While winter may be a time for lawns and some garden plants to rest, it doesn’t mean we should ignore them completely. Even when warm turf grasses or trees may be dormant above ground, there’s still a lot going on underneath the soil. Root systems are still active and may till grow slowly, so we don’t want to cut them off completely from all care and moisture. Come spring, you’ll be happy you didn’t when they grow back strong and healthy.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, now may be a good time to turn it off so that it doesn’t run unnecessarily. Be sure to discuss your watering regimen with your landscape maintenance company to develop the best plan. We often receive rain through winter and there might be times you can go a few weeks without watering. Established lawns will need about an inch worth of rainfall (irrigation water) every 2-3 weeks during winter months. You’ll need to compensate for natural rainfall. If it’s raining frequently and deeply enough, no need to water your lawn. Over watering during cool months can lead to fungal diseases. Brown patch, one such fungal disease, remains dormant in the soil until temperatures cool in fall. If you keep watering like you did in summer months, you’re bound to have some brown patch show up.
Garden Tip: Even dormant perennials, shrubs and trees will need moisture through winter.
Winter is also a great time to refurbish and repair your irrigation system. A well working system will save you money and water. Undetected leaks can cost you both in wasted water and money. Not to mention, leaks can also cause disease problems in your lawn. Be sure that you have a rain sensor installed on your system and that it’s working properly. A good rain sensor will collect rainfall and tell your automated system to skip its scheduled watering. If it’s raining, the last thing you want is for your automated system to turn on! We also want to make sure
Did you know? Per Houston’s mandatory watering restrictions residents must have all detectable leaks repaired within 72 hours.
Should you be mowing?
While lawn growth will slow significantly, and regular mowing may not be needed, there will be times when a mowing may be necessary. If your lawn is growing and getting a bit too tall, you should go ahead and mow it. Winter mowing can actually help your lawn grow stronger in the spring. By mowing, sunlight can reach the soil surface and warm it up faster once spring arrives. Never mow your lawn if there is frost on the blades. You need to wait for a mild day and mow the lawn in the afternoon.
Should you feed your lawn in winter?
Winter is not the time to be adding high Nitrogen fertilizers to your lawn. So you won’t need to apply what are considered traditional plant fertilizers. However, it’s never too late to feed the soil. Products like compost tea extract can be applied during winter months. Rather than providing a quick feed of nutrients to your plants (which they don’t need in winter), they’ll provide food for the beneficial microbes in your soil. A healthy bioactive soil will always grow a healthier lawn.
Mulch those leaves!
Still have lots of leaves on the lawn? A heavy layer of leaf litter can cause fungal disease problems in your lawn if it’s left too long. It will also shade out your lawn if there is any active growth. Remove excess piles of leaves from your lawn or spread them out so there is a thick layer of leaves across the lawn. Then get out your mulching lawn mower and move over the leaves. This will create a nice shallow layer of leaf litter that will decompose into nutrients for your lawn come spring. Excess leaves can be used as a natural mulch in your landscape beds or put added to the compost pile.
In Case of a Freeze...
Here in the Houston area, we rarely reach temperatures below freezing. However, it’s best to be prepared if the weather does turn on us! In preparation of freezing weather, water your lawn and landscape 24 hours before a forecasted freeze. A well-watered lawn and landscape can better withstand cold temperatures when hydrated.
Garden Tip: Add two to three inches of mulch to garden beds to further insulate roots this winter. As a bonus, your landscape will look tidy!