Before we get started, there is another excellent article in our archives on preparing your lawn and landscape for the chilly seasons. "Fall Care Tips" includes practical advice such as making sure the leaves are all raked up and the need for late fall lawn service and fertilization.
The most important tip is the need to mow your lawn short for the winter, especially in the northern areas of the country. If the grass is left too long, it will lay over on itself from the pressure of the snow cover. Air circulation around the plant is reduced, and Snow Mold, a destructive early spring lawn disease, can become a problem in your lawn. It can cause large areas of grass to die, or at least weaken in vigor. Spring green-up and grass growing may also be slow. Often the grass blades will turn brown during the winter. This is a normal response to the cold weather of winter. The grass plant will need to grow an entirely new plant, from the crown up, the next spring. If there is a lot of brown grass left from the previous year, it will take a long time for the old plants to fall away and allow the new plants to show through and make the lawn green again.
There are several other late fall, early winter jobs that need attention. If you have any perennial plants that have gone dormant, cut back the brown tops. If the tops are still green, wait until they turn yellow or brown before cutting. There is still energy being transferred to the root system from the top growth. Depending upon the amount of snow cover your area receives, you may have to wait until spring to complete this yard care task.
Outdoor furniture should be covered or brought indoors. Clay pots and other outdoor statuary should be brought indoors to keep from breaking. Alternating freezing and thawing of these items could cause them to crack. If they are too large to move, cover them with a plastic tarp.
Your lawn mower needs attention at the end of the mowing season. Drain the gas tank or add a few drops of a stabilizing agent to the tank to keep the gas from getting ‘old’. It is also a good time to change the oil, clean the underside of the deck, sharpen the blade, and replace the spark plug and air cleaner. Be sure to disconnect the spark plug wire before attempting any repair on your mower, regardless of the time of year the maintenance or repair work is performed. Check out this checklist to winterize your lawn, landscape and equipment!
If you are in an area that receives significant snow fall, many of your plants could be damaged from excess accumulation of snow on the branches. This is especially true of evergreen trees, such as Arbor Vitae. Carefully and gently, brush the snow in an upward direction off the limbs and boughs. If they become coated with ice, leave them alone. Trying to break off the ice could damage the tree or shrub, and won't help much with your tree maintenance. The ice normally melts at a rapid pace, even if the temperatures are below freezing. Finally, put out a bird feeder or two for our feathered friends. There are many birdseed mixes available, so choose one that will attract the varieties of birds that are most common for your area.
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