Though it may seem that the great outdoors enters a state of collective dormancy come winter, rest assured, there are landscape maintenance steps to be taken no matter the time of year. In fact, the key to keeping up with the tasks at hand is making sure you are always one step ahead of the process.
Once the frost of winter has melted away, it’s a good time to begin to repair dead patches of grass left behind, dethatch and aerate to revive weak lawns damaged by the cold. Old mulch should be removed, and refreshed at the base of trees and shrubs. Any summer-flowering shrubs can be pruned, and ground covers raked, fertilized and groomed in preparation for spring planting.
Cool-season flowers and vegetables can be established—preferably, after amending the soil with organic matter—as can fruits and berries. Take care to divide overcrowded perennials, and prune and plant roses. Spring bulb foliage should be trimmed as it blossoms and begins to yellow as the season progresses.
Spring is also an ideal time to thoroughly clean wooden decks, applying sealant as needed, as well as to repair any cracks in paved areas which may have developed over the winter.
The warmth of summer lends itself to increased mowing, albeit lengthier blades are recommended to provide additional shade to the soil. Alternate cutting patterns to avoid unnecessary compaction, and water in the morning or early evening as needed. It’s advisable to leave clippings behind, as these will work as a natural fertilizer, as well as cut down on the clean-up process.
Regularly weed around trees, adding mulch as needed but taking care to keep materials one to two inches away from tree trunks, to reduce the potential for insect or disease damage. New shrubs should be watered weekly, and hedges trimmed after their first new growth. Once flowers on spring-blooming shrubs have begun to fade, it’s safe to deadhead and prune.
Much will be blooming during this season, so take care to cut flowers and herbs during the morning hours, harvest vegetables as needed, and fruits when ripe. Most flowers and vegetables can be fertilized monthly. Flowers should be deadheaded in preparation for fall, and vines trained by lightly pruning.
It may be necessary to seed select spots in need of refreshing as the weather begins to cool, using a fall grass fertilizer as needed. Mulch and regularly water any newly planted conifers, and take care to clean up rotten, fallen crops from fruit trees, as well as leaves. Rose bushes should be cut back, and covered, if possible.
At this point, it’s best to cut back perennials to about six inches above the soil, dividing and replanting those that are overcrowded. Dig out and store non-hardy spring bulbs, while planting new ones to allow them time to take root for next spring. Remaining vegetables should be harvested, and cool-season annuals—such as mums and pansies—established.
Any permanent water systems, pools and ponds should be drained at this time.
Perhaps the harshest season to the great outdoors, winter demands a degree of care in order to properly prepare for the impending chill. Avoid walking on grass if dormant or frozen, and try to use more natural alternatives to salt and sand when it comes to snow removal, if able.
Water newly planted evergreens if moisture is lacking, and review wintering bulbs to determine whether any are soft or rotten and should be discarded. Now is the time to order seeds for spring, and to prune remaining fruit trees, wrapping tender foundations in burlap for added protection.
Be sure to continuously check irrigation systems for cracks, and consistently clear decks, patios and walkways of snow. Repair damaged stone and concrete as weather permits.