After a long summer growing season and fall harvest, lawn care and outdoor chores fall by the wayside. Too often, scraping ice from sidewalks and repairing burst pipes are most homeowners' idea of winter yard work.
Let us suggest a few chores that demonstrate how mild weather preparation is better than emergency action in the icy cold.
First and foremost, completely drain all water lines and insulate faucets and exposed pipes to avoid expensive damage to water systems, says Ben Graffis, irrigation supervisor for Carol's Colors in Phoenix.
For lawn areas, little winter maintenance is necessary and, when snow finally falls, Graffis recommends leaving things be, unless buildup is an issue.
"It doesn't snow here enough to make that an issue because it melts too fast," he says. "If it's causing damage to the lawn or plants, take it off carefully. On the lawn you can rake it but that's not really even necessary unless somebody shovels big piles on top of the grass."
For concrete, the freeze-thaw process can result in cracking and chipping. Avoid using salt for de-icing and opt for commercial grade or organic products (available online) if de-icing is truly necessary, says DJ Rister of Masons Supply in Medford. For most concrete surfaces, especially those that will endure scraping, consider applying a sealant coat every two years.
"Anytime you rub something hard against concrete there's going to be something taken off," Rister says. "Sealers protect the surface like a sacrificial coat that can be reapplied when you need to."
To avoid slick surfaces, add a slip resistant additive to sealant mixture for around $16 for every 1,000 square foot area you cover.
Tropical plants should be brought indoors for winter. Some ceramic containers and container plants need protection from freezing. Keep them in an unheated porch or a garage with windows.
If you want to keep plants outside, consider using winter hardy plants rated zone 5 or 6, colder than southern Oregon, says Bob Carlton, owner of Carlton Water Features in Jacksonville. Use glazed pots rated durable for freezing.
Trees Plants and Shrubs
For trees, keep safety in mind. Trim healthy trees as needed and remove dead or dying specimens. Generally speaking, landscape plants rated hardy for zone 7 and native plants can take care of themselves. Snow can be an insulator from nighttime drops in temperature, so leave it on.
"Snow is going to weigh down [tree] branches but for the most part there's not much to do. With smaller shrubs, you can shake the snow off if it's doing damage but, if it's not hurting the shrub, leave it alone," Graffis says.
"If you have moving water or a waterfall, the best thing to do is leave it running all winter because moving water doesn't freeze and you get to enjoy it all year," Carlton says.
Fish and other aquatic life should not be fed when water temperature is below 50 degrees. Also, make sure ponds without moving water maintain a small open area to allow fish to breath.
"Whatever you do, do not take something like a shovel or club and just whack at [the ice] to get a hole," Carlton says. "The sound and vibrations are really concentrated and will kill the fish. Just carefully go up to the edge and lift up to break an area off and make an opening in the ice."