There Is Much You Can Do For Your Lawn, Even Now
Even though it is not officially winter and the landscape is becoming dormant. With the exception of live oak trees, all the plants and trees which lose their leaves are now dropping them to the ground.
For the north Florida homeowners consumed with plans for the holidays, late November is a tempting time to let the landscape take care of itself during this winter’s nap.
This is not necessarily the best plan. There are plenty of task to handle which will make the upcoming growing season more productive and easier.
First on the list of winter’s lawn and garden task is taking a soil sample. It is simple, inexpensive, and efficient from both an economic and environmental standpoint.
Stop by the local UF/IFAS County Extension Office to pick up a free kit which is used to mail the samples, with a processing fee, to the UF Soil Test Lab. The report is usually returned in under two weeks.
Depending on the analysis chosen, the report will deliver the samples soil pH, or the nutrients needed and the soil pH. This is useful information for the spring and summer growing season, and during winter’s dormant period.
People with wood burning fireplaces should be particularly aware of the soil pH which is a measure of acidy or alkalinity. The pH range helps determine the potential success of plants, vegetables and shrubs which will grow in the sampled soil.
Fireplace ash is alkaline and an excellent soil amendment, if the soil pH is too low. However, if the soil pH is too high, then the fireplace ash only aggravates the existing problem of growing desirable plants and grasses.
Many Florida soils tend to have a high concentration of phosphate, an important and useful plant nutrient in the right quantities. Having a soil analysis early which identifies the amount of phosphate available in the land gives the homeowner or garden manager plenty of time to locate a source of blend-fertilizer with the correct amount of phosphate.
The second task on the list is to manage the leaves, mulch and thatch. Each has the potential to be an asset to the landscape, or a hazard.
Leaves should be raked up before they have the time to smother the grass. A carpet of leaves in the yard may appear very seasonal, but usually work against the objective of those who ultimately want a green grassy yard.
As leaves decompose, they leach acidic nutrient into the soil. This is especially true of oak leaves and pine needles.
Another issue is leaf litter and thatch, produced from grass clippings, which will provide an ideal breeding ground for fungi and diseases. The cool, moist recesses common to thatch will incubate any number of problems which will appear in the spring to ruin the perfect yard.
Rake the leaves and use in flower beds or compost heaps. The shrubs will overwinter better with the leaf insulation which keeps the root zone at the correct moisture level and provides desirable nutrients to the plants.
Dethatch lawn mechanically to remove excess debris. Use the excess organic material as mulch or in a compost pile.
The landscape will show its appreciation by returning in a healthy and strong condition in Spring 2015.