Getting Your Yard Ready for Winter
Tips for preparing your lawn and garden for the cold weather ahead.
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Fall typically means cooler temperatures, more dependable rains, fewer pests and disease problems and an amazing burst of foliage color.
If you're lucky enough to live in an area where fall color can be spectacular, you get to watch how deciduous plants can go from solid green to an amazing array of yellows, oranges and reds. Keep in mind that a plant's ability to produce vibrant fall color depends largely on genetics. Weather plays a minor role, but unless a plant is genetically hard-wired to produce color, there's nothing you can do to change that.
So enjoy the color for as long as it lasts, knowing that as fall turns to winter, more changes will take place. Here are some tips on getting your yard ready for the chilly season:
The warm-season grass isn't dead; it just goes dormant once temperatures drop below freezing. The cool-season grass, on the other hand, remains green despite freezing temperatures. Other combinations of warm- and cool-season grasses might include Bermuda and rye or Zoysia combined with fescue or rye. With all these combinations, the result is often the same a two-tone lawn.
But if you overseed heavily enough with the cool-season grass, you should be able to achieve a nearly solid green lawn all winter long. The best time to overseed is six to eight weeks before the first hard freeze.
If you notice bare spots once the seeds begin to germinate, seed those areas again. Bear in mind, however, that if cold weather comes early, the grass that comes up following the second seeding may not have time to develop a strong enough root system to survive winter. But it's worth a try.
If you're bothered by the look and the tree or shrub is small enough, you can remove the dead growth by shaking the plant vigorously or cutting it off with pruners. Or leave well enough alone, and in time the dead growth will drop to the ground. Remember, there are deciduous conifers like bald cypress that begin to lose all their leaves in the fall.
Many plants grown as annuals outside their native zone, such as tropicals and cacti, can be overwintered as houseplants. Just make sure you give them a fair amount of light, and mist them daily to maintain humidity. Also, cut back on watering and skip fertilizing altogether until spring.
More abundant rainfall can lead to anaerobic conditions within a compost pile, which not only slows the decomposition process but can also cause the pile to stink. Top your compost pile with a thick layer of leaves or straw during the fall and winter. This simple step accomplishes two things: It helps prevent excess moisture from building up and insulates the pile so that it maintains a higher internal temperature.
Master gardener Paul James shares tips for seeding, watering, mowing and more.