Alex’s Lawn and Turf Blog

Lawn care tips from the experts

Preparing Your Lawn and Landscape for Winter

August 20th, 2014


It may seem awful to think about the months of snow and cold ahead of us - especially when it seems like we just escaped the rainy days of spring! But here at Alex’s, we always look ahead to the sunny days and green lawns! That’s why I am going to talk about what you can do right now to make sure your lawn and landscape starts off next summer as strong and healthy as it can.

Winter is a taxing time for shrubs and trees in our climate. Cold temperatures damage the extremities of the plants, and desiccating winds pull water out of the trees (especially evergreens), causing winter burn and tip die-back. Sun exposure can cause sun scald, which occurs when the sun shines on the bark, causing it to warm, then when the sun sets (or even goes behind a cloud) the temperature of the bark suddenly drops.

To prevent sun scald, wrap the bark of young trees and plants with a tree wrap, the popular grow tubes, or just a light material that will reflect warming light away from the plant.

Preventing die-back and winterburn is more complex, as there are many aspects of a northern winter that can cause these problems. However, there are also many things we can do to ease them. First: watering. In the winter, the ground is frozen, and the roots cannot take up any water, but plants can certainly lose water to the transpiration that occurs from the cold winds. The best way to prepare them for winter is to make sure they are getting thoroughly watered into the fall (ideally until both soil and are temperatures are below 50 degrees). This will ensure that the plant has as much moisture as it can as it enters dormancy.

Second, there are a couple things to AVOID doing too late in the fall - namely pruning and fertilizing. Winterburn and die-back occur most often on young, succulent growth, and late pruning and fertilizing encourage growth, and can sometimes even “confuse” a plant by overriding its triggers that are telling it to go into dormancy. Pruning too late in the fall - when the plant has stopped active growth - often means the plant will not callus over, leaving an open wound all winter that is susceptible to desiccation.

This is not to say that applying a fall fertilizer is a bad idea! Applying a fertilizer in early fall can be very helpful by encouraging the right kind of growth (namely root growth), or by giving the plant a lot of nutrients to take up and store. In the fall, for example, grass benefits greatly from a fall fertilizer, as the blades slow their growth in the cool air, but the roots continue to grow in the warm soil. During this time, the fertilizer helps prepare each little grass plant by giving it the nutrients it needs to burst back to life as soon as the winter has passed.

If you would like to discuss how we can help you better prepare your lawn and landscape for the coming season, please give us a call, or send us an e-mail!

Have a good day,

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Circle Pines, Blaine, Mounds View, North Oaks, Lino Lakes, Hugo, White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, Arden Hills, New Brighton, St. Anthony, Shoreview, Roseville, Little Canada, Maplewood, Lake Elmo, Woodbury, Grant, Mahtomedi, Oakdale, Hugo, Stillwater