Tahlequah Daily Press

December 18, 2013

Lawns, gardens need attention in winter

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Curb appeal for a home includes a trim lawn and landscaping to enhance the overall appearance. But there is much more to lawn care than just mowing, even in the winter.

Leaves get bagged, roses pruned, and elephant ears and bulbs may need to be dug up and stored in a garage or greenhouse until spring. Plants may appear dormant above the ground, but roots grow and spread out at a slow pace, even in winter.

It’s a good idea to rake leaves and clean out the gutters before winter, so they won’t clog up the gutter drain, said Jack Garrett, who has provided lawn care for 20 years.

“The best thing is to cut and trim brush, shrubs and tall grass the first week of October, to give plants time to seal and heal the cut before the first cold front,” Garrett said. “If it is last minute or the day before a cold front or snow, leave the plant alone until sprig, around March, to make sure there are no more cold fronts.”

In March, make sure it’s at least 55 degrees before cutting plants, Garrett said.

Mulch is important to protect flowerbeds, he added.

“Mulching leaves, pine needles or cedar in small amounts – not big chunks – will protect the roots from cold weather,” Garrett said. “Add the mulch in October.”

Fall and winter lawn care includes pruning crepe myrtles, ornamental grasses, and spirea, mulching flower beds and picking up leaves, said Trey Scarsdale, owner of Pro Lawn and Landscape.

“We recommend a good coat of mulch in all flowerbeds,” Scarsdale said. “Day lilies and hostas all need to be pruned back to the ground.”

Leaf removal can be used for mulch, but don’t leave too much leaves or it will choke out the grass, he said. He recommends picking up most of the leaves.

“Thatch build up will happen if you mulch and dry leaves and leave too many. Clippings develop thatch sitting on top of soil, because it doesn’t breathe,” he said. “And it can causes diseases, dollar spot and broom patch.”

Piles of leaves will stay wet and cause winter kill, leaving bare spots.

“We blow off all hard surfaces, starting on the roof top and valleys when removing leaves,” he said. “We clear the gutters and down the spouts, then the driveways and sidewalks.”

They suck up the leaves  with lawn mowers, to use as mulch and compost, about three years later.

And when they trim branches, they cut at an angle, said Jimmy Washington, with Pro Lawn.

“An angle cut keeps the moisture from getting in and freezing or splitting the branch,” said Washington. “Trimming the top off this crepe myrtle will make it bushier in the spring.”

When cutting a spirea, Washington takes at least half of it off. He trims holly bushes when they need it.

“When it has lot of new growth, it looks like it needs a hair cut,” Washington said.

January and February is the time to spray pre-emergent herbicide on the turf to control weeds, Scarsdale said.

“Now is the time to fertilize fescue lawns,” he said.

When it comes to herbicides, follow the directions on the label.

“The label will include MSDS information, do what it says,” Scarsdale advises. “And follow the 24-hour REI, re-entry interval, so all animals and humans should stay off for 24 hours.”