Winter Lawn Care Tips for Warm Climates

warm season grass

Winter living in a southern climate can be the most glorious time of year. Humidity levels drop, the sun continues to shine, all while temperatures are seemingly perfect. As an added layer, we watch as the rest of the country struggles with snow, ice, and freezing temps – making us appreciate our lot in life that much more. There are nuances, however, to caring for our lawn during these cooler winter months that can help us keep our outdoor living spaces thriving all year round. Let’s unpack the why’s, how’s, and do’s, versus the don’ts of caring for your winter lawn in a southern climate.

Attention Southern Climate Dwellers: Your Tips for a Thriving Lawn This Winter

1. The differences in summer lawn care and winter lawn care

Even though the winter is mild and the threat of a frost may be minimal in southern areas, winter lawn care does come with some special instructions. As the temps drop (ever so slightly) and the rainy season closes, it’s important to continue to mow your lawn to encourage growth and prevent disease. When it appears to stop growing, you can give your mower a break. In the late fall, it may be a good idea to aerate your lawn to help increase root growth and promote breathing as well as minimize thatch build up to avoid susceptibility to diseases and insects.

2. Understanding winter lawn fertilization

When it comes to fertilizing your winter lawn, commonly asked questions are sure to pop up. Is it okay to fertilize my lawn in winter? What type of fertilizer should I put on my lawn when it’s cold? When and how much should I fertilize my winter lawn? Here are some rules of thumb: If you have warm season grasses (such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, or Centipede), fertilizers that contain winterizers should not be used because they’re designed for lawns that go dormant in the winter, not lawns in warmer climates where winterizing is less of an issue. Warm season grasses respond best to fertilization when the temps are warm and the grass is growing.

3. No break from weeding during winter

While warm climate dwellers do get a break from snowy roads and frozen sidewalks, they don’t get a break from weeding the lawn. Keep up with your weeding during the winter months by applying a broadleaf weed control treatment. Raking and clearing away thatch and debris will also contribute to your lawn’s overall health during winter and all year round.

4. Give special attention to warm season grasses

Warm season grass can be defined as types of grasses that have maximum growth at higher temperatures (in the range of 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit). Warm season grass species usually include Bahia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Carpet Grass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. These grasses will go dormant if temps fall below freezing and return when warm weather returns. If your climate rarely or never falls below freezing, your warm weather grass will need moderate mowing (not too much, not too little) and, depending on the rainfall in your area, watering. Be careful not to overwater and night watering may also be avoided during winter months.

5. School yourself on the do’s and don’ts for winter lawn care

It’s winter, and if you live in the south, you’re relishing in the break from the heat! But don’t forget about the most important do’s and don’ts for winter lawn care:

  • DO – Clean debris, leaves, and toys or trash to allow your winter lawn to breathe, as well as avoid conditions that promote disease and invite unwanted pests like insects and rodents.
  • DO – Pay attention to your lawn mowing practices. Be sure to lower the height of your mower and avoid over-mowing to avoid damage to your winter lawn.
  • DON’T – Walk all over-sensitive lawns. While dormant grass can certainly tolerate a moderate amount of traffic, heavy traffic will cause problems.
  • DON’T – Assume the weather will always be perfect. Extreme weather patterns occur more and more frequently, making it important to monitor weather conditions even in warm climates. Conditions like heavy rains or uncharacteristic cold temps can harm your winter lawn without preparation.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that resides in a warm climate during the winter, your trade-off for not having to shovel snow is that your winter lawn care may require a bit more from you all year round. The good news is it will actually be warm enough for you to get outside and enjoy the green garden. Follow these best practices to keep your winter lawn healthy and set your spring, summer and fall lawn up for beauty and health as well.

If you are in need of a professional to help you with your lawn care needs, don’t hesitate to contact Spring-Green, the neighborhood lawn care team that has been supporting communities likes yours since 1977. We can provide the professional and courtesy service you need to keep your residential or commercial property looking great 365 days out of the year and through any type of weather.

Low-Maintenance Lawns: Choosing Between Centipede and Zoysia Grasses

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Homeowners in the South looking for a low-maintenance lawn are often deciding between Centipede and Zoysia —two warm season grasses native to Southeast Asia that take kindly to heat and humidity and need very little mowing because they grow very slowly or grow horizontally instead of vertically.

They have a lot in common, and are both grasses that create lawns that are easy to take care of, but there are also important differences.

