Lake Norman Publications

Winter an ideal time to beef up lawns, plant new additions


Some citrus specimens, like this flowering Key Lime plant at the Brawley Garden Center, are ideal for indoor settings during the winter months. /Lee Sullivan

The recent week-long visit of late-summer warmth may have been a distraction from the seasonal change on the horizon, but the piling up pin oak and maple droppings – combined with a few stiff breezes that, in places, made it seem like it was raining leaves – are among the unmistakable indications that cooler months are coming.

But bare trees and dead leaves don’t mean a period of dormancy for all lawn and garden activities and options. Instead, according to some local experts, fall and winter conditions are an ideal time to beef up lawn foundations, plant new additions and also blend in some color.

Maintenance measures

For lawns, Adam Brawley with the Brawley Garden Center on North Main Street in Mooresville said late fall is the ideal time to get a healthy head start for next spring.

“Around Thanksgiving, maybe just after, is the right time to put out slow-release fertilizer for fescue,” Brawley said, adding that the process helps keep the fescue healthy and fed through the winter months.

For Bermuda lawns, Brawley said feeding activity stops during the winter, but overseeding is a good off-season maintenance step.

Plants that endure a little longer into the cooler months should also get some attention when the blooming stops. He said fall-blooming Camellias and other plants that continue to thrive when fall sets in should be pruned when they finish blooming. The winter months are also the best time to provide basic care for ornamental grasses, hostas and similar plants.

The cold-weather season – “Probably not November or December around here, but January and February,” Brawley said – is also the time for pruning trees while they are dormant.

And dashing the hopes of lawn-owners tempted to take a more laid-back (what some might describe as “lazy”) “let nature take its course” approach to fall yard chores, Brawley said there is no value in letting dead leaves lay.

“Leaves don’t help a healthy lawn and they should be removed,” he said.

For plants, Brawley said, without exception, plants subject to frost damage should be moved to a warmer, inside location during the winter months. And business partner Kari Brawley added that for those interested in having vibrant inside plants during the winter months, multiple varieties of citrus plants are a popular choice.

Reds, blues, whites and purples – as well as vibrant greens – are among the tints the right assortment of fall-blooming plants can deliver.

A beginning-to-bloom Key Lime plant in the Brawley Garden Center provided an example of the type of plant that will flower indoors during the winter. Kari also mentioned lemon plants as quality indoor options.

That process, Adam added, may also require a little assistance from the indoor gardener. If the plants flower – and since natural pollinators like bees and other insects will not be part of the indoor process, a Q-tip can be used to swab the inside of the flower and spread the pollen.

Fall new beginnings

Fall is also an ideal time for new plantings, according to Amanda Meadows at the LKN Garden Center & Market on N.C. 115 on Mooresville’s south side.

“This is the best time, it really is,” Meadows said about planting trees, perennials and just about anything other than more fragile, warm-weather varieties.

“It’s just easier on them,” she said. “The conditions are better – cooler, usually wetter and there aren’t as many bugs – and it keeps the plants from being under so much stress. They get to, actually, put their roots down, get comfortable and rest. Then, in the spring, they wake up, they’re already at home, and they’re ready to go about their business.”

And Meadows added there are also plenty of options for outdoor plants that will continue to provide color throughout the winter season.

Quickly and easily running through a list including distylium, illicium, loropetalum, mahonia and other plants and shrubs like she was naming relatives, Meadows said the year-long bloomers as well as multiple evergreens can be arranged to create colorful cool-weather beds, or spread around to sprinkle in sprigs of color to keep garden enthusiasts happy and entertained throughout the dimmest winter days.

Outdoor display at LKN Garden Center & Market highlights some of the colorful trees and plants that can liven up lawns in cooler seasons.

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