HOW TO PREPARE YOUR LAWN FOR WINTER
Without a doubt, Ohio winters can be brutal. Many Ohio residents feel wistful for spring, wondering how long it will be before they see green lawns, trees with leaves, vegetables in the garden or flowering plants and shrubs.
Spring and summer eventually return to welcomed property owners across the state. In the meantime, however, these winter lawn care tips will ensure your lawn will be ready to grow at the first sign of spring.
Prepare for Winter in the Fall
Protecting your lawn from a harsh winter begins in the fall. You can prepare your lawn to stand up to the Midwest’s harsh winters by doing the following:
• Cleaning your flower beds. Allowing snow to fall directly on the bedding of flower beds will provide a direct source of water. And we all know flowers will need water come spring.
• Raking and removing leaves. Raking the lawn prevents the growth of moss and lichens. Fallen leaves left on a lawn can also trap heat and moisture, leading to a fungal lawn disease known as “snow mold.” Raking and removing leaves keeps your lawn drier and healthier.
• Letting the grass grow longer. This protects the grass from frost and makes it more resilient to lawn fungus and diseases. As you near the end of fall, lower the height of your mower by a notch or two. Otherwise, you leave the lawn open to invasion by voles, mice and other critters.
• Aerating the soil. This allow for water drainage and prevents it from becoming waterlogged from snow. Lawns need oxygen almost as much as they need water.
• Seeding the lawn. Seeding encourages the growth of turf roots during fall and winter. Splurge on high-quality seed products to ensure the lawn will be able to stand up to drought, disease and pests.
• Winterizing the garden. Don’t abandon your vegetable garden after the last fall harvest. Winterizing your garden ensures that bugs and snails don’t take over while you’re inside for the winter. Seize the opportunity to construct the groundwork for healthy soil and a fantastic growing season next year. Remove weeds and other debris, and then till the soil. Add compost, leaves and manure for added benefits.
Save Your Fall Leaves
Instead of bagging and dragging fall leaves to the curb, you can pile them high in the garden as compost. If you have additional compost, mix it in with the leaves and turn it well with a pitchfork. You can even add additional leaves to the top of the garden.
Halt the Salt
Before winter begins in earnest, devise a plan for handling ice and snow. Spreading salt remains a common and effective way to melt snow and ice. But it can damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots.
High concentrations of chloride levels from road salt can also damage water quality and aquatic wildlife. In fact, some local waterways have already reached their thresholds. As a result, you may want to consider eco-friendly melting agents, including calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). While more expensive than other road salts, CMA is biodegradable, non-corrosive and is better tolerated by wildlife.
Salt might work for sidewalks and walkways, but you should never use them on the ice that forms on the lawn itself. Some lawns drain water better than others. Poor drainage can result in standing water during summer, but in the winter, it can mean ice. This can damage fragile crowns and tissues of grass plants. This type of damage is most severe when temperatures fluctuate between mild and freezing throughout the winter.
The best way to minimize ice damage to your lawn is to ensure there is proper drainage prior to the onset of winter. Fill in low lying areas of the lawn where water tends to sit. Aeration performed in late summer or fall also helps with adequate drainage.
While it’s not feasible for roads, another approach to making sidewalks and walkways safer is a mix of good old-fashioned shoveling and a generous scattering of birdseed. It’s a little more labor intensive, but this alternative can be effective and very beneficial for local waterways and, of course, wildlife.
Proper Winter Lawn Care
With fall chores behind you and a snow-and-ice treatment plan in place, you can focus on the many facets of your lawn. Your lawn likely contains more than grass. In winter, each component of your lawn requires a different strategy.
Nurture Your Grass
As the ground becomes hard and crunchy, take time to ensure the grass is properly fertilized. Before the first freeze, thoroughly fertilize your lawn to replace nutrients that may have been lost from the soil during the hot and rainy summer. Once the weather turns cold, the fertilizer will remain in the soil and feed your lawn’s roots all winter long. Check with your local extension service to see which type of fertilizer can be used without harming the local watershed.
