It is in the throes of winter that memories of summer are the most persistent. Even though your lawnmower is now snoring away for the season, there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure that your property enters greener times at its blooming best.
Just like the icicles hanging from your eaves, your lawn becomes brittle during its winter slumber. Keep foot traffic to a minimum during the colder months. And it’s never too late to apply an insulating blanket of mulch to a depth of at least three inches around plants and shrubs.
For maximum root nourishment, don’t forget that watering is a 12-month task. “Any time that the temperature climbs above 40 degrees, it’s a good time to water,” says John Fech, an extension educator at the University of Nebraska Extension Division in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. “This is particularly important for new plantings of any kind.”
Unlike trees that drop foliage in the fall, evergreens continue to transpire year-round, meaning that moisture absorbed through the soil is lost through leaves and needles.
“Apply an anti-desiccant spray on days above freezing,” Fech says. “This will protect against damage from the wind and cold.” Fech recommends a rotation of three applications. “A good memory-jogger to use here is to think in terms of spraying on New Year’s Day, Valentines Day, and Easter,” or as close to those days as the weather allows.
A loose wrapping of burlap around shrubs provides extra protection against the elements while still allowing the plant to breathe.
Pruning, especially for fruit trees, ensures that any given plant doesn’t have to work too hard to feed itself. For a host of videos on this and other topics, Fech recommends visiting the YouTube channel of Backyard Farmer, the NET television program produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
To Salt or Not to Salt?
“There needs to be a balance between traction safety and plant safety,” Fech says. De-icing products are great for what they are designed to do, but you pay a price when neighboring shrubs, ground covers, trees, and grass absorb all that salt.
“Nobody likes the brown-outs that these products can cause,” Fech says, “especially because the plant materials can take until mid-summer to recover, if at all—so use them sparingly.”
For more information on sustainable horticulture, visit the University of Nebraska Extension Division in Douglas and Sarpy Counties’ website at douglas-sarpy.unl.edu.