During this season the lawns are mostly all brown with leaves and pine needles piling up. This increases the requirement for lawn maintenance for the winters.

It is important to remove the fallen leaves and pine needles continuously from the lawn. With time and rain, leaf and needle debris clumps into mats which can suffocate turf roots. Matted leaves also keep grass wet and dark, which encourages fungus.

Grass may be brown but its roots are alive throughout the winter. Remember the guideline of an inch of water per week. Don’t set your irrigation and ignore it; winter conditions require some adjustments. Keep track of how much rain we receive. Use irrigation only to augment rainfall.

Ensure water less often and more deeply in the winter. Water evaporates more quickly in a sunny area than in shade. It is always wise to water in the early morning so plants can dry off in the day’s sun. However, it is essential during short winter days when fungus can more easily take hold.

Be sure that the soil does not dry out, especially from prolonged wind. If you are unsure of how dry your turf areas are, test the soil by pressing a screwdriver or table knife into the ground. If it penetrates easily, your lawn does not need water. If it is difficult to force it into the ground, your lawn needs water.

December is the month to add pre-emergent in your garden. Like the warm season turf weeds, lawns are plagued with cold season weeds. The sight of bright green weeds popping out of dormant brown turf is somehow more startling and irksome than the warm season monochrome mix of green weeds and grass. Read package labels to make sure the product you choose is safe for your type of grass.

Clear all the debris out of your garden beds. Diseases and insects overwinter in old plant material. Prevent them from carrying over to next year.

If you are collecting evergreens from your yard for holiday decorations, use the opportunity to shape up shrubs and trees; consider appearance and structure when you make your cuts. Be sure to cut just above a leaf node. This assures that no spurs are left on the plant to rot.

You need to protect vulnerable garden and container plants from drying winds, frost and freezing temperatures. It would be better if you cover your plants with fabric rather than plastic. If you must use plastic, uncover plants during the day, otherwise heat can build up and burn plants. Also, on cold nights the condensation that accumulates under plastic may freeze and harm the plant you are trying to protect.

Always be cautious of the deer in the garden. In winter when there is less food in woodland areas, deer are more likely to plunder your gardens and even eat resistant plants. Better keep changing your brand of deer repellent periodically. As soon as deer become accustomed to the scent of a product they ignore it and eat the treated plant. Monitor treated plants for new growth. Spray tender
leaves, stems and buds, even if a deer repellent touts 30-, 60- or even 90-day protection. New growth is not safe.

Never forget the birds of your garden.Keep your bird feeding station stocked with seeds, suet and perhaps some fruit. Keep water in your bird bath. Birds and most plants need water year round.

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