Getting Your Yard Ready for Winter
Submitted by Barry Hallsted, Ph.D., Cedar Hills Resident and Member of the Beautification Committee
As the days get shorter and the weather turns colder, it is easy to forget about our outdoor spaces. However, spending a little extra time in the fall will provide great rewards in the spring. Below is a list of things to consider:
- Apply a quality, slow release fall/winter fertilizer to lawns. Consider applying Humate and chelated sulfur as well (available at IFA). The combination will improve the pH and quality of your soil. If you choose to apply Humate, you only need 1/3- 1/2 of the fertilizer you would normally apply. November is the ideal month to winterize your lawn, and right before a rain or snowstorm, if possible. Do not fertilize shrubs and trees in the winter.
- Rake or vacuum up leaves with a mower. If you do this a few times as they fall instead of waiting for the trees to be bare, it is much easier to clean up and eliminate the mold, fungus, and mildew that come with rotting leaves. It also keeps the leaves out of the city’s stormwater system.
- Consider tilling leaves and garden waste into your garden. It keeps it out of the landfill and adds needed nutrients and organic matter. Do not over till the soil, just enough to cover the organic matter with dirt to keep it from blowing out of your garden. The earthworms and microbes will do the rest and improve your soil even further.
- Turn off your sprinkler clock and drain your sprinkler system. The earlier the better to avoid problems like frozen pipes.
- Disconnect all of your hoses and store them where they will not be exposed to sun or weather.
- Drain the gas from all of your lawn equipment and run them until the carburetor is empty. Then turn the gas valve (if applicable) to off. I like to change the oil, clean the mower deck, and sharpen the blade, if needed. For best results use oil designed for small engines, instead of regular motor oil. Small engine oil contains more additives (like ZDDP) that are critical for air-cooled engines. If you cannot drain the gas, fill the tank with fresh, ethanol-free gasoline with an additive to the gasoline like STA-BIL.
- Prune out dead, broken, or diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Pay close attention to apple and pear trees (fruit bearing or ornamental) for fire blight. It is easy to identify fire blight damage after the leaves fall. The trees with fire blight usually will not drop the leaves where the damage occurred. Prune out the entire branch or at least 16” past the infection, and avoid infected branches touching other branches in the process, as fire blight is highly contagious. Spray your pruning equipment with Lysol between cuts and especially before putting them away.
- Spray fruit trees with an all-season oil after the leaves fall. If you noticed any disease in the tree, spray the tree with a copper-based fungicide. If you see any signs of borers around tree trunks (frass, holes, bark pulling away or oozing), spray the lower trunk and affected branches with a permethrin-based product.
- Pick up any and all fruit on the ground around your trees and remove any fruit “mummies” left hanging in the trees. Fallen fruit and mummies are infested with fungus such as “brown rot.” Over winter the fungus will develop in the “mummies” and will quickly spread throughout the tree in the spring, if not removed.