to less than friendly winter temperatures for too long before fresh growth comes in.
Another great idea is to protect any young trees with wire mesh. This can keep out any winter wildlife and stop them from damaging the delicate young branches.
Winter landscape care is minimal but vital to keep your garden healthy and allow it to rest in optimum conditions over the dormant season. Ironically, winter is a great time for weeding as the roots come out easier. Take the opportunity to weed your garden during the down season to keep it looking tidy and sharp for spring.