Winter Preparations for your Lawn

Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license

Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license

We are getting to that point of the year where we will have to hang up our shovels, rakes, and pruners. It is almost the time where we can no longer do much yard work for the year. However, there are still a few things we can do quickly before the temperatures get too cold or the snow starts to pile up.

Winter mulch can be applied now, or within a few weeks when temperatures are consistently dropping down to the twenties each night. Winter mulch is the heavier layer of mulch we apply to plants like chrysanthemums and strawberries to keep them from having temperature fluxes in the soil they are planted in. Any plant that may be prone to frost heaving, the plant being pushed up out of the soil by a constant freeze and thaw condition. Plants that were just planted this fall could also benefit from winter mulching. This mulch can be up to twelve inches deep, which is much deeper than we usually advise but is needed for winter protection. It is better to use coarse wood chips, straw, or leaves for winter mulch rather than grass. Remember to pull the mulch out about six inches away from the trunks of trees and other woody shrubs to prevent damage from wildlife, such as voles, during the winter months.

As we prepare for Christmas, we need to remember to care for our live trees throughout the season. Be sure to keep live trees watered throughout the holiday season. If they don’t have water they will dry out quickly and not look as fresh and beautiful. Christmas trees should be placed in your home away from fireplaces, air ducts, and televisions to avoid the heat from these locations. According to the National Fire Protection Association, less than 0.001% of all real Christmas trees have been involved in a fire. A real tree is a great addition to all Christmas decorations, and with proper care, it can last through the season and look and smell nice the entire time.

Another obstacle we might face in the winter that can be harmful to our landscapes would be deicers. Too much salt placed on trees, shrubs, and other perennials can cause severe damage to these plants. Typical plant symptoms of salt damage include desiccation (drying out), stunting, dieback, and leaf margin and tip damage that looks as though the leaves were burned by a chemical.

Bag of Deicer

*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

To avoid damage from the deicers to the concrete:

  • Remove the salt as soon as you can
    • Deicers are meant to make shoveling easier, not to completely melt away the snow and ice
    • As soon as the salt melts through the ice and snow enough that it can be removed
  • When removing the snow, do it in a manner that protects the landscape plants growing in the yard
  • Do not pile the snow onto trees, shrubs, or flower gardens
    • If it has to be piled onto your landscape, move the salt onto the grass and try to do it in a manner that makes it more uniform on the grass surface
  • If too much salt continually gets piled up on the grass in one location, the turf can be harmed
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