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Checklist: Winter Yard Work

by Kathy Maynard

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Landscape and yardwork are usually the last thing on the minds of most homeowners in the dead of winter. But this is actually the ideal time to renovate the lawn and eliminate the brown spots and crab grass left over from last summer.

Lawn renovation

A lawn renovation starts with a thorough raking to open the ground and expose the soil so new seeds can germinate. Next, level the lawn by covering the lowest areas with new soil. Then, reseed the entire lawn if necessary, or simply patch certain areas as required.

To ensure germination, add a good fertilizer and cover the seeds with humus to protect them from hungry birds. Then wait about three or four weeks for the seeds to pop.

An advantage to doing this in the winter is that nature provides enough water to germinate the seeds, whereas it is necessary to sprinkle the areas during other times of the year.

Crab grass

At this time of year your grass is full of millions of crab grass seeds waiting to sprout in the spring. Therefore, you want to be ready to spray with a pre-emergent about the last week of February, just before the temperature starts to warm up.

However, you don't want to apply pre-emergent any earlier than February, as it would kill new seeds that you have planted. Also, the chemicals are not be as effective in the cold weather.

Also, remember that you cannot apply pre-emergent yourself because it is a hazardous chemical which by law must be applied by licensed professionals.

Pruning

Now is the time to begin pruning your trees, and don't forget about your roses, too. In order to improve the production of both fruit trees and rose bushes, you must prune before they start to bud.

You shold also cut back overgrown bushes and trim non-fruit trees before they start to grow again.

Professional pruning consists of:

  • Clean from the inside out, removing crossing branches.
  • Thin branches so they will not become too heavy with fruit. Quality is more important than quantity.
  • Don't forget to spray your fruit trees with dormant oil. You should apply dormant spray three times: around Thanksgiving, around Christmas, and the third application should come after pruning.

Flower beds

Now is a great time to clean out the flower beds, removing the fallen leaves and blossoms to avoid potential fungus and molds from growing.

Planting

Plant bare-root trees and roses before spring arrives. Now is when you will get the very best prices possible on new trees and bushes for your landscape.

Contact landscape professionals

Finally, winter is the ideal time to contact a landscape contractor about updating, remodeling, or totally reinstalling your yard.

Homeowners typically wait until spring to make their initial calls, only to find that most quality landscapers are busy and even scheduled ahead by March. Plan ahead to get your best service and prices of the year.