Winterize Your Yard Now

Men laying new hardwood flooring

By Holly Brooks

Winter officially began Dec. 21, so it's important to protect your yard now for a worry-free transition into much cooler temperatures. Here are a few do's and don'ts.

Fall isn't a good time to prune plants because they are trying to go dormant. If you make cuts to your plants now, they will try to push out new growth to replace the cuts. That takes energy they need to save for the winter months.

It’s also not a good time to fertilize anything. There are three numbers on a fertilizer package. Nitrogen, the first number, produces leaf growth so you certainly don’t want to put nitrogen on anything right now. The other two numbers are root stimulators. Even though you may have plants you have recently put in the ground, don’t try to enhance any root growth right now. Wait until spring.

Cut back perennials that may be browning out. For the sake of efficiency, wait until after the first hard frost to do a total cleanup of your yard. Mulch over the crowns of your Elephant Ears or other plants that hold a lot of water or might be more tender.

Don’t water unless we go through long dry spells. The exceptions would be new sod that hasn't rooted in or seeds that are trying to germinate.

Winterize your irrigation system by turning your main line off and then opening the valve on your lowest zone. Let all the water drip out of the main line. By doing that, you’ll relieve the static pressure in the main line, preventing freezing and thawing going on next to seals in your valves.

Spread leaves in beds for free mulch. Most people think they need to haul off their unsightly leaves and other debris. Instead mow or shred them and then spread them in beds. The upside is that leaves make healthy soil.

Aerate and over-seed your fescue. You can do that all the way up until about Thanksgiving. But the longer you wait, the spottier the results.

Plant winter annuals like pansies and violas. You can also plant beautiful edibles like broccoli and cabbages. You can pinch off a piece to throw in your smoothie each morning.

Plant flowering bulbs like daffodils.  A lot of people like to put tulips in their annual beds. And, by the way, that is really the only appropriate place for tulips. In the south we don’t have much luck with tulips after the first year because the bulbs migrate too deep down into the soil to produce those good second- or third-year blooms.

You can add jonquils and hyacinths to other planting areas. We have so many bulb opportunities in the south. It's really a fun thing to see a pop of crocus in the yard in late January or the first week of February. Now is the time to put those bulbs in so you get that really early spring in your beds, and that early pop of color.

– Holly Brooks is a principal with King Landscaping.

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