Leaves that are not removed from your lawn can block sunlight and air from reaching the grass. The problem becomes worse when it rains -those fluffy layers of leaves turn into dense, soggy mats. The lack of air circulation can lead to turf diseases and may even smother the grass and kill it. But raking isn’t the only—or even the easiest—method of protecting your lawn’s health. It turns out that mulching leaves is what’s best for the health of your lawn. You can easily mulch the leaves by running over them many times with a mower to chop them into tiny bits, and letting the mower scatter them back into the lawn. As the mulched leaf bits decompose over the winter, they enhance the soil with valuable nutrients that feed the microbes and worms present in any healthy lawn. And compared with raking, mulching leaves takes MUCH less time and effort.
The first and most important rule is to set the deck of the mower to the HIGHEST SETTING to leave the grass as tall as possible. If the deck is too low, you’ll end up scalping the lawn and the grass will be vulnerable to weeds and possible to damage from winter temperatures. Better to leave the deck set high and make several passes with the mower from different angles to mince the leaf bits up to the size of a dime- and multiple passes will help scatter the bits around the lawn evenly. Properly shredded leaves are the size of confetti and will filter down between the blades of fescue where they won’t be noticeable. In summer lawns such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, or Zoysia, the shredded leaves will blend in with the brown, dormant grasses.
When you’re done, if there’s so much leaf mulch that you can’t see ANY grass, try one more pass with the bag attached to the mower, then scatter the leaf-litter that was picked up into your landscaping beds. Leaf mulch is also beneficial to planted beds this time of year, but it’s important to add mulched leaves to the beds NOW, so they’ll be fully decomposed by spring. If you wait until spring to leaf-mulch the beds, the nutrients won’t be broken down and available to the plants when they need it most.
It’s nice to know that the back-breaking job of leaf raking isn’t necessary- or even advised- for lawns in our region. So instead of hours of raking and bending over to fill plastic bags that could wind up in our landfills, simply ditch the bag attachment on your mower and enjoy a nice walk around the yard! If you have a landscaping service that usually mows for you, be sure to ask them to mulch the leaves for you instead of bagging. It’s better for your lawn, better for our environment, better for your back, AND, better for your wallet!
What can I do to protect my delicate trees and shrubs this winter?
The Lower Tidewater region is unique because we enjoy warm summer weather that is ideal for tropical trees and succulents. Unfortunately, we can also experience harsh winter temperatures and high winds that can severely damage tender plants. Wrapping palms and other tropical trees in plastic sheeting is NOT advised in our specific area, because the winter temperature fluctuations can cause condensation inside the plastic, which can lead to rot and specific types of fungus. Our tree and shrub care expert, Dave Planelles, recommends applying an anti-transpirant product such as AquaLock to any ornamental plants that are susceptible to winter burn, because it protects by forming a “thin, flexible, water-repellent layer on plant surfaces” to insulate and prevent damage.
Other recommendations from Dave to keep your shrubs healthy this winter, include keeping the mulch level around the base of the plant at NO MORE than TWO inches deep. If the mulch layer is too thick, it may cause harm to the plant by preventing proper nutrients from being absorbed, and can (in some cases) suffocate the plant. In our region, two inches of mulch is more than enough to insulate and protect the roots and retain the right amount of moisture. Dave also recommends considering a light application of a low-nitrogen, organic 3-4-3 product, such as our “Replenish” top dressing compost fertilizer to help gently feed roots over the winter. If there are disease/pest concerns, having an application of dormant horticultural oil will help to smother any lingering scale bugs and their eggs, as well as protect against diseases like blight on new growth in early spring.
Over the next two weeks, Dave will begin applications for customers who purchase an AquaLock treatment for their delicate ornamentals. If you’d like an estimate for the cost of an AquaLock treatment for your at-risk shrubs and trees this winter, or for more information on Dave’s Annual Tree & Shrub Program, please contact our office and Dave will be happy to stop by to evaluate and quote pricing for you!
Virginia Beach Winter Lawn Care Tips
It’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean we need to ignore the lawn! The things you do to your lawn in the winter when temperatures begin to drop contribute to a healthy lawn come srping. Did you know that the best season to prune your trees is winter? It is! Because pruning promotes new growths and production of fruit.
Winterizing your lawn mover is a good idea. Keeping your lawn mower functioning properly and mower blades sharp will ensure that your grass is evenly cut, helping prevent disease and improving the overall look of the lawn.
Prevent Snow Mold
As winter winds down and any snow vanishes, snow mold can threaten your yard. This fungus arises in wet, cold weather. The best way to prevent snow mold is to make sure your lawn is properly fertilized and maintained during the cold weather. Treatments for snow mold involves the use of special fungicides and seeding strategies. Call Dreamlawns for a free estimate on any of our services.
Lawns and trees do not need as much attention during the winter months, but even though there is less need it is an ideal time to make plans for your lawns care throughout the year. Winter lawn care tips from the experience professionals at Dreamlawns can enable you to create a strategy to keep your landscape healthy all year. Dreamlawns offers free consultations and estimates.
Do you need the perfect gift this season? Year round lawn care will bring joy to any family by producing a spectacular landscape and lawn. Now, that’s a gift!