Most non-residents surely don’t think of our state in terms of freezing weather. That’s because the image we see portrayed in popular culture depicts it as a sub-tropical paradise, where the sun shines brightly all year round and everyone’s tan is perfect.
In truth, your Northeast Florida home may be briefly exposed in the winter months to extremes of cold that can cause serious lawn damage. It’s not a constant problem, as our weather is otherwise quite mild and pleasant. As experienced builders in the area, we at Artisan Homes have some useful tips that will help you prevent or at least reduce winterkill by preparing for the worst and taking steps to help your grass recover with minimal damage.
First, let’s address the subject of fertilizer. Here’s where timing is everything. Fertilizing too late could cause your grass to be in the growing stage when cold weather comes, making it more vulnerable. In Northeast Florida, the end of September is the cut-off for fertilization, using a high-potassium product. If you miss the deadline, don’t worry. Just wait until growth begins again in Spring, apply the right product for your lawn and you’ll be fine. Remember that fertilizing after a freeze will do more harm to your lawn than waiting for its seasonal green-up.
If you have centipede or St. Augustine grass, be alert for large patch fungus disease. That can result from overuse of nitrogen fertilizer and long periods of leaf wetness caused by watering too late in the day. If you see the problem, treat it with a fungicide. Also look for sod webworms in the fall. They’re very destructive, and it’s important to control them before your lawn goes dormant for winter.
One way to keep your Northeast Florida home’s lawn looking green right through the colder months is by overseeding. It’s a temporary measure than involves sowing a fast-growing, inexpensive variety such as ryegrass that will die off when warmer weather returns. Keep in mind that you’ll need to water, fertilize and maintain it through the Winter months.
Wait to overseed until daytime highs are in the low- to mid-70s. To prepare your lawn, rake to remove all debris and then mow it.
Now here’s a solution that’s less well-known. It’s common for golf courses and those who maintain professional athletic turf to utilize paints and dyes known as colorants. This is not your off-the-shelf hardware store paint. It’s specially formulated to be safe for both grass and the environment. There are businesses in some cities that will apply it to home lawns. The advantage, compared to overseeding, is that your Northeast Florida home can have a green lawn all Winter without any mowing or watering.
Here are some other useful reminders from Artisan Homes that will help your grass recover from freeze damage:
Don’t apply a weed-and-feed product at all during the winter months. Scale back your irrigation to once every three to four weeks. When it’s time to start mowing again, cut at the highest recommended height for the variety you’re growing. Never “scalp” your lawn.
If your grass is brown and you want to know if there’s been severe freeze damage, plant some small plugs with roots and shoots attached in a pot and leave them in a warm spot with natural sunlight. If you see some growth, you’ll know that it’s just in its normal dormant cycle.
When Spring arrives and you’ve seen no recovery at all in some areas, the only solution is to remove any decayed vegetation and replace it with sod squares or plugs. Don’t hesitate, as it’s important to take care of the problem before weeds take hold.
If you have any questions, just contact us. Artisan Homes is a collaboration of local builders and developers with over 75 years of combined experience designing and building Northeast Florida homes with quality craftsmanship and unparalleled customer service.