Make sure your plants and lawn are ready for the upcoming winter months

During the next couple of weeks, your lawn and landscape plants will be preparing themselves for the upcoming winter.

At the same time, you should be working to help your lawn and plants get ready for winter, thus helping them with their emergence in the spring.

As the temperatures get colder and the days get shorter, grass begins to get ready for winter.

Nutrients are being stored in the shoots and roots and this storage is important for the dormancy of the lawn during the cold of the winter.

According to Dr. Wayne Kussow of the University of Wisconsin, it has been determined that turf continues to use nutrients right up until the time that the soil completely freezes.

This means taking care of your lawn in the fall will go a long way in what you need to do in the spring.

Yard and garden professionals say that applications of fertilizers should be done twice during the early and late fall.

It is important to fertilize while the grass is still growing. They also recommend to give a second application during the dormant, or early winter, many times around Thanksgiving.

Another tip in keeping our lawns in its best fall shape is to make sure your leaves are either mulched or raked.

Grass does breathe during the winter months and if leaves are kept on the lawn, they will smother the grass and make it tougher to keep your lawn healthy during the winter.

Many experts also feel it is important to water you lawn in the fall, because it still needs moisture in the winter to survive.

Grass is not completely dormant until early winter so keep your lawn watered infrequently, but deeply, before the freeze takes place.

Not only does your lawn need care during the fall, but your landscapes plants do as well.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, it is a good idea to check mulch levels around woody trees and shrubs in the landscape.

If mulch has packed down noticeably over the past growing season or two, add more before the soil freezes or weather gets bad.

Deb Brown of the U of M Extension says that shredded bark, wood chips and other organic mulches should be maintained at a depth of about three to four inches for maximum benefits. Leave a little space around the trunks and stems for good air circulation.

Brown said, “The ‘open winter’ we had two years ago, with little or no snow cover most of the season, pointed out the wisdom of mulching all perennial plants--both woody and non-woody--in our climate. It’s doubly important to mulch any new trees and shrubs, along with those you’ve planted in the past few years. That layer of mulch will allow you to continue watering them later into the season, because it helps keep the soil from freezing as early as it might otherwise.”

You can add to mulch around non-woody perennials right now, but wait until the soil begins to freeze (usually some time in November) before covering them completely for winter. Straw, leaves, and even grass clippings, are among the many mulching materials you can pile on top of perennials to protect their roots from excessive cold.

Though extremely cold temperatures are far from desirable, unseasonably warm weather can be equally harmful for plants. In our climate it's not unusual to go through one or two mini warm spells in January or February. Though most people love those little breaks from winter's cold, they can pose a serious problem to plants in gardens and landscapes. Because it insulates plants, mulch protects them against early warm-ups and alternate freezing and thawing cycles, as well as winter’s cold.

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