The winter months find us hibernating indoors, dreaming of spring and the new life that blooms in our lawns and gardens. But what opportunities are we missing out on in care or maintenance during these usually quiet winter months? I reached out to local professionals to see what tips and suggestions they had to offer for caring for your winter lawn, garden, and trees and was surprised to find how many tips they had to suggest.
Nathan McCasland from Steppingstone Landscape in Park Hills, offered a great tip to avoid killing your green grass during frosty mornings. “In the mornings, if you go out to get your mail or the newspaper and there is frost on the grass, avoid walking on the grass. Instead of the blades of grass bending underneath your feet, the blades with frost on them will break under your feet. This will cause no permanent damage to the roots, but will create brown spots in your lawn.” McCasland went on to give the example that in the late fall and early spring, one can often pick out the path that the mailman walks through every morning because of this.
“Lot’s of people give up on their gardens, and trees and other plants, when really, that’s the best time to start maintenance”, started Jason Grisham, with Grisham Professional Tree Services in Bonne Terre, when asked, what tips he had for winter yard maintenance.
He went on to point out that, “Winter is the best time to do any tree trimming and pruning. Sap is down, they are least susceptible to bugs and disease, and the trees have gone dormant.”
He explained that when you trim a tree you are essentially opening a wound, so doing it in the winter, when they are more dormant and basically just trying to ride out the winter months, is best. The trees are not budded out, and it puts the least amount of stress on the plant so recovery is better. Since bugs are not swarming, and the sap is not running in full force, there is less likelihood of the tree being attacked by insects or plagued with a disease.
Randy Beckett of R & B Tree Service & Landscaping LLC echoed the advice that winter is the best time for pruning and trimming your trees. He recently had someone call about taking down a few trees, saying, she didn’t know if they worked in the winter, to which Beckett replied, “That is when we prefer to [do tree trimming] work.” He stating that, “People often don’t want to do tree servicing in the winter, right after holidays, when maybe they don’t have the money for it, but that’s one of the best times for the trees to do it.”
Randy Beckett explained the differences of “topping” your trees as opposed to “pruning”. Pruning is removing small branches that hinder the growth of the tree, or simply give it a better shape so it reaches its fullest potential. Topping is cutting the whole top off the tree, and something Beckett suggests against, though he’s willing to work with each customer and their desires. He said, “It has been proven that topping your trees reduces the life of the tree. It makes growth harder to come back. It is harder for the trees to heal and takes longer for them to recover.” He did mention that there is a pruning spray that could help seal big branches if you decide to cut back substantial growth. It is called ‘Spectracide pruning spray’ and can be found at many stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Menards.
Winter is also a good time for “Deadwooding”, which is simply removing the dead wood in the tree. This aids the general health of the tree, because, the tree is wasting energy and resources to preserve a lost cause. Once the dead wood is removed, it can push all that sap and nutrients to the living parts full force and really begin to thrive.
Tree trimming is not for the faint of heart; Beckett mentioned that it is listed in the Top Ten Most Dangerous Jobs in the US. And it sounds like there is quite an art to it when he mentioned that, “The angles that you cut when you prune your trees is how the tree is going to grow back”.
Sounds to me like there is a lot more to tree trimming than lopping off branches aimlessly!
The above was a quote I remember hearing from one of my great uncles who had a big yard with lots of big trees. There is some truth to this. Let’s hear from the professionals as to why.
If you haven’t gotten around to utilizing any leaves in your yard as mulch for your garden beds, it’s not too late to do that, according to Nathan McCasland.
If you have leaves still available in the yard, January and February are generally still good months for tilling under those leaves into compost in your garden beds. As long as the ground hasn’t frozen by then, which isn’t always the case for our area, you can still make up for any lost time over the fall months to utilize those piles of leaves you maybe haven’t had a chance to do anything with yet.
Randy Beckett mentioned that in the fall he sees many people blowing leaves out of their flower beds, when really, they should be trimming back the plants, but covering them back up with the leaves. “This keeps the root systems of the plants and bushes warm through the winter months so they don’t freeze through.” He went on to say, “I understand blowing the leaves out of the grass in the yard, but blow them into your garden and flower beds.” This protects the plants as they over-winter.
Winterizing your lawn and gardens is an important step in any outdoor maintenance. Even if you dropped the ball this season, make a note to remember these tips from Nick McDaniel of Seeding Solutions in Farmington, for your lawn this coming fall.
“Late fall is the time to core, aerate and over seed your yard. Apply a fertilizer to feed the yard in September, October or early November.”
Keep your grass clippings and leaves to spread on your garden and flower beds as mulch and let them keep the weeds at bay while providing nutrition and creating perfect compost that can be turned into the soil next spring.
If you notice your tree’s roots exposed and crawling across the top of the ground, it won’t hurt to cover those up with some top soil, according to Randy Beckett. He mentioned that since our area gets a decent amount of rain, (we have our dry spells, but haven’t had much of a true drought to speak of), the tree’s root systems don’t have to grow very deep down to get the water they require. So they spider across the surface and thereby do not provide as much support for the tree as it could. Beckett remarked that many of his service calls consist of cleaning up trees that have blown over during a storm. Also, it is a good idea to avoiding driving over the top of your tree’s exposed roots with trucks and heavy equipment which can damage and weaken the root system.
2017 marks the eighth year for the annual Home Grown Farm Tour. On August 26th, enjoy the self-guided tour featuring eight venues highlighting the diversity of local farms and nearly 250 years of history in Washington County.
Read all about how this local non-profit is reaching families in our community to provide support and encouragement specifically to moms in need and how you can be a part!
The Fancy Crow is a unique gift shop located in Bonne Terre. The shop features primitive, country, Americana home decor items and handmade gifts made by local artisans.