Warm Winter Affecting Your Landscape?

Many states in the U.S. are experiencing warm winters.

States notoriously known for harsh and brutal winters, like Minneapolis, didn’t have temperatures dip below zero until mid-January. While residents may be relieved of the delayed cold temperatures, many gardeners and landscape professionals are worried about their landscape surviving the drastic temperature fluctuations.

How it Affects Your Lawn

In winter, lawns are dormant meaning they are alive, but not actively growing like they do in spring or summer months. When a warm winter strikes, your lawn continues to grow, but may tire and weaken due to the lack of real rest. The stress can be too much for your lawn since it will not be receiving the nutrients it needs. And, without the proper lawn care help, your lawn may turn brown leaving dead spots, or spreading lawn diseases.

Lawn Care Tips

When your lawn is experiencing a warm winter it’s best to water lightly and practice other lawn care guidelines.

  • Apply at least ½ inch of water, about once a week especially if your warm winter is seeing 50- 70 degree temperatures.
  • Make sure to check your local forecast to avoid watering your lawn before temperatures drop to freezing.
  • Do not mow your lawn unless you notice the grass is starting grow.
  • If you must mow, try keeping your lawn less than 3 inches in height.
  • If your lawn gets too tall during winter months it can flop over, trapping moisture and spreading fungal diseases to your lawn.

You should also avoid foot traffic on your lawn as much as possible; this goes for all seasons. If and when temperatures gradually return to their normal winter temperatures the grass should ‘harden up’ and be fine until spring time.

Take note to see if there are any spots in your lawn that hold a lot of water and/or freeze during the cold winter temperatures and make sure to develop a better drainage system for the next winter.

This will save your landscape from bare spots and other unsightly lawn diseases no matter what season you are in.

Winter Lawn

[Image Source: LawnCare.Net]

How it affects Your Plants

Plants respond to two things: temperature and light.

When the temperature rises and plants get more sunshine than they are use to in winter they can’t help but think it’s spring time and start to bloom or grow. The ones that bloom or start to bloom may be in trouble when the cold winter temperatures return.

It’s difficult to know exactly how to prepare your plants for this kind of uncertainty because of all the factors involved. For instance, you must consider: type of plants you have, how suddenly the cold temperatures return, how cold it gets, and your environment.

Nonetheless there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your landscape remains lush and pleasant looking.

Plant Tips

  • Laying a layer of mulch or leaves is a big and easy way to help your plants survive winter.
  • Mulching helps keep your plants warm and keeps moisture in the ground.
  • Adding about 1 inch to 2 inches of mulch should be enough to provide enough warmth for your plants. Mulch will act as a blanket and keep them warm for the duration of winter.
  • If your landscape hasn’t seen very much rain or snow make sure to water your plants during the warm period. They’ll have a better chance of bouncing back when spring time comes.
  • If you bring outdoor potted plants indoors, make sure to water and give them access to a window that gets adequate amounts of sunlight.

How it Affects Your Bushes/Shrubs

Shrubs or bushes have a different story when it comes to a warm winter. They typically set their bulbs in the spring so the plant itself should remain unharmed.

However, the flower buds could be killed if they bloomed or opened too much. The cold air takes away valuable moisture and warmth from the buds and dries them out causing them to die, so don’t be too disappointed if you have fewer blooms this spring.

Bushes/Shrub Tips

  • Once the warm winter has occurred it’s hard to prep your shrubs or bushes for the winter weather that will return.
  • Make sure your bushes and shrubs get a good watering in the fall time. They’ll get the needed moisture they may have lost during harsh winter weather.
  • Mulching around them won’t hurt. Remember to leave some breathing room around the stem of the plant.

Warm winters are unpredictable and it’s almost impossible to determine how exactly they will negatively impact your landscape, but with these lawn care and gardening tips you can better help your landscape survive winter and get ready to flourish for the coming spring.

Dealing With Small Space Landscaping

Not everyone has the means or desire to own a mansion with a huge backyard that requires full-time maintenance.

There are some of us who either by necessity or desire believe that good things really do come in small packages, including outdoor areas.

Similarly, there are ways to make small spaces look larger than what they really are.

garden-toolsHowever, before suggesting some ways to make your yard look larger than what it is, it is imperative that the yard is neat and orderly as when space is at a premium, every inch is important. Consequently, it is vital that you have some form of outdoor storage for your gardening tools and other items which are often left lying around your yard.

You Have Options

There are different methods of landscaping your garden depending on whether you want your yard to give a feeling of intimacy or an illusion of space. Although most of us will want to make a small space seem larger than what it actually is, there are others who are happy to capitalize on their space limitations.

