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As winter nears, take steps to keep lawn healthy and green

October 29, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

After a mild October and several days of rain, many lawns in the region are looking greener than they have all summer. But they might not stay that way for long.

With winter around the corner and the first frost possible any night now, local homeowners are looking for ways to prepare their lawns for the cold weather, said Jon Snavely, owner of Snavely's Garden Corner at 19719 Leitersburg Pike north of Hagerstown.

With the right preparation, landscapers can ensure leaves and snow don't kill their grass, and, with the right fertilizer, they might even be able to keep the lawn looking green well into the winter season, Snavely said.

The products to look for are "winterizing" fertilizers that have lower nitrogen and higher potassium, Snavely said. A one-time application in the fall can make a noticeable difference in carrying grass through the winter, he said.

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"A lawn that's not well-fed will turn kind of a straw color in the winter," Snavely said. "A lawn that's been fed will carry a lighter green look."

Another essential step is raking up accumulated leaves, he said.

"You don't want to allow them to lay in a pile over the entire winter," Snavely said. "That will kill off that spot of grass."

Finally, it's a good idea to set the mower down a notch for one final mowing, he said. Tall grass will be bent by snow, so shorter grass will fare better, he said.

For those looking to plant grass seed, it might be best to wait until the soil becomes workable again in the spring, Snavely said. Lawns seeded now might thrive if the weather remains mild, but it would be a risk, he said.

Other landscaping tasks that can be completed this time of year include planting flower bulbs, doing major pruning on trees, and cleaning out flower beds and vegetable gardens, Snavely said.

Cold weather is a good time to cut large tree branches because there will be less sap to deal with, while spring is a better time to prune new spurs, he said. Anything bigger than your thumb is good to cut in the fall, he said.

When cleaning out vegetable gardens, most vegetable debris can be composted, but anything that might be diseased should be sent away with the garbage, Snavely said. The vegetation left behind can be tilled into the soil.

Finally, many plants, such as hibiscus plants and mandevilla vines can be brought indoors for the winter as soon as frost is in the forecast, Snavely said.

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