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December Landscapes – Winter Preparation!

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Preparation helps us stay ahead of game in Winter
A lot of people don’t realize there are still things to do in the landscape as winter approaches. Right now, we’re in a bit of a dry spell going into the winter months which is never a good thing in the landscape. Why is this?

Wet soil is much harder to freeze than dry soil. Plants can suffer fatal damage to their root systems if a dry soil envionment is met with a harsh cold front. Just last year, we had a very mild fall where temperatures really didn’t get below 40 through October and November. Then suddenly, in December, we get a hard cold front where temperatures dropped to 10 degrees here in the DFW Metroplex.

As a result, several species of plants/trees were hit hard and were lost by the time spring arrived. Italian Cypress, junipers, boxwoods and others did not adapt well.

So rather than assume since its winter that there is no need to run your sprinkler, think again. You should be watering once a week for the lawn, twice a week for beds facing south or southwest. And, if you happen to see severe cold in the forecast, a quick watering well before it gets here can do wonders. Do not water at night until spring arrives.

What else to do?


Palm trees should be wrapped with burlap and tied using natural twine. To be more specific, wrap the trunks of the Palms with the burlap wrap. Then, in cases such as Pindo Palms, you would want to bring the limbs together and tie them up. They can be left this way for the duration of winter. Do not wrap with plastic!!!

You can safely cut your shrubs back this time of year. Be sure to cut back enough to where the original growth was while also shaping them. Simply cutting the outer new growth will still result in a larger shrub, later.

Some shrubs located in the northern section of the state should be covered during any significant winter weather event. Those shrubs would include varieties such as pittosporums, boxwoods, even azaleas. Use a freeze cloth/blanket designed for this purpose. Try to choose a variety that is white so that the plant is not enclosed in darkness. And once the inclement weather has passed, remove the cloths as soon as possible to give the shrubs a chance to recover.

For homeowners, make sure you employ the use of spigot covers during times when freezing weather is expected. They are cheap and easily installs in seconds. For the sprinkler system, if you do not have a freeze sensor attached to your system, it is a good idea to turn the system off during freezing weather.

Keep a supply of either lava sand or kitty litter as a replacement for using salt to combat icing in your driveway and sidewalks. Inevitably, when the snow and ice go away, the salt used to combat those elements ends up in the landscape. And we all know that salt kills plants and grass. Using lava sand is an excellent alternative as it can be swept back into the turf or beds and actually improve the soil in those locations.

Either drain the fuel tank of your lawnmower and other equipment, or fill them up and include a dose of gas stabilizer which will protect them until they’re used again in spring.

Bring inside any clay, cast stone or ceramic pots you may have so that they do not bust during icy or snowy weather. Ditto for the bird baths.


Those, those, those leaves!

If you’ve followed this column for any length of time you know that I always favor keeping the leaves out of the landfill. So what do you do with those thousands of leaves that are now in the lawn and beds?


1. Recycle them back into the turf. You can use a mulching mower to achieve this. Just use a blower or rake to remove the leaves from the beds and start a few piles around the lawn. From the lawn, add to those piles. Then run over them several times to get the leaves broken down to fine pieces. Then rake into the turf, spreading it out. This returns nutrients to the soil and your mulching them up just quickened that process.

2. Recycling those leaves back into the turf is great, but you don’t want to do it every year. The acidity of the leaves can cause the soil pH to be altered too far in the acidic direction. If you are one of those who composts, bag those leaves and save them for spring when you begin composting. To compost effectively, you need dead organic matter to go along with the green organic matter (such as grass clippings). Store those leaves away until spring.

3. Bag them up and donate them to a neighbor who does actively compost. Every neighborhood has “that guy” who has compost bins and keeps them filled. Find him/her and offer to donate what you have to their cause.

Even if you don’t exercise any of those options, do not just let the leaves sit and accumulate. They are a fire hazard, especially during a dry winter period such as what we’re having now.

Once you have those leaves removed and leaves have all dropped, get those beds mulched and protected from the winter chill!

Once you have the leaves collected and they’ve stopped falling, that is an excellent time to go up and clean the gutters and downspouts. Make sure to also remove any leaves from hardscape surfaces, such as concrete or flagstone, to prevent stains.


Mistletoe can kill trees

Mistletoe is a fungal growth that will slowly kill a tree. It is a little difficult to spot during the growing season when the leaves are green and tree canopies are full. But during the winter when the deciduous trees turn and drop their leaves, the green mistletoe is exposed and becomes easy to spot. Its literally the only green you’ll see in the tree and will look like clumps, which, of course, they are.

They most often strike Cedar Elms, Elms, and other hardwoods. And at Christmas time, they are used as part of a Christmas tradition whereby a young man can initiate a romantic encounter with a favored young lady by having her stand under a hung strand of mistletoe.

In many cases, the mistletoe grows on the outer sections of the canopy. They can be difficult to get to and cut off. If you attempt to do this yourself, you will want to use a pole saw that can extend to those sections. Do NOT push it, sometimes its best to not try and live to tell about it. This would be considered a dangerous task and all precautions should be taken before attempting to remove it.

When can I sod turf again?

Believe it or not, you can still lay sod during the winter months. The sod you lay will be dormant, just like the turf in established lawns. And that sod will come out of dormancy and become a lawn, just like established lawns do. 

Sodding in the winter allows the roots to grow and get the sod rooted down into the existing soil.

Other items . . . 

If you haven’t already, get your tulips bulbs planted!! Plant them 4-6 inches down and in organic planting material. Make sure the point of the bulb is directed upward. Daffodils can also be planted right now!!

If you’re going to cut back your perennials, do it now and trim them back to 8”-12.”

If you have any questions, please submit them and I’m glad to respond!



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12 hours ago, nstr said:

Is there any winter fertilizing I could do, or are we past that? Nursery recommendations in Collin county?


You can fertilize your beds right now, but don't fertilize the lawn right now.

Use a mild 10-5-4 formula or similar and made for shrubs/trees. Moderate rate.

Puckett's in Allen is about as good as they come, retail. I'm not a nursery, but I can sell you any plant you want and/or can make suggestions for you. We service Collin County.



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Heads up everyone.

Winter weather of some sort will be entering the state in the coming days. The forecast, for now, is changing by the hour as uncertainty still dominates. But most models agree that the temperatures between Christmas and New Years could be extremely cold.

Get delicate plants covered, such as pittosporum shrubs, azaleas, even boxwoods if ice and snow are called for. You will want to use a FREEZE BLANKET, such as the one I'll show below. This will protect the vegetation while also keeping temperatures below it warmer.







Be careful – with winter weather comes wind so make sure you've secured your blanket well enough to withstand it.

Additionally, you will want to install exterior spigot covers for protection through this period.

It is not necessary to cover Pansies or Kale. They are built for this type of weather.



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There's some chatter thats getting stronger on the weather blogs, indicating that Texas could be in for a nice winter storm around January 14.

There seems to be excellent chances for some measurable snow but the real punch of this storm will be the record cold temperatures. Showing a model map for the GFS this evening (which typically runs warmer than actual), the -2 degrees shown for Dallas would be a record low. Awaiting what the Euro says about this (which typically runs cooler).

Stay tuned . . . 



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On 12/1/2017 at 12:13 AM, Sirhornsalot said:

Either drain the fuel tank of your lawnmower and other equipment, or fill them up and include a dose of gas stabilizer which will protect them until they’re used again in spring.

I use gas stabilizer year round. It may be over kill but I still do it.

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