Appearance

Zoysia gives you a green lawn in the spring. It has a look that is probably familiar if you’ve ever been golfing. Golf courses across the South like Zoysia for fairways and putting areas because the grass keeps its manicure, is attractive and, thanks to its heavy sod and deep roots, holds up nicely to traffic.

Growing Emerald Zoysia Grass – Warm Season Turf Tips

Centipede’s blades, meanwhile, are more yellowish green, and nice and short. Centipede has a wider blade that gives the lawn a more course texture than Zoysia. Centipede, despite its roots being relatively shallow, provides a nice, thick lawn turf that’s popular for park use. Centipede is also known as the “poor man’s grass,” because it usually only grows to five inches in height, and slowly at that.

Growing Centipede Grass – Warm Season Turf Tips

Watering

Both grasses are “drought resistant,” but Zoysia requires more water, even though its deeper roots make it a better grass for surviving extended dry conditions. When not watered well during drought conditions, Zoysia will survive but discolor and stop growing. Most homeowners only water their Centipede lawn on an as needed basis, when the grass starts turning brown. Once you water it, Centipede returns quickly, like magic, back to its normal vibrant color. (Centipede grass prefers deeper, less-frequent watering.)

Diseases, Weeds and Pests

Zoysia’s thicker sod helps it repel weeds year-round and also makes it less susceptible to disease and insect strain. All this reduces the need for herbicides, fungicides and insecticides to be applied in your yard, which is nice if you live near a water source or have young children at home.

Fertilizer, Erosion and Runoff

Depending on your local conditions, Zoysia requires light-to-moderate fertilization in the spring and summer. Centipede on the other hand, requires less or none—saving time, money and reducing the possibility of nutrient runoff and nonpoint water pollution of lakes and streams.

Complicating the runoff issue, however, is that Zoysia’s deep roots reduce both erosion and runoff. This can make it an ideal grass for yards with contour descending into bodies of water (like small ponds), even though it needs twice-annual fertilizations. The herbicides and insecticides required by Centipede grass will more readily travel to water sources, of which there are many in the coastal south.

Sun, Shade

Centipede is a great direct-sun grass with medium shade tolerance. Centipede could be a great choice for large open yards, and newer yards at the immature landscaping stage. Zoysia would be the better choice for properties with a nice complement of mature shade trees, while also doing fine in the open-sun parts of your lawn.

Frost

Is your home at altitude, or otherwise prone to the occasional frost? Zoysia wins some points here for cold adaptability. During a frost, Zoysia goes into dormancy. It turns and stays brown until the air temperature returns to 70 degrees. It copes. Centipede copes less well: With repeated dips below 32 degrees, it’s subject to winter kill, which would not end up being so “low-maintenance” after all, if you had to replace your lawn after a cold snap.

Salt

For homeowners in low-lying ocean and gulf coastal areas, Zoysia is the more salt-tolerant grass.

Wear, Tear and Traffic

Zoysia, again thanks to its deep roots, holds up better and, if damaged, recovers faster than Centipede.

Establishing

Making the switch from your current grass to Centipede or Zoysia takes effort and patience.

Zoysia: For replacing cool-season grass, use Zoysia plugs. It can take two years for Zoysia to become the dominant grass in your yard—and it will stop advancing on your old grass during extended dry periods. Do not attempt to insert Zoysia plugs into an existing warm-season grass like Bermuda. The existing grass will have to be removed first. Starting with bare ground Zoysia seeds work better than plugs, and usually take five months to establish. Once it’s in, Zoysia is very difficult to remove—as equally hard to remove as Bermuda grass.

Centipede: To overseed your existing lawn with Centipede, mow it down low in the late spring, core aerate the lawn, then broadcast the seed. If you don’t core aerate first, then rake well after you broadcast the seed because Centipede seeds need to be covered by dirt in order to germinate. After 30 days, your lawn will start to thicken and gradually transform into a Centipede lawn. This usually takes a full three months from the day you seed. If you’re starting with tilled earth—especially recommended if you had Bermuda grass in place—then seed the bare ground sometime between April and July, rake (to help seeds eventually find a spot under the dirt), then apply fertilizer (it helps at first) and mow regularly through the summer. Centipede seeds take 30 days to germinate, so be patient. You will not see any grass inside the first four weeks after seeding. After three months—by fall—you will have a new low maintenance lawn.

No matter which type of grass you decide on, to establish it across a sprawling multi-acre property, we recommend contracting with hydroseeding company, because it becomes a job beyond the normal scope of what a homeowner can accomplish on their own.

Good luck!

Any questions? Contact your local Spring-Green lawn care professional for advice. We’re happy to help you plan or install your new low maintenance lawn.