As I sit in my office this morning, listening to the steady hum of leaf blowers and looking a the bright sunshine that is slowly rising into the sky, I find myself wondering when is winter actually going to come? It’s December in Maryland with no signs of snow between now and the end of the year. Last Christmas, I’m pretty sure I wore shorts to my family’s holiday dinner and the year before that, one of our biggest snow storms didn’t happen until March 13th!
And then I look outside and think as confused as I am by the weather, this must really wreak havoc on the plants in the landscapes. No hard freezes to thrust them into dormancy. No snow falling to insulate them for the long winter season. The days are warm and nights are borderline freezing. What does this mild winter weather do to a landscape and what could we as landscape contractors and Property Managers do together to get ready for spring now rather than later?
How Mild Winter Weather Affects the Landscape
When temperatures are moderate during the winter, landscapes sort of hover between dormancy and actively growing. When you look out the window, the leaves have fallen from the trees and perennials have probably gone dormant, but the turf is still green evergreen shrubs and trees still have a deep green hue. Plants are still processing water, air and nutrients and may be actually growing – although at a severely reduced rate.
If the weather stays consistently warmer than usual, plants may break dormancy early. Buds may swell and open to new leaves, and bulbs and perennials may begin to peak their foliage through the mulch. Typically, it takes several warm days AND warm nights in a row for this to happen, but it is a possibility that cool season grasses can suffer from an abbreviated season. Spring flowering plants may flower earlier than normal in a mild winter. You may also see your grass actually growing to the point it requires mowing in a warm winter season. On the upside, a mild winter means more time outdoors, but it also means that the landscape still needs attention.
Things to Do In Mild Winter Weather That’ll Keep Your Landscape Looking It’s Healthy Best!
- Keep up with leaf removal. Leaves naturally collect on the turf, but can suffocate shallow turf roots and provide too much shade from the already short hours of sunshine. Removing the leaves from the turf an adding them to a compost pile or using them as temporary mulch in planting beds will prevent them from causing harm to the turf.
- Monitor watering needs. If plants have not gone into full dormancy and the days are warm and mildly windy, leaves continue to transpire. This means moisture is leaving the plants each day but there may not be enough groundwater available to the root zone to replenish their needs. Plants that one year old or less needs to be monitored along with turf to make sure that adequate water is provided to the root zone.
- Dormant Prune Trees and Shrubs. After the leaves have fallen from the trees and before spring comes, it’s a perfect time to look at large shrubs and trees for pruning needs. Now the canopy shape and internal structure of the plants can be seen and necessary deadwooding, crown cleaning, and shaping can occur that will reinvigorate the plants next growing season.
- It’s never too early to think about summer flowers. Now is the perfect time to look at summer annual selections for your planting beds, marketing areas, and pool pots for the upcoming season with your landscape contractor. Choosing your plants and color schemes now guarantees that you will have full lush flowers ready for your property as soon as annual planting season begins.
- Walk your property and evaluate your turf. Look for bare and thin areas and make a plan with your landscape contractor to do spring turf revitalization with fertilizer, lime, topdressing, and seed to fill in those worn and thin spots. You can see them clearly now and if you plan to work on the turf early in the season, mowing won’t negatively effect the establishment of that new seed.
- Get designs and proposals to spruce up areas throughout your property. Maybe you need some fresh ideas for your marketing path or maybe you want to see the foundation plantings revitalized, or maybe it’s time to upgrade or add some amenity areas. This is a great time to speak with your landscape contractor and their design team to plan out those types of projects. Plant selection and price is typically at it’s best at this time of the year, and once your landscape contractor gets busy with mulching, mowing, and summer annuals, it’s hard to get a small or large scale enhancement project on their schedule. Planning it out now gives everyone plenty of time to procure materials and schedule early.
- Stay on top of winter weeds. When we experience seasonal weather patterns that bring consistent temp ranges between 40-60 degrees, you may notice outbreaks of winter weeds such as chickweed, nettle, henbit and bittercress. Keep on the lookout and have your landscaper treat as necessary to ensure that they don’t pull a dormant season takeover of your lawn areas.
Complete Landscaping Plans Great Landscapes
Don’t wait until the Spring rush to start your landscape planning and design. Create an outdoors goals and objectives list and spend the dormant season working closely with your landscaper on priorities and implementation.
Complete Landscaping Service is a commercial landscape company providing a full range of landscaping services to Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia. From design to installation to maintenance, Complete’s comprehensive landscape capabilities can address any and all of your property’s needs. Having been in business for over 35 years, we know how to analyze your property and maximize your landscaping budget to get the biggest impact for each dollar you spend.
Jump-starting the planning and the creative process when the weather is mild helps to give both us and you, the Property Owner/Manager, a head start come spring. Be the best looking property in town; schedule a meeting with one of Complete Landscaping’s managers or designers today.