Use a light touch to protect your lawn in winter
ANN M. O'PHELANNow that fall is here — having officially started on Sept. 22 — we can all look forward to less lawn maintenance, particularly the mowing. While the summer months have us all pushing and riding every week, during the winter months the mowing can be done as little as once a month.
Published: October 3, 2012
Published: October 3, 2012
The mowing frequency is dependent upon the growth rate of the grass. The growth rate of grass is determined by several factors: grass species, weather conditions, time of year and level of management.
The three types of grasses we see most often in Central Florida are St. Augustine (most common), Bahia and Zoysia. Two specialized grasses that are used, but are less common are: Bermuda and Carpet. There also are varieties of these types such as St. Augustine's Bitter Blue, Palmetto, Seville and Floratam.
During the winter months, there are steps you can take to keep your lawn healthy and green.
"First of all, it's important to avoid over-watering," said Tommy Gardner a sales representative at Lake Jem Farms, Inc. in Mount Dora. Water needs are greatly reduced when the grass goes into dormancy during the winter months. "Too much watering can lead to fungus and disease outbreaks," said Garnder, who explained that as a rule, watering should be kept at 3/4 to 1 inch a week during early morning hours only. Watering during the evenings can accelerate disease occurrence.
Before you water, it's best to check with your local water management district to seek codes for permitted watering days and times. Also, keep in mind how much it has been raining during the week.
"Secondly, it's important to avoid fertilization," added Gardner. There are several reasons not to fertilize during the cooler months. When you fertilize at a time when the grass is actively growing, it makes best use of the fertilizer's nutrients; however, when the grass is dormant, which is likely during the winter months, the desired results may not be seen. Furthermore, fertilizing grass to grow at a time when it would not naturally grow may actually weaken the turfgrass.
"Additionally, weed and pest control should also be avoided," said Gardner who explained that it is important to wait until turf is well-rooted and begins to green-up in the spring.
Lastly, there is the mowing to consider. "One should never cut more than 1/3 of the length of the blade of grass height at any one mowing session, "said Gardner. Having a dense turf, which is obtained, in part, by having the proper mowing height, also helps keeps out the weeds. Additionally, the proper mowing height helps the grass sustain proper photosynthesis rates, as the leaf areas remain large enough to do so.
For most of the common area grasses — St. Augustine and Bahia — the optimal mowing heights are 3.5 to 4 inches. Other varieties and dwarf grasses may require different lengths. For example, Zoysia's mowing heights vary with the variety grown, and the kind of mower used — rotary vs. reel. Check with your Extension office for details. Mowing less than the recommended heights can damage the grass. To reduce wear patterns, mow in a different direction every time you mow.
There are also a few lawn mower maintenance procedures to keep in mind. Daniel F. Culbert, County Extension Agent UF, Okeechobee, offers this advice:
To find more tips for mower and garden tool maintenance, visit gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/giam/news/pdfs/tool_mainenance.pdf
For other questions about your lawn or mower, contact your local extension office or visit solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/