Every year Oklahoma homeowners must assess their lawns and landscapes to prepare them for coming winter. This process can be simplified by organizing the necessary tasks into three categories.
- PLAN for winter form and function
- PROTECT from potential winter damage
- CARE for winter durability and use
Some activities will fall into more than one category, but there will always be a leading category that drives the objectives and the work involved. The answers to two questions will
- As the property owner, am I the expert or should I seek expert advice?
- Will I enjoy doing the work or hire professional technicians and labor?
Every homeowner and his or her property is different. For example, if design is one of your passions and skills, then you will choose to plan and manage which perennials and ornamental grasses are cut back for the winter. You will likely enjoy performing that work to get it just right.
Conversely, you may wish to hire a landscape crew to complete the work with your guidance and supervision.
1. Plan For Winter Form And Function
Ornamental Grasses and Perennials
Herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses can add intimate, close-up details that enhance the beauty of your winter design. These plants, in contrast to trees and shrubs which often serve as background elements, can provide a unique and subtle touch to your winter landscape
It’s noteworthy that ornamental grasses and perennials have stems and foliage that create subtle winter interest for those with a discerning eye for design. Additionally, the persistent seedheads of Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), among many others, provide valuable food for birds during snow-covered periods.
Home and Landscape Drainage Systems
Outdoor Spigots – It’s always best to shut off these water sources from within the home during winter. More importantly, disconnect garden hoses and other connections so that any water in the pipes can freely expand in the event of freezing.
Surface Water – Surface water should drain away from the home. If it is allowed to collect and freeze it can apply pressure to the foundation. Remedial measure until spring are to simply create pathways to ensure proper drainage.
Gutters – Clean leaves and other debris to be sure water flows. If necessary test this water flow with a garden hose before temperatures drop below freezing.
Downspouts – If you have corrugated drain tiling attached to your downspouts be sure to they have a clear path to daylight. They should lay flat on the ground and drain away from and below the home’s foundation.
Underground Drainage Systems – If you have below ground PVC drainage systems you may need to hire experts if blockages are expected. The primary risk is blockages that could back up into downspouts.
2. Protect From Potential Winter Damage
Trees, Shrubs and Landscape Beds
Deciduous trees and shrubs offer winter interest with persistent fruits, interesting bark and branching structure, colorful stems, and flowers capable of withstanding the full force of winter.
The most common hazard for deciduous trees is sunscald. It tends to occur in late winter and early spring on the south west side of young or thin bark trees. The direct sun or reflected sunlight from snow or light colored structures heats tree bark during the day, which then freezes at night.
The most recommended treatment is wrapping trucks with burlap late in the fall, being sure to remove the cover in early spring when temperatures are consistently rising.
Conifer trees and shrubs are actively transpiring during winter, releasing moisture from their needles. While there are desiccants that can be applied to prevent needles from winter burn drying, these treatments are best left to the experts. As an alternative, broadleaf and needle evergreen hedges can be protected with a burlap wrapping or windbreak screen.
The most essential treatment for all woody plantings is an application of fresh, shredded hardwood bark mulch to insulate surface roots and minimize temperature fluctuations that encourage damaging freeze-thaw cycles.
Irrigation and Water Feature Systems
It bears repeating that you should begin by shutting off all water supplies completely. Then disconnect any hoses or supply lines from these sources. This simple task will save potentially significant damage from bursting indoor pipes.
Drain any remaining water from the pipes in your irrigation system. More modern systems are designed to self-drain, but most experts still recommend clearing the lines with a compressor by a professional contractor. This involves attaching an air compressor to the irrigation system to push air through the pipes and out of all the irrigation heads.
For the same reasons, you will need to drain your pool, ponds, and other water features. Turn off any pumps and move them to a warmer spot to prevent freezing. Unless your garage is heated, this will require bringing them inside, maybe to an unfinished portion of the basement or storage closet.
Fireplaces and Fire Features
Many homeowners use their outdoor fireplaces and fire pits throughout the year. When not in use during any season, it’s always best to keep openings covered and dry to the effects of excessive moisture. Gas lights should also be shut off and metal parts lubricated to protect against corrosion.
Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to protect your outdoor fireplace or fire feature is to use it. This burns off debris and keeps igniters free of debris. Conversely, if you are confident you will not be using your feature during the winter, consider investing in a professional cleaning before winter so that it is ready for use to use next spring.
3. Care For Winter Durability And Use
Lawns and Groundcovers
Turfgrass and ornamental groundcovers are technically both groundcovers, and they share similar needs to prepare them for winter.
Leaves should be raked up from the lawn and groundcover beds so that your turfgrass gets all the sunlight that it needs. You should mow your lawn one last time too. That activity will also chop up any remaining leaves so that they can filter into the soil and enrich it.
If your mower height can be raised sufficiently, this you can do the same with your groundcover beds, depending on variety. Vinca, Wintercreeper, and English Ivy should respond well to this activity if you take it slow and easy.
Fall is usually the ideal time to spread fertilizer over your lawn, shrubs, and other greenery. However, December is still not too late in Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Make sure the fertilizer composition has a low-nitrogen profile so that you do not encourage new growth that will not have time to harden off before winter.
Outdoor Lighting Systems
A standard pre-winter outdoor lighting practice should be auditing your entire system. For example, if any in-ground cables for your outdoor lighting system appear slightly exposed, winter’s influences can complicate the problem. So, you may consider hiring a professional with troubleshooting experience.
Winter rains and snow can greatly test your landscape lighting’s functionality. The most common sources of problems are cable connections. Now is the time to make necessary repairs while the soils are still workable.
If you want to save a few headaches before the cold weather arrives, have an outdoor lighting professional test your system for voltage drops. This will provide clues for easy fixes such a connectors or lamps, or if necessary, running fresh cable lines or replacing problematic fixtures.
Hardscape Surfaces and Elements
If you plan to use your deck or patio during winter, and even if you don’t, consider preventative maintenance to keep it safe for winter and ready for springtime activities. Inspect all surfaces for loose nails, screws or imperfections in the wood that require attention.
If temperatures are above 50 degrees F, you can apply a protective coat of waterproof sealant. This should be done about every three years to minimize the drying that leads to wood splintering and checking.
Give walkways, patios, fences and structures such as pergolas and arbors the same attention. Even if your time is limited this season, that inspection will serve as a basis for research and inquiry to get on top of what needs to be done next spring.
Proactive Landscaping: Helping Oklahoma Homeowners Enjoy Outdoor Living
Our top priority is creating living spaces that are right for you. We pride ourselves on working with you from concept to construction to create the right landscape for your needs. Contact us today for a free consultation to explore your next landscaping project.