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What a Weird, Warm Winter: Protect Your Northern VA Landscape

What a weird, weird winter we’re experiencing. With temperatures in the 50s, the 60s, and even the 70s the week of Christmas, many northern Virginians are rejoicing over the unseasonably warm temperatures, but landscape designers and garden enthusiasts are growing a little concerned about how such unusual conditions might affect the landscape’s survival.

How a warm winter affects your lawn, and what you can do about it:

Lawns go dormant in the wintertime; grass remains alive, but does not actively grow like it does in the spring and summer months. When the winter is warm, things change. Things continue to grow, but will likely grow weak due to a lack of a real chance to rest. This can be incredibly stressful for your lawn, and to prevent your precious grass from dying or falling subject to a lawn diseases, consider the following care tips.

  • Water your lawn once a week (applying at least a half-inch of moisture) when a warm winter sends temperatures into the 50–70 degree range. (But make sure to check the weather forecast for freezing temperatures.)
  • Do not mow your lawn unless you notice the grass is starting grow, and if it does grow, keep the blades below three inches in height. A lawn that grows too tall during the winter months can trap moisture and spread fungal diseases.

How a warm winter affects your plants, and what you can do about it:

Plants respond to temperature and light, both of which are generally in low supply during the winter months. But not so this year. When the temperature rises and plants get more sunshine than they are used to in winter, they can’t help but think it’s springtime and start to bloom or grow. Poor confused plants just won’t react well once the cold weather returns.

It’s nearly impossible to predict when the temperatures will shift, and so it’s hard to know exactly how to prepare your plants for this kind of uncertainty because of all the factors involved. But there are a few things you can do to help keep your northern VA landscape looking lush and pleasant.

  • Lay mulch or leaves in your garden to help your plants survive whatever winter brings. Mulching helps keep your plants warm and moisture in the ground.
  • Make sure to water your plants during the warm period. They’ll have a better chance of bouncing back when spring comes.
  • Bring outdoor potted plants indoors, but make sure to water and provide plenty of sunlight.

How a warm winter affects your bushes, and what you can do about it:

Shrubs and bushes remain relatively unaffected no matter the type of winter northern Virginia sees. Why? Because they usually set their bulbs in the spring.

The exception here is if flowering bushes attempt to flower; the cold air takes away valuable moisture and warmth from the buds and dries them out causing them to die, so you may simply have fewer blooms in the springtime. And there’s sadly not much you can do about that.

Have questions about how to care for your northern VA landscape this winter?

Contact the landscape and hardscape design experts; contact Grigg Design.

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