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Welcome to the STIHL USA Blog

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter Tips for Your Lawn and Landscape

by, Bob Grover, professional landscaper and president of
Pacific Landscape Management, Hillsboro, OR

Winter is an important time to care for your lawn. Bob Grover, commercial landscaping expert, shares some cold weather tips to maintaining your yard and tools in the winter.

People have a tendency to forget about the outdoors when the weather gets cold. Handling tasks sooner rather than later makes it easier to have a beautiful lawn in the warmer months.

1.     Be sure to clean up debris from your lawn.
Getting debris cleaned up around your yard is important for appearance and damage control in the coming months, including preparation for that important nutrient application for your plants. Leaves can do damage to ground cover and other plants. The sooner you pick up your leaves, the easier they are to pick up.

Blowers are the perfect alternative to rakes, which can be labor intensive and create a lot of user fatigue. Leaves can simply be blown out and around ornamental plantings, for instance, which saves a lot of time. Blowing leaves into aisles or walkways makes for easy pick-up.

2.    Assess your shrubs in the winter
Making an evaluation of your plants in early winter is important before they go completely dormant. If your plants have leaves, they are probably still doing well. If they don’t, they might be dead. If it’s an evergreen shrub with off-colored leaves, it could still be alive or it might be sick. A thorough assessment will help determine what pruning, fertilizing, etc. is needed.

3.    Fertilizing is key even during colder months.
Many plants continue to absorb nutrients in the winter when the tops of the plants are dormant, so winter is one of the best times of the year to fertilize your lawn and shrubs. Choosing fertilizers for your lawn and landscape is easier than you think. Most shrub fertilizers are well balanced and can be found at your local garden center. A lawn fertilizer is a little different than a shrub fertilizer because of the balance of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium in your soil. You might need to test your soil to be sure it’s getting what it needs for a healthy lawn.

4.    The hardest pruning should be in winter.
Pruning thoroughly and sometimes severely during the winter months can benefit your landscape come spring. If the plant is deciduous and appears to have lost a lot of its leaves, structural pruning in the winter ensures that it’s ready for the spring. How much is too much? It should be determined on a plant by plant basis. Pruning and thinning out are important. Perennial grasses should be cut from the ground – hedge trimmers can be a great tool for this to help homeowners avoid too much fatigue. When ground covers get a little tall, shave them really low to get them in check for the next season.

5.    Mow year round
Homeowners often forget to mow or don’t realize the importance of doing so in the colder months. When there is a span of dry weather, be sure to mow your lawn and keep your grass as short as possible in the winter to make your lawn look better in the spring. Depending on your climate, grass can go dormant or can stay green throughout the year. Mow accordingly.

6.    Maintaining your equipment doesn’t stop during the winter months.
Servicing your outdoor lawn equipment now, will help your equipment work longer for you in the coming year. If your lawn mower needs oil, or a blade sharpened or replaced, it’s a lot easier to have it serviced during the off-season when your dealer is less busy. Taking all of your lawn equipment for servicing in the off-season, including changing a spark plug or two, gets you ready to go in the spring. Your equipment should not sit with the same gasoline all year. Dispose of the gas properly and change it out so your equipment is ready to go come spring.

7.    Sharpening your lawn mower blade is important.
You might wonder why your lawn mower will knock the top grass off but anything lower might not get the best cut? It is a great idea to sharpen your blade at least once a year and to help get a quality cut and to maintain the lifespan of your lawn mower. If your lawn mower has seen better days, it might be time to consider replacing it.

8.    Keep your equipment dry.
Your outdoor power equipment should never be left outside exposed to the weather, especially in the winter. Make sure you store your equipment inside. Remember to remove the gas before it sits in the gas tank all winter.    

9.    Think about the spring and what changes you want to make to your landscape.

Late winter is the time to plant for spring and summer seasons. What types of plants or flowers do you want to see when it’s warm?  Late fall and very early spring (late winter) are the best times of the year to plant. Mother Nature can take care of your plantings when the weather is just right and not really hot out or really dry.

10.    Get your proper footing for your landscape jobs

Wearing the proper footwear is so important to remember when taking care of your lawn and may be one of the last things you think about but should be where you start.  It is important to make sure you have good fitting shoes/boots with good gripping soles. One of the biggest hazards can be slipping, and improper footwear increases that risk. Also, when you are using power tools that cut, you should wear steel-toed shoes or boots, as well as the other personal protective equipment recommended by the manufacturer.
By making taking a few simple steps now, you can ensure that your lawn and garden will be ready, to the envy of all your neighbors next spring.