Protect Your Shrubs
It’s important to provide the shrubs around your home with proper protection through the winter. This will ensure that they’re not damaged over the winter months. Winter is a good time to prune woody and deciduous shrubs because the foliage is gone and the branches are visible. The plant is dormant and insects are hibernating. The winter winds can compromise less hardy varieties of shrubs, so consider covering them with burlap. The material allows air to pass in and out so that moisture doesn’t get trapped. Avoid using plastic; it doesn’t allow air to pass through.
Care for Your Flowers
Trim perennials to 3 inches and use a thick layer of leaves or straw. Store potted flowers according to individual instructions. For example, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, move potted chrysanthemums to a sheltered spot when flowers fade, then water well and cover with a thick layer of straw to overwinter them. Once the frost darkens the cannas, gladioli, and dahlia leaves, remove them by the roots and allow them to dry inside. After a few days, store them in a dark, but moist spot until spring.
Recognize the Health of Your Trees
What lawn is complete without a tree or two, or more? Regardless of the season, it’s always prudent to have an arborist inspect your trees every few years, especially if you are in doubt about the health of a tree. An arborist can help determine if any trees or branches have insect invasion or any other type of damage or disease. Removing dead, damaged or diseased branches before they affect the rest of the tree is critical to the tree’s health and longevity.
There are also things you can do each season to ensure your trees remain healthy. First, when you see them, remove any broken limbs, making a clean cut close to the trunk.
Depending on the tree, pruning may be in order. It’s generally agreed that winter is a good time to prune deciduous trees. The leaves are gone and you can easily inspect the branches and tree structure for any signs of weakness. For evergreen trees and shrubs, you should wait until after the last winter freeze before pruning.
Some trees fare worse than others in winter storms. It depends on how the branches grow. Some can easily break under the weight of heavy snow or ice. On some evergreens, if a branch is too horizontal to the ground or sticking out too far, it can catch more ice and snow. It then has a better chance of snapping off.
Finally, make sure to avoid topping your trees, which can disfigure the tree’s natural form and beauty. It can expose the tree’s bark to full sun and cause scalding and disease cankers. The new growth will then be weakened.
Embrace Winter Lawn Care
Winter lawn care can be time consuming, and it involves a great deal of effort. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. There is undoubtedly a specific joy and satisfaction that comes with knowing your lawn has been prepped for its debut in the spring. Plus, there are several approaches to making a winter lawn aesthetically pleasing, such as the following:
• Focus on the bark. Plant evergreen trees and other types of trees with beautiful bark – especially those that shed their skin to reveal different colors and textures such as crape myrtles, sycamores and lacebark elms.
• Opt for variety. Consider adorning your landscape with hardy plants that show off a variety of shapes, textures and maybe even a berry or two. Some examples include evergreen hollies, azaleas and conifers.
• Continue to grow. In the garden, crops including broccoli, arugula, cabbage, endive, kale and rutabagas will grow during winter. These can add color and texture to a special spot in your garden dedicated to celebrating winter.
• Add a bird feeder. Enhance the winter scene in your yard with a bird feeder – or several. A variety of shapes and sizes will add some interesting flair to your outdoor space. According to the National Wildlife Federation, a large-scale winter storm with deep snow or a large ice cover can cut off many birds from their natural food supply. This can cause them to starve by the thousands. Backyard bird feeding can make a significant contribution to bird survival during the winter months.
Consider Shearer Landscaping
Your winter landscape has the potential to showcase much more than ice and snow. Shearer Landscaping recommends sprucing up your winter landscape by adding the following:
• Evergreen and deciduous trees
• Hardy shrubs
• Hearty crops
• Attractive habitats for birds
Consider enlisting the help of a knowledgeable professional for your winter landscaping needs. Shearer Landscaping offers both landscape management and snow removal in Columbus. There are many benefits that come with hiring professionals who understand the subtleties of these lawn care requirements. Our team can alleviate any concerns while ensuring that your lawn looks spectacular.
Shearer Landscaping provides winter lawn care, snow and ice removal, snow plowing and salt spreading services to Columbus and other areas of Ohio. Of course, we also offer other seasonal lawn services throughout the year. Contact us for an estimate and check in regularly for tips and lawn care advice.
Remember that the stark winter months don’t have to equal a pallid, lifeless yard. Use the winter months to prepare for the growth of spring. Nurture the soil and your flowerbeds, and your efforts will pay off in the spring.