Winter weather can be harsh. Homeowners who spend much of the year tending to their lawns and gardens may worry that winter will undo all of their hard work. Though homeowners cannot do anything to prevent snow, wind and ice from affecting their properties, they can take various steps to prepare their lawns and gardens for whatever winter has in store.
- Mulch leaves. Falling leaves are a telltale sign that winter is coming. In lieu of raking leaves as they begin to fall, homeowners can mulch them into their lawns. Scotts®, an industry leader in lawn care, notes that mulching leaves is a great way for homeowners to recycle a natural resource and enrich the soil of their lawns. While it might not be possible to mulch fallen leaves in late autumn when they begin to fall en masse, doing so in the early stages of fall should be possible so long as the lawn is not being suffocated. Scotts® recommends mulching the leaves to dime-size pieces to a point where half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer.
- Rake leaves as they start to fall more heavily. Once leaves begin to fall more heavily, rake them up and add them to compost piles. The resource GardeningKnowHow.com notes composting leaves creates a dark, rich and organic matter that can add nutrients to garden soil and loosen compacted earth. Leaving leaves on the lawn once they start to fall in great numbers makes it hard for grass blades to breathe, and the leaves can block moisture from reaching the soil, which needs water to maintain strong roots. In addition, potentially harmful pathogens can breed on damp leaves left on a lawn, and such bacteria can cause significant damage to the turf over time.
- Apply a winterizing fertilizer. Winterizing fertilizers can help lawns store food they need to survive through winter and also can help them bounce back strong in spring. Such fertilizers are typically formulated for cool-season grasses such as fescue and bluegrass and are often best applied after the final cut of fall. Warm-season grasses go dormant in winter, so homeowners whose lawns contain these types of grasses won’t want to apply a winterizing fertilizer. Homeowners who don’t know which type of grass they have or are concerned about when to apply a winterizing fertilizer should consult with a lawncare professional before fertilizing.
- Remove annuals from the garden. Annuals won’t be coming back in spring, so it’s best to remove ones that are no longer producing from the garden before the arrival of winter. Doing so can prevent the onset of fungal diseases that may adversely affect the garden in spring.
Fall is the perfect time for homeowners who spend months making their lawns and gardens as lush as possible to take steps to prepare such areas for potentially harsh winter weather.