Hillsborough County, FL

01/25/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/25/2023 10:47

Less is More for Winter Lawn Care

Shorter days and cooler temperatures mean reduced watering and fertilization for turfgrass

Just as shrubs and trees drop their leaves signaling a period of dormancy during winter months, the turfgrass of your lawn turns partially yellow or slightly brown as it enters semi-dormancy. This is a natural occurrence during the slow-growth period between October and March. During the winter months, the need for water and fertilizer is minimal.

If fact, watering and fertilizing during the semi-dormant season may slow spring green-up and promote fungal and other diseases. Additionally, nutrients from fertilizers may run off or leach into waterbodies, contributing to pollution problems.

Fertilizers that promote deep green turfgrass during the winter months do so at the expense of the root system as energy is not stored for spring growth, and the reduced root system cannot support the shoot growth. Irrigating during a freeze is also not recommended. Plants remain healthy when they are hydrated prior to a freeze. 

Here are some tips to keep your lawn healthy in winter and ready to grow in spring:

Turn off irrigation systems and manually engage when there has been no rain for 10 days or more, adjust schedule to irrigate every 10-14 days (skip a week), or reduce the seasonal setting to 50 percent.  

Improper mowing or "scalping" the lawn can cause permanent damage or slow green up in the spring. Visit AskIFAS to learn the recommended height to mow your specific turfgrass.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn or blow them back into the landscape because they can add nutrients. Do not blow or direct them into roads, storm drains, or ditches.

Fertilizers labeled as "winter blends" or "winterizers" should be avoided as most contain high levels of nitrogen which may likely contribute to nutrient leaching and/or runoff.  

The last annual fertilizer application should occur during November. 

The first spring fertilizer application should occur in late March or early April once the turf has begun to green up on its own. 

Follow your county or municipal Landscape Maintenance and Fertilizer Ordinance and Watering Restrictions . Violation of any of the ordinance's provisions is a misdemeanor and can result in a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in jail. For enforcement information, please contact Regulatory Compliance at (813) 272-7400, extension 36004.

Hillsborough County Extension has a wealth of resources and information on best year-round practices for fertilizer applications and irrigation. Read more about winter fertilization and irrigation.

Photo Information: Maintaining a healthy lawn during cooler winter months requires less water and fertilizer.