Winter Lawn Tips For Your Florida Lawn
It’s not often that temperatures in Florida get into the freezing range but when they do, they wreak havoc. Plants can die off just from one freeze, especially tropical palm trees. These freezing temperatures can even create frost on your grass and turn it brown. Here are some things that you can do to prepare your lawn for a surprise freeze attack during a Florida winter.
How To Prepare Your Lawn for Winter
Most grass species that are native to warm areas like Florida usually go into some kind of dormancy in the winter. This means that they may not appear as green and vibrant as usual and they may slow their growth but don’t worry this is normal.
In Southern Florida during the winter, lawns don’t grow as fast as they do during the rest of the year even though they may still be green. This is great if you are the one mowing your lawn! In Northern Florida and some parts of Central Florida, lawns can either stay green or turn brown. This depends on the species of grass.
No matter where you live you should work to keep your lawn as healthy as possible through mowing, irrigating, and fertilizing.
Lawns in South and Central Florida are typically fertilized year-round with no problems. However, North Florida lawns should not be fertilized after mid-September or late September. The last fertilization should be done with a fertilizer containing higher or equal amounts of potassium (the third number on the bag) relative to nitrogen (the first number on the bag), such as 15-0-15. This helps to impart some stress tolerance to cold or freezing temperatures and may enhance spring green-up. In North Florida, avoid fertilizing from mid-September through mid-April. Keep mowing height high year-round for additional enhanced stress tolerance (4" to 5" for most St. Augustine grass cultivars, Bermuda grass 2-3, Bahia grass 3-4", for Centipede grass and coarse-textured Zoysia grass lawns 2-3”). Of course all this depends on the breed of grass and using the right type of mower for that specific grass.
Coming Out Of A Freeze
Freezing temperatures will turn lawns brown. Do not panic, this is a normal part of winter dormancy. When the days become longer and temperatures start to warm up in the spring, the growing points will become active, bringing green growth to the lawn again. Do not fertilize your lawn in the winter to try to green it up after a freeze—wait for the natural cycle of events to occur in the springtime. Fertilizing after a freeze will do more harm to your lawn than waiting for spring green-up. Do not apply a weed and feed product for pre-emergence lawn weed control during the winter in Central and North Florida. Lawns generally do not require as much irrigation during winter months, so scale back your irrigation systems. In Central Florida, you may need to irrigate weekly or every other week, while in North Florida, it may be every three to four weeks. You will not need to mow for some time; when you do need to mow again, be sure to cut at the highest recommended height for your grass type. Do not "scalp" the lawn, as this makes it less able to recover from freeze damage.
How can you tell if your grass has truly succumbed to a winter freeze or if it is only dormant? One way is to cut small plugs of the grass (with roots and shoots attached) and plant them in a pot, put it in a warm spot with natural sunlight and see if the grass begins to grow.
If your lawn does not recover come springtime, remove the decayed vegetation from the affected areas and replace with either sod pieces or plugs. Do this before weeds have a chance to germinate and take hold of the ground. It is possible that not all of your lawn will be affected, perhaps just those areas that are most exposed to the cold temperatures.