Though most gardening chores are put on the back-burner during the winter months, there are some things you can be doing to ensure a healthy spring for your lawn and garden.
Look for Pests
Plant-eating animals that are scrounging for food during the winter are a significant problem for the yard. Keep an eye out for deer (see our article Signs that Deer Are On Your Property) or rabbit tracks that will alert you that animals are around. They’ll dig or paw through the snow to eat any grass or perennials they can find, leaving you with dead plants come spring. Add a few repellent packs designed for rabbits, squirrels or deer to help with this. They will work just fine, even in winter weather.
Be aware that voles are very damaging to your yard, and are usually invisible as they tunnel around under the snow. So even if you don’t see any signs, having repellent around the yard can still be a good preventative step.
Ice and Snow Accumulation
A layer of snow is just fine for your grass. In fact, it’s insulating and will actually protect your turf from extreme temperature changes and damage from animals. But you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to larger plants and trees.
A heavy snow or ice load can snap off branches on trees, shrubs or any larger plants that you have overwintering. Giving your plants a hard shake is not the answer either, or you will do even more damage. Very gently brush off excess snow where you can.
Have Deer Problems In Your Yard? Try Deer Repellent Packs.
Avoid the Salt
Keeping walkways and driveways free of slippery ice is an important safety chore, and many people use rock salt for that. It’s cheap and pretty effective. Unfortunately, it will also kill your grass or any plants nearby if you use too much of it. Even if you are very careful to keep it on the pavement, it will contaminate nearby lawn as the ice melts and the water runs away. Try to use sand whenever possible, or salt-free products that use calcium chloride as the de-icing ingredient.
If you live in an area that gets cooler weather but no snow, you should consider a dose of winter fertilizer to give your grass a boost during the slow season. Though mostly dormant, your grass is still (very) slowly growing and having a little extra nutrition will help.
Prep in the Fall
Really, the best way to care for your yard in the winter is to get everything well-protected in the fall. Give over-wintering plants a nice layer of insulating mulch, wrap shrubs and trees in burlap and deal with any late-season weeds, and your yard is ready for its winter sleep.