Lawn care this fall and winter can give you the best lawn on the block next spring

This winter the forecast is for eight to 18 inches of snow which is much drier than last year when 44 inches fell.  A drier winter means plants will need watering until the first hard freeze and that worries lawn care expert Toby Tobin.

"People have put their sprinkler systems to bed and they don't like getting out when it's a little bit cool and watering," smiled Tobin, of "Toby's Tips" , "But plants have to have water."

Tobin offers several tips for fall and winter lawn care:

Tip One: Water until the ground freezes solid

If two weeks go by this fall and winter without moisture, then it's time to water according to Toby who recommends moisture every 10 to 14 days. If grass has been planted recently, then he suggests watering every three to five days.

Tip Two: Mulch at least three inches

Toby says to be generous with the mulch going into winter.

"Plants should have about three inches going into winter time.  They should have about two inches (of mulch) in the summer time, but at least three inches in the winter time over all the plants."

Toby explains that plants need the extra insulation to protect against the thaw and freezing that happens as winter progresses. Snow is the most perfect mulch and with 44 inches last year of the white stuff, it explains the spectacular spring flowers this past spring and summer.

Tip Three: Trim perennials carefully

Toby says a lot of folks want to trim their perennials this time of year, but he advises trimming only about a third off the top. He points to Knockout Roses as one example. The bushes will grow six feet tall if left alone. He recommends some minor trimming now with major pruning in April.

"Heavy pruning would be cutting them back to about two feet off the ground," explains Toby.

Tip Four: Seed now through Christmas

Toby says the best time to seed is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some people are noticing brown patches in their bluegrass lawns. If the patches are small, Toby says they'll fill in by next spring.

The problem is a disease called "Summer Patch", caused by watering at the wrong time of day. While most people have been taught to water in the early morning or evening, new research from a Michigan State professor shows that bluegrass needs cooling off during the hottest part of the day during the hottest part of the summer.

" Joseph Vargas, Jr., studied the root systems of grass for 30 years and determined that watering bluegrass between 11am and 3pm during June, July and August helps reduce heat stress," explains Toby, "but for bluegrass only, not fescue."

Tip Five: Winterize Fertilize

Toby recommends three fertilizations in the fall.

"Although the grass is slowing down and you don't have to mow as often, it's still producing roots under the ground," says Toby.

He says 75 percent of fertilizing should be done in the winter. Fertilize either in October and then November, or in November and again in December. The important thing is to do the winter fertilizing four weeks apart.

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