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Time to get your yard ready for winter

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves start falling, the days grow shorter, and pumpkin spice is everywhere. It’s fall y’all! And, as we start to slow down, we don’t need to neglect our landscapes! Here are a few things you need to be doing in your yard to get ready for winter.

  • Disease Control

In the fall we are often prone to cool, wet weather. These conditions provide the perfect breeding ground for diseases. It is important to always keep your plants (and the area around them) clean and free of disease. Sanitation is key to avoiding future disease issues.

Always rake away fallen fruit and diseased leaves, as these are places where diseases and insects can over-winter and plague you next year. If you are still seeing disease issues at this time of year, you can cut out the diseased portions of the plant or apply a fungicide. Winter conditions usually are not conducive to disease development, so as we move into the cooler month’s, fungicides aren’t always necessary.

Avoid overhead irrigation, as this can spread diseases further. Also, make sure that your plants aren’t too close together; lack of airflow is a common factor of disease development in plants.

  • Weed Control

Fall is also the time to start controlling your winter and spring weeds. Pre-emergent herbicides, which kill weeds before they emerge from the soil, offer another method of control for those pesky weeds. If weeds do emerge, you can spot treat or pull them. Remember, they are much easier to control when they are young, so catch them before they get too big!

Always read the label of any chemical you purchase. The label will tell you what it controls, where it can be applied, how much to put out, and plenty of other important information.

  • Lawns

Now is the time that we let our warm-season grasses take their long nap before spring. It’s best to discontinue any fertilizer applications to your warm-season grasses (i.e. Bermuda & Zoysia). Continue to mow your warm-season lawns until no new growth is noticeable. If you are planning to over-seed/re-seed with rye or fescue, you can do it now.

  • Planting Trees & Shrubs

This is the best time of year for planting ornamental trees, shrubs and perennials. If you plant now, it will give the root system plenty of time to get established before the heat and drought of summer. Make sure to not plant too deeply in our clay soils, and water deeply for the plant’s root system to get well established. Avoid fertilizing a new plant for a few weeks so that the roots have time to grow.

  • Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs

You generally want to plant your bulbs two seasons before they will bloom. Therefore, if you’ve purchased spring flowering bulbs, wait until the ground cools and plant them so they will be ready come next year. If you are storing bulbs, make sure to keep the bulbs cool and dry. Your fridge’s vegetable crisper or a cool, dry basement or garage will work.

  • Protect Plants from winter damage

To avoid winter damage on your tender plants, the best method is to keep plants healthy and strong so they can better withstand winter stress. Water landscape before a freeze (allow time for foliage to dry). A well-watered soil absorbs more heat and re-radiates it at night. If you decide to cover your plants, make sure that you don’t use plastic! Be sure the cover touches ground, and it’s best if it doesn’t touch foliage (but that’s not always possible). A breathable blanket, sheet or cover cloth (polypropylene) will work best. Remove the blankets first thing in the morning to avoid burning your plants.

Other methods that work well are: Bunching your containers together, adding a little extra mulch to newly planted trees and shrubs, and moving plants inside.

Hopefully these tricks will give your landscape a good start for the New Year. If you need any more information, you can always contact your local extension office!

Taylor Reeder

Regional Extension Agent-Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Home Grounds, Gardens, and Home Pests

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