The days are getting cooler, the nights are getting longer, and another summer is almost history. But don’t store the mower and water sprinkler in the shed just yet. While your lawn is preparing now for a winter sleep, the care you give before and during its dormancy is important. Taking time to winterize your yard is the key to maintaining the health of your grass, trees, shrubs, and flowers. Raking, fertilizing, pruning, and mulching are just a few of the things you can do to encourage strong spring growth. One of the most important considerations when caring for grass is water.
Water for winter thirst
Water is vital in the winter months when there is not adequate rainfall. During the periods of prolonged winter drought, if the air temperature is above freezing and the soil isn’t frozen, you should water every two or three weeks for 15 to 20 minutes – just enough to provide moisture to the crown and roots of the plants and counteract the drying effects of winter winds. Carefully time afternoon watering so grass blades don’t remain moist overnight, which minimizes the threat of fungal diseases. If your grass is long and lush, you can try deep soaking. This allows the water to penetrate deep into the sub-soil and root zone of the grass, six inches deep.
Know your grass
Cool-season grasses such as fescue, rye or even bluegrass do not necessarily go completely dormant during the winter months. It’s a good idea to water them every now and then on a mild day when there is no threat of a hard freeze overnight. Texas generally has Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, and centipede grasses, which are warm-season grasses. These go dormant once temperatures drop below freezing. The combinations of warm- and cool-season grasses might include Bermuda and rye or Zoysia combined with fescue or rye. With all these combinations, the result is often the same – a two-tone lawn.
If the temperatures do drop below freezing, you can instead cover your grass with a layer of straw to keep the ground warm. If you have access to enough straw, lay 2 to 3 inches down, but watering your grass is more convenient and readily available, especially when doing it last minute.