Easy Ways to Winterize Your Yard In Silver Spring
We’ve always known Silver Spring weather is unpredictable. But these days, it seem really unpredictable. Even so, the experts still have a pretty good idea when winter will arrive.
According to the National Gardening Association, there’s a 50% chance that by Oct. 30, we’ll shiver through our first 28-degree low in Montgomery County. That’s below freezing! The odds jump to 70% by Nov. 5.
But the chilly nights aren’t just hard for us humans. Our grass, shrubs and trees also take a hit when the temperature dips. If you’re determined to help your yard and garden emerge in good health next spring, here are a few tips from the experts:
One Last Mow
When giving your grass the last few cuts, gradually lower the mower blade a bit. If you leave your lawn too tall during the winter, field mice and other burrowing animals may decide they’ve found a warm place to sleep. Shorter grass will also lower the chances of damage from fungus. Keep mowing until the grass stops growing. It will look better and make for easier raking.
Speaking of raking… wow do we have leaves in MoCo! But tackling the fallen leaves is Job #1 when cleaning up for winter. Dead leaves can smother grass and create moldy wet spots. Consider collecting fall’s final pile of grass clippings and shredded leaves for mulching flower and shrub beds. Or, toss the piles into your composter.
While raking, keep an eye open for any deadwood in trees and woody perennials. Removing the deadwood promotes healthier plants and reduces the chance that pests will find a home in your bushes. If you’re unsure which plants should be trimmed, contact the Montgomery County branch of the University of Maryland Extension Service. They can advise!
Whack Those Weeds
This is not fun. But it needs to be done. Weeds gobble up sunlight, water and nutrients to survive the winter season.That’s not good for the plants you love. Perennial weeds such as dandelion and ground ivy are important targets. The best strategy is removing the weeds by hand with a dandelion tool. Or, you can spot treat with a broadleaf herbicide.
Love Your Grass
If your lawn gets lots of foot traffic, or if the thatch from grass clippings is more than ½-inch thick, consider aeration. Poking holes in the soil creates a better environment for grass roots. You can do the job yourself with a manual tool or by renting an aerator. Or, you can hire someone. Aeration isn’t needed every year, and it can wait until spring. But fall is a good time because you won’t be walking on top of the soil plugs.
It’s more important to fertilize. Your lawn loses lots of nutrients during hot summer days. Before the first frost, visit your favorite garden store and ask for a recommendation on the best mix. They might recommend you conduct a soil test first, which is pretty easy. Fall is also the perfect time to add lime.
Finally, make sure to reseed bare spots. Fall’s a great time to seed because of the cooler temperatures. If we get some autumn showers, even better. Just be sure you break up the dirt a little before spreading the seed. And toss on a little straw to keep the birds from feasting. Don’t forget to water!
Protect Your Leafy Friends
Mulch is a protective blanket for plants in harsh weather. It keeps soil at an even temperature and minimizes soil heaving that can push plants out of the ground. So, wait until after a hard freeze, then spread it around the base of trees and shrubs. To prevent bark rotting, pull mulch 1 to 2 inches away from woody stems and tree trunks.
Don’t forget that plants need moisture as winter approaches. You may need to water plants even after they start to go dormant and until the ground freezes, especially after a dry autumn. Evergreens are most susceptible to drying out in winter.
One more thing: if you have trees with thin bark, you may want to protect their trunks with paper tree wrap. Cold temperatures can freeze sap and cause bark to split. Start wrapping about an inch below soil level and go up to the lowest branches. Fasten the wrap with duct tape. Removing the wrap in spring will allow new growth.
Think Ahead to Spring
Fall is the best time to plant flower bulbs. You have plenty of options, such as crocus, hyacinth, daffodils and tulips. The cooler temps and increased moisture (fingers crossed) help promote root growth in all plants, including transplanted trees and shrubs. So, do a little work now, then celebrate your efforts in spring when the color explodes!
All of these efforts may sound like hard work. But preparing your yard for winter is a smart investment. It’s also a chance to spend time outside. And as you’re raking or weeding, keep this in mind: There’s a 50% chance, according to the National Gardening Association, that April 18 will be the last night of temperatures below 32 degrees. Hang in there!