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How To Prep Your Landscaping For Winter

Man using gas powered aerating machine to aerate residential grass yard

As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, it’s time to start preparing your landscaping for winter weather. You may not be able to do much in terms of planting new plants, but there are still plenty of things you can do to make sure your landscape survives the cold weather.

Keep reading for a few tips on how to prep your landscaping for winter. 

How To Prep Your Landscaping For Winter

The main steps you can take to prepare your landscape for winter are raking, mowing, aerating, and fertilizing your lawn. You can also mulch, prune, water, and insulate your other plants. Don’t forget to winterize your irrigation system too.

Let’s explore these winterization tasks a little further.

How To Prepare Your Lawn For Winter

Man raking leaves in the backyard in autumn

As the weather cools and the days grow shorter, your lawn care routine changes to reflect the needs of your lawn in its dormant season. Though you may be tempted to neglect your lawn in the winter, a little bit of preparation now will pay off come spring.

Here are 4 essential steps for getting your lawn ready for winter.

1. Rake

Raking removes leaves and other debris that can smother your lawn and prevent essential sunlight and air from reaching the grass blades. It’s also important to remove any thatch (a layer of dead organic matter) that can build up on your lawn over time. Use a rake with metal tines to loosen the thatch and lift it away from the soil surface.

2. Mow

How to prep your landscaping for winter also involves mowing. You may not need to mow as often in the winter, but it’s still important to keep your grass at the right height. Grass that’s too short is more likely to succumb to winter damage, while grass that’s too long is more likely to harbor pests and diseases. The ideal grass height for most lawns is 2-3 inches.

3. Aerate

Aerating helps improve drainage and allows oxygen, water, and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass. Use a hand-held or tow-behind aerator to punch small holes in your lawn. For the best results for how to prep your landscaping for winter temperatures, aerate in late fall or early spring when the ground is soft but not wet. This is especially important if you live in an area with a lot of clay in the garden soil. 

4. Fertilize

Fertilizing gives your lawn a nutrient boost that helps it withstand stress from cold weather, drought, and foot traffic. Look for a fertilizer labeled “winterizer” or “low nitrogen” and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For best results, fertilize in late fall or early spring.

While fertilizing your lawn before winter is generally a good policy, it may not be required for climates that don’t have ground freezes. For example, Louisiana rarely gets below the mid-40s, even in winter, so fertilizing your warm-season grasses for winter is not recommended. In fact, per garden columnist Dan Gill, you can actually harm the grasses that are typically grown in Louisiana by applying a “winterizer” fertilizer.

How To Protect Your Trees And Shrubs From Winter Damage

Mulch around tree as part of how to prep your landscaping for winter

It’s important to take some time to plan how to prep your landscaping for winter before winter sets in. A little bit of planning and preparation now can save you a lot of time and money down the road.

Here are 4 steps you can take to take to protect your trees and shrubs from the colder temperatures of the winter season.

1. Mulch

Mulching is one of the best ways to protect your plants from winter damage. A layer of mulch helps to insulate the ground, keeping roots warm and protected. Be sure to use a layer of mulch that’s at least two inches thick. Don’t forget to pull it back in the spring so that your plants can get the light and air they need to grow.

2. Prune

Pruning is also important for protecting your plants from winter damage. Pruning helps to remove dead or damaged branches that could fall and cause damage during a storm. It also helps to promote new growth in the spring. When pruning, be sure to make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle.

3. Preserve Moisture

Preserving moisture is a crucial aspect of how to prep your landscaping for winter. Watering deeply and regularly during the fall helps trees and shrubs develop strong roots that are better able to withstand drought conditions. You can also help preserve moisture by using a layer of burlap or straw to cover newly planted trees and shrubs. This will help to prevent evaporation and keep roots nice and moist all winter long.

4. Water

Make sure to water your plants regularly throughout the winter months.

By taking these simple precautions, you can help to ensure that your trees and shrubs stay healthy all winter long. Again, while these are good steps to take for most climates, you should always check the landscaping winterization recommendations for your specific region.

How To Care For Your Perennials During Winter Weather

Pruning perennials

Unlike annuals which die off in winter and need to be replanted come spring, perennials are tough plants that come back year after year. Even so, they still need a little TLC during the colder months to ensure they make it through winter unscathed.

Here’s how to prep your landscaping for winter if you need to protect plants like perennials.

1. Prune And Cut Back

First, take a look at your plants and see if they need pruning or deadheading. Cut back any dead or dying foliage to help the plant conserve energy and remove any diseased or damaged leaves or stems.

2. Insulate

Next, insulate your plants by covering them with a layer of mulch. This will help protect the roots from freezing temperatures.

Again, these steps may vary depending on the specific climate that you live in. For example, in Louisiana, the LSU Ag Center has a list of cool-season bedding plants that it actually recommends planting in the early fall before winter. These perennial plants will overwinter well in climates with mild winters without the usual pruning and insulating that colder climates necessitate.

Cleanup And Maintenance

Bagging lawn leaves

Once you’ve taken care of everything else, the final step in how to prep your landscaping for winter is cleanup and maintenance work.

Here are 4 steps you should take to protect your plants and lawn from the harsh winter weather and to ensure that your landscape looks its best when the spring growing season rolls around again.

Collect Leaves

One of the most important things you can do to prep your landscaping for winter is to collect leaves. Fallen leaves can smother grass and other plants, causing them to die. They can also provide a breeding ground for pests and diseases. So make sure to rake up any leaves that have fallen on your lawn or garden beds. If you have a lot of trees on your property, you may want to invest in a leaf blower or leaf vac to make the job easier.

Clean Up

Once all the leaves are collected, how to prep your landscaping for winter involves cleaning up any other debris that may be lying around. This includes sticks, stones, and anything else that could potentially damage your lawn mower or other gardening equipment. 

Store Empty Pots And Put Away Hoses

Once you’ve cleared away the debris, you can store empty pots and put away hoses. Then give all of your outdoor furniture a good cleaning before storing it away for the winter.

Winterize Outdoor Plumbing, Sprinklers, And Drip Irrigation Systems

Winterizing your outdoor plumbing is a crucial step in the process of how to prep your landscaping for winter. The purpose of winterizing outdoor plumbing is to prevent damage caused by freezing water. However, if you live in an area with mild winters where it rarely or never freezes (such as New Orleans), you may be able to skip this step.

Otherwise, if you have an irrigation system, now is also the time to winterize it. This involves draining all the water from the system and turning off the power. This will help prevent bursting pipes if the ground freezes during the winter. Similarly, for those with a sprinkler system, be sure to remove any remaining water from the pipes and store the system in a dry, protected area.

Contact Miller Outdoors For Your Landscape Design And Installation Needs

The steps for how to prep your landscaping for winter may seem like a lot of work, but doing things like raking leaves, mowing the lawn one last time, and pruning back perennials will help ensure that your landscaping survives the colder weather months unscathed.

If you’re looking to create the healthy yard of your dreams, Miller Outdoors can help! We offer landscape design and installation services for the New Orleans area, as well as outdoor living spaces and pool design and installation. Just fill out our contact form today, and one of our experienced craftsmen will get back to you ASAP.