Winterizing Your Landscapes

By Katie Jo Dumford
Katie Jo Dumford is an Account Manager at Pacific Green Landscape, Inc. with offices in San Diego County

Winter landscaping is important when the weather gets colder.  What your landscape management provider is doing now, will help your landscape be in its best shape for spring.  There are a few items your landscape provider should be doing during the winter months:

Fertilize Turf

Fertilizer prepares the turf for spring growth.  This is typically done (and suggested) in the fall.  Your landscape provider should already be on the right track and ahead of the game.  Depending on the type of turf, some fertilizers work better than others.  Ask your landscape provider which fertilizer works best for your type of turf.

Plant Care

Providers should install winter annuals for winter color, planting them with smart release plant food to help stabilize plants from going into shock.   Ask your provider to add cyclamen, poinsettia or pansies to color the landscape.  Other color ideas are ornamental kale, flowering stock and violas.  Winter is a good time to thin out shrubs allowing for air and sunlight to break into the plant canopy and prevent disease. Ornamental grasses should be cut back during the winter months as well.  This normally occurs in January, February and March.

Tree Care

Tree care during the winter should consist of re-staking trees, lifting canopies and structure prune small trees to ensure correct branch structure for better support as trees mature. As rainy days approach, request a winter assessment. The winter assessment will tailor the irrigation to fit the needs of the plant material depending on forecasted weather, duration needed, and times per day.   In most cases, irrigation can be turned off during the winter months.

Protect Any Sensitive Plants by Mulching

A good way to protect sensitive plants is through mulching.  It is especially good for new landscapes and new plant material.  Several inches of mulch or soil gathered around most plants will do the trick.  Top dressings of mulch can be applied at the base of trees and shrubs, which act as a protective cover to the root system.  When the plant material has recently been established or planted in a planter bed, a good approach is to top dress and/or layer well with a nice layer of mulch.  The mulch acts as a protectant to both the plant and beneficial insects.

Monitor Irrigation

Reducing irrigation cycles during the colder months of winter is one of the most effective water saving methods.  The sun is sitting lower in the sky during winter months creating more shade.  Irrigation systems should be heavily reduced to prevent over saturated areas and to encourage roots to search for water (which will teach them to need less water in the summer).  During winter months, it is also important to verify water coverage is appropriate.  Providers should be looking for broken heads and check for pipe leaks.

Irrigation Technology

Be sure your provider is an expert in system repairs, restoration and installation as well as is up to date on all the state-of-the-art water saving technology and rebates available on the market.  Ask if there are water management certified employees on your provider’s staff.  Some certifications to ask about are the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) Water Managers and Irrigation Auditors.  These certified staff members are an invaluable resource when it comes to troubleshooting any kind of problem in the irrigation system, as well as installing it correctly in the first place.  Another item to ask your provider is if there are Smart controllers installed at your communities.  These irrigation controllers download weather data from satellites to adjust water application.  They also adjust watering cycles based on the soil structure, grading and slopes at the community.  For instance, if it is going to rain, Smart controllers will turn off the irrigation cycle for a period of time, ensuring your communities are not overwatered.  These controllers can even be managed remotely so that your provider is constantly on top of water conservation at your community.  Investing in Smart controllers at your community will reap rewards in savings on water bills.

Winter months are also a great time to create a plan for your landscape in order to consider upgrades, removals or additions to the community.  If your plan is already completed, now is a good time to determine when the best time is to implement specific tactics to achieve your landscape and water consumption goals.

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