How-To: Restore Your Yard after a Mild Winter
With a relatively small amount of snow accumulation around the country, the winter of 2012 stood in sharp contrast to the record-breaking winter of 2011. Without this snow cover or “white fertilizer” to act as insulation, lawns were left exposed to strong winter winds resulting in desiccation, or extreme drying. Add to this a spring with unusually mild temperatures arriving ahead of schedule and it means that homeowners could face a unique set of challenges this spring.
The following tips, compiled by SavATree, can homeowners counteract some of the common issues that come with an “open winter” and recover a lush, green landscape this spring:
Turn On the Water – Returning moisture to the crowns of your grass is essential. As soon as possible, begin watering your lawn to restore nutrients and combat the damage done by high winds. Irrigate long and infrequently rather than daily for short intervals. It is best to water each zone for 30+ minutes every other day than watering 15 minutes each day. By longer, infrequent watering the moisture will actually penetrate deeper into the ground resulting in the roots going down deeper for the water; a benefit now and during the stresses of summer heat.
Mow Early and Often - When it comes to mowing, it’s better to be too early than too late. As grass grows and pushes last year’s desiccated tissue to the top, sharp blades will take it off cleanly and make room for new, healthy grass. Mow often as grass grows quickly in the spring, but try to set your blades at 3″ or higher so as not to remove more than 1/3 of leaf blade. Leaving clippings on your lawn, rather than bagging, will help speed the return of nutrients to the soil.
Aerate - Aerating your lawn will help improve water, air and nutrient movement in the soil and also reduce compaction and break down thatch. Compaction and thatch make growing grass more difficult, because they impede air and water movement to the soil and work to weaken your lawn’s root system. Desiccation is also less of an issue for well-aerated soil since water is able to move more freely through it, making the grass above much more resistant to drought.
Control Pests - Milder temperatures typically allow greater numbers of insects to survive the winter and an early spring can mean a longer growing season and more generations of certain insects. Specifically, residents of New England might encounter an unusually high volume of deer ticks and the woolly adelgid—an insect that attacks hemlock trees—this season. The best way to keep these pests in check is to contact a certified arborist to evaluate your property and recommend a safe and effective solution.
Prevent Disease - When buds begin to swell and break open earlier in the season, diseases such as dogwood anthracnose, apple scab and leaf spots are able to gain an early foothold. The best approach to protecting against these diseases is preventive. By addressing and treating for these diseases ahead of time, you can lessen the chance of damage to your trees and shrubs during an early spring.