As cooler weather approaches, commercial building managers are turning their attention to ensuring that the brunt of winter inflicts minimal disruption. And while keeping facilities running smoothly is certainly a priority, that doesn’t mean that this is the time of year to ease off landscaping and lawn care. Although it may seem that there’s little to be done until the spring thaw, numerous measures can be taken before winter truly sets in to ensure grounds stay in tip-top shape year-round.
Winterizing natural turf can yield multiple benefits. Getting lawns primed for spring means less time and cost devoted to overdue maintenance and repair early in a new year. Furthermore, continued maintenance keeps lawns looking their best no matter the season, adding curb appeal to a property and, in turn, adding value. Properties with lush lawns can often command a higher price, whether for sale or for lease. A 2014 study by Virginia Tech University reported that well-groomed landscapes with healthy lawns could raise a commercial or residential property’s value up to 12%.
To boost curb appeal in winter months and beyond, take five easy steps to ensure a healthy lawn greets spring. For property owners and managers in Cool and Transition Zones in the U.S., lawns will need to take in plentiful nutrients and water to carry them through the big freeze. Start now for the best results.
1) Add seed for thicker cover: Now is the time to reseed the lawn if it is looking thin or has bare patches. For property owners with warm-season grasses in the Transition Zone, overseeding a lawn may be beneficial, as the practice can help maintain a green expanse all through winter. Whichever approach is selected, maintenance personnel will want to consult a turf specialist to ensure the appropriate seed type for lawn and zonal conditions. A local garden shop or a university extension office may be able to provide assistance.
2) Dethatch for improved circulation: Thatch is organic matter that builds up between grass blades and the soil surface, and a certain amount is helpful. However, thatch that is more than 0.5 inches thick could be detrimental: essentially, it forms a barrier that keeps moisture and oxygen out of the soil while potentially harboring fungi or pests right near the roots. Have maintenance professionals conduct a thorough survey of grounds to determine if dethatching is necessary throughout the property or simply in a few problem areas.
3) Aerate for efficient nutrient movement: Over time, lawns can fall victim to soil compaction, particularly if they are heavily trafficked. Compact soil makes it difficult for water, nutrients and oxygen to permeate and reach turf roots, and property owners can waste valuable resources on fertilizing and watering that doesn’t reach the intended target. Lawn care workers can improve conditions by using a core aerator with hollow tines, which will pull small plugs of soil to improve oxygen circulation and create more efficient water and nutrient movement.
4) Allow taller growth for nutrient retention: Have landscape maintenance personnel raise their mower blades to leave grass a bit taller after it is cut. Blades that stand between 1.5 and 2.5 inches tall contribute to making and storing food for growth as spring arrives. Be diligent about mowing, however, as grass left to grow too long can become matted and raise a host of other issues.
5) Check irrigation systems for installation levels: Before the first freeze hits, be sure to check the frost levels in your property’s area and at which levels any irrigation systems have been installed. If irrigation pipes were laid at a depth that is prone to frost, shut off the water to the system and drain all the pipes before the temperature plunges. This measure reduces the chance of experiencing burst pipes, turf damage and an expensive repair bill.
For facilities in the Warm Zone with warm-season lawns, winterization measures are generally unnecessary. For a lush, year-round lawn, however, property owners or managers may consider overseeding with a cool-season grass that will provide vibrant color despite lower temperatures.
Work with landscape maintenance personnel to ensure that facility grounds are ready to ride through winter months. Giving lawns a little extra attention now will give them a head start in spring and keep them looking good all year long.
Bryan Ostlund is Executive Director of Grass Seed USA.
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