Picking The Right Plants

For example, for a cozy, intimate feeling, the use of large shrubs and trees that give an almost overbearing feeling. These trees block out views leaving people wondering what lies beyond the greenery. In this instance, it is the next door neighbor. I mean, who likes open yards where people can see right into your house?

Not me!

To make your yard seem larger than what it actually is, long, straight lines are the perfect solution. This provides an illusion for the eye especially when the ends of the lines seem to turn toward each other providing a rounded finish.

Create Focal Points


You can also create a focal point in the garden to draw the eye away from the fact that there are space limitations. With the eye focused on this centerpiece or other point of interest, it draws the eye and mind away from the fact that the space is small.

pergolaThe focal point may be as large as a pergola or arbor or as small as a dramatic piece of garden art.

Whether it is via this garden art or through some other guise such as bright fabric draped across the yard or via a row of brightly colored trees or bushes placed at the front of the yard, it draws the eyes to the dramatic color and away from the fact that the yard is small.

Having a small yard out of necessity does not mean that you are stuck with a small space. With a little planning and thought, a small space can go a long way.

Image Credits: eriesargonaut, tea_time, Field Outdoor Spaces

Toxins Which Can Ruin Your Garden and What To Do About It

Back in ancient times victors would salt the earth of the cities they conquered to make it difficult to rehabilitate.

While you probably won’t go conquesting, it is important to know how certain chemical compounds can affect your yard and garden.

A lot of these toxins arrive by water runoff while sometimes homeowners do it to their own plants without even knowing.

Contaminant Sources for Your Yard


Salt is naturally occurring in the environment and traces of it is commonly found the soil. Rain water runs over formation and picks up minerals, salt among them, and carries them along their path.

As the water evaporates it leaves the minerals behind. Some of these can be good while others affect the pH and composition of the soil.

If this is a problem for your garden or yard, evaluate how water drains through your property.

Try to divert water away or change up soil composition in spots with dead plants. A little bit of sand mixed in with the soil will help water flow through faster. If the water does not stay, it will not evaporate and leave behind chemicals.


Have you ever noticed dead spots in a lawn or garden where pets urinate?

It is caused from the nitrogen within the urine. This might seem counterintuitive since nitrogen is used in many fertilizers, but in high concentrations it creates a chemical burn.

The best thing to do here is keep pets to an area where it will not be noticed. Also, washing the grass and plants with water after pets do their thing will help to dilute the nitrogen.


A common source of contamination for gardens and yards during the winter is chemicals used to remove ice. It is not an easy task to remove ice and a deicer does a good job, but caution is needed.

Deicers can damage concrete, ruin soil, and kill plants.

It ruins concrete and landscaping by allowing water to melt, run into cracks, refreeze, and exert a tremendous force. This pressure will further expand the crack and chip the surface. These effect is known as concrete spalling.

sodium_deicerThe chlorides and sodium in many of the deicers are responsible for the gardening problems. These chemicals are very hard on plants and kill most. Also, when they come into contact with soil they deplete the oxygen and makes it almost impossible for plants to grow.

Try to avoid using these products.

If you do, use potassium acetate or CMA (Calcium Magnesium Acetate). These two are the least poisonous for plants and concrete. Potassium acetate works well down to minus fifteen Fahrenheit.

CMA only works to twenty Fahrenheit and is more expensive but it is best for use near plants or on concrete.


lead_paintFor older homes built before 1980, lead can be a big problem.

It makes its way into the soil from chipping paint. The area within 6 feet of a house is the danger zone. The dust and paint chips usually land here. Water dripping down the side of the house exacerbates the issue.

There are three solutions for lead:

  1. immobilize the lead
  2. mix the soil
  3. eliminate the source of the problem

To immobilize the lead raise the pH of the soil and add extra organic material on top of the soil (e.g. mulch) to protect plants.

Another task that can help is mixing the top soil with clean soil that is lower down. The last solution, which is the best but most expensive, is to remove the source of the problem. This can be difficult and expensive, but a good short-term solution is to cover it with a high quality primer and an oil-based paint.


Older homes have another problem; arsenic can be found in preservatives for wood. Like the lead in paint, the arsenic can be leached out from rain and makes its way into the soil near the house.

Also similar, unless you can remove the source the only solution is a temporarily cover it up.

The other possible source of arsenic, but more unlikely, is herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers used from back in the 90’s. Rain and water will slowly wash these chemicals away over time. Turning over the soil can help speed up this process.

Another solution would be to plant an elevated bed with clean soil.


Pay attention to indications your plants give you. If there are small yellow spot in the grass here and there, it is probably an animal.

If an entire bed of flowers next to the house keeps dieing, check the paint, wood preservatives, and water runoff. A test kit can be found in a local home improvement store for confirmation. Then all there is to do is determine which solution is best to remedy the problem.