How to prepare your lawn for winter
As cooler weather nears, it’s time to start thinking about your landscape and how to safeguard it from the winter months. Find out from local landscapers exactly what you need—and DON’T need—to protect your terrain.
Flowers and Beds
• Remove old mulch if there were any severe disease problems.
• Add a fresh application of approximately two inches of mulch. “Mulch helps conserve moisture, protects roots from extreme temperatures and helps reduce weeds,” says Todd Goulding of Goulding Design Group LLC.
• When pruning flowers and plants, be sure to do it after they finish blooming. You don’t want to prevent any future blooms!
• Do NOT prune spring-blooming flowers and plants such as peonies, sweet peas and orchids. These and other blooming plants require pruning AFTER the bloom has emerged.
• Remove warm-season annuals and replace with cool-season annuals. “Plant items like pansies, snapdragons, dusty millers, parsley, cabbage, kale and mustard plants,” Goulding says.
• Cut back perennials.
Grasses and Lawns
• Perform your last cut for warm-season grasses—such as zoysia and Bermuda—at the end of October.
• Keep both warm– and cool-season grasses a little higher. “This helps keep the roots insulated for the winter,” says Rick Kaldrovics of Outside Landscape Group.
• Get a soil test done for cool-season grasses such as fescue. This is fairly inexpensive and will provide you with information on what kind of fertilizer to use, how much and when to apply. “It’s a foolproof way to have a gorgeous lawn this year,” Goulding says.
Be sure to inspect trees and the condition of their branches, then remove dead or diseased limbs. Jared Flanagan of Flanagan Landscape says to beware of trees known to be weak such as Bradford pears. “Keep trees of this nature away from structures, vehicles and high traffic areas,” he says.
There are four types of tree-pruning that Neil Kain of Kain Landscape says are important:
• Dead wood removal. This will prevent dead tree limbs from being broken off during wind and ice storms.
• Thinning. This removes internal parts that prevent new growth.
• Crown reduction. Downsizing trees that have grown too large allows for air to flow freely through branches to relieve unnecessary stress.
• Canopy lifting. Removing lower limbs to raise the canopy up and away from the ground allows for more open space and less limbs to worry about breaking.
• Be sure to turn off AND drain your sprinkler system and its pipes. “If the lines aren’t emptied, there’s going to be damage somewhere,” says Marcia Weber of Gardens to Love. “This is also a good time to check the entire system for leaks or head changes.”
• Empty the water of cement birdbaths and turn bowls upside down to keep water from collecting. “These will crack over time with the hard freezes that accompany Atlanta winters,” Goulding says. Another choice is to buy a birdbath made of metal, such as copper.
Between the Hedges
“Clip evergreen hedges like boxwood, yaupon and holly from October through December. These are the ideal months for pruning, especially for heavy pruning. The plants stress less during the cooler months and have an easier time of recovering and putting on growth in the spring. Crape myrtles, rose ‘knockouts’, abelia and liriope are all pruned in December.”
—Todd Goulding, Goulding Design Group LLC
“Winterizing a stone path or walkway can be simple. It’s best to pressure-wash prior to the first freeze. Be mindful and careful with the pressure-washer around the edges where delicate plant material may be. This will get algae or moss off for the winter. If there are no plants or turf along the edges, there are a number of sprays that can be used to assist in the removal of the moss or algae build up. Also, remember not to use salt on a path that has groundcovers, perennials or herbs alongside the edges. The salts will more than likely burn or kill these plants.”
—Neil Kain, Kain Landscape Inc.