The Big Chill: What You Should Know About Winterizing Your Landscape for Cold Weather

big chillAs Jack Frost approaches North Texas, he brings cold temperatures, snow, and drying winds that can wreak havoc on your landscape. Frosts and freezes can cause windburn and broken branches, burst sprinkler systems, and damage to shrubs and trees. The good news is you can minimize the damage with proper preparation. Winterizing is your key to a successful transition from fall to winter and creates a healthy and beautiful landscape for the spring.

Prepare your landscape for the approaching cold by following these recommended tips and tasks.

Now Is the Time to Kill Weeds and Plant Ryegrass

Now is the time to consider applying both pre- and post-emergent herbicides. This task is so vital to a thriving landscape that we include this service to all of our clients. The post-emergent herbicide kills all existing weeds, and the pre-emergent leaves behind a microscopic barrier that prevents new seeds from fully germinating. The timeline is critical to the prevention of winter weeds and should be completed in the fall.

An additional service for consideration is the planting of ryegrass. This quick-growing grass maintains its color in winter and provides a layer of protection for the remainder of the grass lying dormant. Just as pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germination, it will also control ryegrass. For this reason, we must time all applications and plantings for the best possible outcomes.

After the ryegrass seeds have germinated fully and grown in, watering can be reduced, allowing us the opportunity to install your winter flowers.

Prune Crape Myrtles & Perennials to Make Room for New Growth

Keeping one of North Texas’ most popular blooming shrubs beautiful is part of our winter program. The season for pruning crape myrtles runs from December through February and involves removing the spent seed heads. We limit our cuts to no larger than a pencil’s diameter as over-pruning can damage rather than support their growth and health. Pruning crape myrtles is an aesthetic measure rather than a horticultural need and is somewhat controversial.

We provide this service for any crapes that can be reached and pruned with a six-foot ladder. A tree crew is needed for those seeking pruning for shrubs larger than this.

We cut back and prune perennials such as cannas, decorative banana trees, sages and salvias, and ornamental grasses during this same window. These plants’ exposed areas die after the first frost and are cut back to six inches above the ground. Removing the dead plant material allows new growth in the spring to not mix with last year’s spent growth.

Add Mulch to Create a Healthy Landscape

Fall and spring are great times to add mulch to your landscapes, and many clients have mulch installations included in their contracts. Besides the fresh appearance that mulch provides, few things are more beneficial to your landscapes’ overall health than regularly adding this material to your beds. As it breaks down, it feeds the worms and a host of beneficial fungi and bacteria within the soil profile, creating balanced growing environments within your beds.

As far as preparing for the coming winter temperatures, there is not much more we need to do here in North Texas to protect our plants. While some wrap palms in burlap to protect them from frost damage and are happy to provide this service for anyone who asks, we do not feel that this provides any real protection. Occasionally, you will also see covers over seasonal color. We select varieties that can handle any ice storm that North Texas throws at them, without any frost covers or blankets.

When and How to Water

Winter watering in North Texas is dependent on the type of seeds you have planted. Flowers and ryegrass need regular watering, while dormant plants like turf and shrubs only need occasional watering. However freezing temperatures can cause your irrigation system to create an unintended ice rink in your yard, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

While our irrigation systems have rain and freeze sensors, we don’t recommend counting on these devices to suspend the system during freezing weather. These are electronic devices that, when exposed to the elements and are prone to failure.

While you can switch the irrigation controller to the off position, the only surefire way to prevent any irrigation from running during a freeze event is to cut off its water source by closing the double check valve to the irrigation system. Our property representatives can train your maintenance staff on a very simple process, including where these valves are located and how to switch them off.

Please note: It is extremely important to remember to turn the valve back on after a storm event has passed. For this reason, we ask our clients to email us any time they close a double check valve. It ensures your rep will check the valve on their next visit to ensure it is returned to the open position.

Have Any Questions Regarding Winterization?

At Earthworks, we work all year long to ensure your property always looks its best. Contact us today to inquire about proper landscaping maintenance in the winter or request your commercial property assessment.


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